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3 Unconventional Ways to Close the Talent Gap and Groom Top Talent

“Hot” and “Competitive” are the kinds of words you keep seeing in headlines about the post-pandemic jobs market. But “Selective” might be even more appropriate for the challenges that CEOs are facing right now in the search for top talent.

The pandemic has completely rewired how many people think about work and life. The absolute best workers aren’t leaving their jobs or staying home just because of government unemployment benefits. They know what their talent is worth, they know they have options, and they’re no longer willing to spend 40–60 hours per week doing work that just pads their bank accounts. Salary bumps, a generous 401(k), and hybrid work arrangements aren’t going to make your company stand out anymore.

In this environment, upgrading your workforce is going to require some creative thinking. Here are three ideas that we’ve seen some of our most successful entrepreneur coaching clients use to recruit and retain the people they need to make BIG happen.

1. Upgrade your total compensation package.

Money might not be everything to top talent right now…but it’s not nothing, either. Your salary and sales comp structure still need to make a good first impression or prospects won’t even bother skimming your benefits package.

In addition to salary, health care, and retirement programs, flexible hours and WFH options are another given. How you balance these options will depend on your specific business. For example, if you absolutely must have customer-facing staff at a brick-and-mortar location, you might incentivize in-person sales or offer those workers bonus vacation time. Being able to demonstrate how you’ve been responsive to health safety concerns and work-life balance issues for both in-person and remote workers also sends a strong message to prospective hires.

Offering top employees a pathway to profit-sharing sends an even stronger message. ESOP programs have become increasingly popular with companies that want to embed themselves in their communities and empower employees to take real ownership over what they do. If you don’t want to dilute your ownership, phantom stock programs are a great way to incentivize top performance while also tying wealth-building opportunities to the products and metrics that drive your company’s overall growth. The better your mastery of your KPIs, the more beneficial these kinds of offerings can be for both you and your employees.

2. Find talent your competitors aren’t looking for. 

Right now, the unemployed and the unhappily employed are very open to exploring career changes. CEOs should be just as openminded about identifying what kinds of talent their companies really need. Instead of fighting with your competitors over the same stack of Ivy League resumes, look beyond credentials and think about the personality types and skills sets that you want to attract.

A candidate who has a verifiable history of setting BIG targets and hitting them doesn’t necessarily need years of industry-specific experience to succeed. Combine that drive with a mastery of evergreen skills like copywriting, graphic design, five-star customer service, or team management, and you could be looking at a diamond in the rough who’s going to work harder for that polish than an established pro on their third or fourth trip around the block.

One of my favorite examples of this idea in action: hiring former college athletes. Jim Bennett, CEO of Unishippers and a client of CEO Coaching International, built a playbook for every single role in his company. He targeted college athletes because he knew they were used to executing playbooks and because he believed he could harness their innate competitiveness. Another client, Rob Posner of NewDay USA, likes that college athletes have to learn how to multitask and juggle responsibilities while also helping the overall team work towards BIG goals.

Before you toss that “unqualified” resume into the recycling bin, look closer. Try challenging an unconventionally impressive candidate with a Talent Insights survey or a bit of sales roleplaying. In many cases, skillset and culture fit could be far more valuable than where someone earned their degree or who their last employer was.

3. Challenge your employees to grow.

Another thing that Jim Bennett and Rob Posner have in common is that they built extensive training programs and committed to developing their best people in-house. Coach Jerry Swain recently told our podcast audience that making “continuous learning” part of the company culture is key to building a world-class team.

And that’s especially true if you’re hiring people who don’t have a traditional background in your space. A regular rhythm of instruction, execution, and review will allow you to mold raw talent to fit the unique needs of your company and your customers. Training can also be part of a clear path to promotion. Showing your best people where their hard work fits into your vision can increase buy-in and incentivize promotion.

It can also, potentially, change someone’s life. And really, that’s what many of the best workers are looking for right now as they contemplate the next stage of their careers: a meaningful change. Present that kind of transformative opportunity, and the best people will seize it, run with it, and help your company make BIG happen.

About CEO Coaching International

CEO Coaching International works with CEOs and their leadership teams to achieve extraordinary results quarter after quarter, year after year. Known globally for its success in coaching growth-focused entrepreneurs to meaningful exits, CEO Coaching International has coached more than 1,000 CEOs and entrepreneurs in more than 60 countries and 45 industries. The coaches at CEO Coaching International are former CEOs, presidents, or executives who have made BIG happen. The firm’s coaches have led double-digit sales and profit growth in businesses ranging in size from startups to over $10 billion, and many are founders that have led their companies through successful eight, nine, and ten-figure exits. Companies working with CEO Coaching International for two years or more have experienced an average revenue CAGR of 31% (2.6X the U.S. average) and an average EBITDA CAGR of 52.3% (more than 5X the U.S. average).

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