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Shooting Fish in a Barrel

Posted on in Retention Strategy

Let me begin by saying that no fish were harmed during the preparation of this blog post.

I was preparing for a speaking engagement a few weeks ago on the topic of how to attract and retain talent when funds are tight.  As we were finalizing the content, the conference organizer asked me to specifically address where people can find “hidden” talent.  Now, my internal dialogue was “if I could answer that question, I’d be retired on a private island somewhere.”  But I knew what he was really asking me was to provide some creative ways this group of entrepreneurs could uncover the resources and expertise they needed on a tight budget.  No problem.

The words “hidden talent” stuck with me.  Since hidden implies something that is invisible, I kept thinking about the most unknown, untapped or underutilized segment of an organization’s talent pool.   It’s the one that no one is really talking about, yet is right under our noses.

What if I told you that attracting candidates from this talent pool requires significantly less time and money than you are investing in other recruiting tactics. And what if I could almost guarantee that the candidates in this pool would be both a skill and cultural fit.

You’d be first in line for the “how to” guide.

Well, here is the CliffNotes version….

The hidden talent pool that you are likely not actively engaging with contains your former employees.

Now, for those of you whose reaction is “uh, I just spent 45 seconds reading this post to be told that?” My response back to you smarty pants is “tell me about your alumni relations program.”   Oh.  You don’t have one?  I see.  Then I guess you don’t know it all (or worse you do and aren’t doing anything to tap into it).  Even for the few companies out there that do have a formalized program, most aren’t utilizing this network of people effectively.

There is no better way to gain access to a prequalified talent pool than to source from your former employees.  There is no other segment of your total talent pool where you have a depth of data than this one. You know their strengths and weaknesses.  You’ve seen them in action.  You know they can be successful within your culture.

When former employees leave, more than likely, they gain experiences and acquire skills that could be of benefit to your organization.  Maybe it’s exposure to a new industry, a new function or some type of hard or technical skill.  The point is that just because someone has decided that your company or their role isn’t right for them at a particular point in their career doesn’t mean that it won’t be right again someday.

If you want to be competitive and survive the workforce turbulence that is expected to continue, your biggest recruiting imperative is to develop a program that creates meaningful engagement with your former employees (call them alumni, friends, re-treads or anything you like) so they can “boomerang” back for rehire when and if the time is right.  Cultivating this segment of your talent pool will make your future recruiting efforts so much easier.