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Entrepreneurs using economic forecasts to plan for the coming year can easily be tripped up by conflicting "expert" reports. Is it time to be optimistic or not? The opinions of other startup owners aren’t necessarily helpful, either.
Then there are the differences between those "expert" projections: Sometimes, confidence is high; other times, it is not. Right now, polling data about revenue forecasts and their effect on the labor market in 2019 differs depending on whether you're looking at the Bank of America or Balboa Capital.
It wouldn’t even be surprising to see a completely different third set of opinions emerge if yet another bank conducted a survey!
Instead of polls, then, entrepreneurs should continue to be wary overall of the impact that higher interest rates and (potentially) higher wages might have on their making new hires. Executives and founders mistakenly tend to measure their success by how many employees they have. But instead, the aim of any startup should be to accomplish a task with the right number of employees -- as many as necessary and not one too many.
Ultimately, strategic hiring is just a smart way to weather uncertain economic times. An organization that has a clear vision behind its recruitment and acquisition processes will be able to better combat payroll bloat and stay nimble, which is always the preferred state.
To improve your own long-term outlook, first understand the talent landscape and what inspires top-quality workers to consider a move when the time is right. Here's how to do that:
Prepare for the unexpected.
A strong job market tends to be good for labor and bad for business -- especially businesses that aren’t savvy when hiring and only look to those currently unemployed or already searching for a job. Big talent sinkholes such as Google, Amazon, Facebook and Apple don’t fall into this trap -- they’re poaching the employees they covet.
Startups need to be proactive in seeking and finding candidates, not waiting for others to make contact first. Waiting puts a business at a disadvantage in a so-called strong job market because there are fewer candidates from whom to choose.
Job markets are unpredictable; so are people. Employers never know when a worker will leave, become ill or become disabled. Being prepared to replace current workers is essential. Apply the 80/20 law of the vital few: Eighty percent of the effects will come from 20 percent of the causes. You can’t spend all of your time planning contingencies to replace staff, but you must have a plan in place for when the time comes. And it will come.
Design a stable process.
One way to plan ahead is to make strategic hires rather than rush to fill a spot out of necessity. Think of the way an NFL team might draft the “best available player” to fill an immediate need rather than pick one who plays a specific position need.
Look ahead and hire people to fit where you see your company going in two to five years, as well as where the potential hires see themselves going in the same time frame.
This kind of philosophy and method encourages looking into the future of the company. During uncertain times, these principles can help you implement smarter hiring strategies that will improve long-term viability:
1. If the shoe doesn't fit, keep walking. Take your first step by ensuring that your current team, within reason, is happy and supported; that you have a strong culture in place; and that current members are authentic and comfortable recommending your business to new hires.
Take the example online shoe retailer Zappo. Half of the criteria for being hired there resides in a "cultural fit interview." Culture is so vital at Zappos that new employees are offered $2,000 to quit after the first week of training if they determine the job just isn’t a good fit.
"We infuse culture into every step of the recruiting process,” Mike Bailen, former senior HR manager at Zappos, wrote in a blog post. “We really place such a high value on culture that if a candidate demonstrates behaviors out of alignment with our core values, we will stop the process right there.”
The right culture varies depending on the business and can mean anything from more flexible hours to paying for employee education -- or even offering free items and activities, such as the opportunity to play on a company soccer team. Develop and invest in employees' talents, but also make it fun to work there.
2. To lure the biggest fish, use unconventional bait. The best candidates often are the ones you find who are working for someone else. Don’t be afraid to poach; others aren’t skittish about taking your best employees.
The creativity you can utilize when you're trying to attract the notice of great prospects is limitless. MediConnect Global, a medical records company, gutted an old RV and converted it into a moblie hiring center, parking it in competitors' lots during lunch hours and handing out flyers to passersby. This tactic actually worked to secure the company new hires.
And then there's the compensation issue: Persuading the best candidates could mean paying them more, but not necessarily; it might mean showing them your vision and sharing your passion. Using a proactive skill set for hiring in a weaker job market means you’ll be prepared to make a hire in a stronger one
Related: 9 Tips for Poaching Top Talent
3. Tap into the brilliance you already have on staff. The people who work for you can be the best source of advice on where to get new talent and will refer people who already fit the company culture. If you have a strong culture in place, it probably means your employees know what you’re looking for and what will work at your company.
According to ehe Active Job Seeker Dilemma Survey 2016 (the most recent available) by research firm Future Workplace, 71 percent of the 129 HR professionals surveyed called employee referrals the best resource for locating top job candidates. Use their experience in your own industry to help you bring in the right kind of new hires.
Don’t make it look like those people are taking part in replacing themselves; think of the scenario as more akin to a sports team recruiting a free agent. The new hires will be able to "read" your current employees and get a better idea of what working at your business is all about. And, then, bolstered by that high degree of confidence, they'll say "yes" to you.