Recruitment and the Unicorn Effect
The Real Cost of Holding Out for ‘Perfect’ Talent
Having lived and worked in three countries across two continents in the construction, energy, and utility sectors, I’ve experienced how employers’ quests for sourcing that perfect new hire can land many businesses in hot water.
You know the story. The operations or recruitment manager feels under pressure to hold out for a job-hunting candidate who ticks all the boxes: technical credentials; sector-specific experience; thinks like a manager; rolls-up their sleeves like an apprentice; doesn’t just have Canadian experience but also has a provincial or ‘local’ track record and connections in your industry!
OK, I’m stretching it a little for dramatic purposes, but you get the point. It is a reality we experience more and more, and a common struggle for businesses looking to grow their teams while also watching their cost base and profit margin.
While it’s an admirable HR goal to seek the perfect new hire, it can be downright impossible to achieve in the timeframe and budget you have planned. That’s why I call it the Unicorn Effect. That hunt for a mythical, magical, human resource that probably doesn’t exist anymore.
What’s interesting is I’ve seen the Unicorn Effect across all the countries, sectors, and company sizes I’ve worked for. And the organizations who adopt a proactive, ‘what-if’ mindset always end up with significantly more positive hiring outcomes.
Here’s how you can do it. Change your perspective by asking yourself four things:
- What’s the gap we’re trying to fill in our organization? Sometimes, it’s not about growing your team, it’s about growing your processes, efficiencies, or systems to support your business better. Asking yourself or your team this question before clicking post on that job advert could yield some very insightful results.
- Have we defined the required skills correctly? Sometimes, it’s not about hiring another body, it’s about hiring a specific skill set that you don’t have. If you feel this approach is the answer, then give your team and yourself the time to consider all of the ways you can acquire those skills e.g. outsource in the short-term to an expert freelancer or consultant; create a strategic partnership with an aligned company or industry association that has workforce development programs like BC Construction Association; pay the right recruiter a finder’s fee; or hire someone with the foundational/transferable skills you require and support them with a mentor and training to grow the talent from within.
- Who are we currently missing out on? Sometimes dusting off that historic job description is the worst thing you can do. It can present an outdated list of technical skills or responsibilities that don’t reflect the direction your organization is headed. It might also be loaded with language that ensures you will never attract those undiscovered workforce gems. If you’re still saying things like ‘local experience’, ‘Canadian education and licensing’, or using gender-specific words then you will not attract the significant untapped potential of high-skilled newcomers and/or talented equity-seeking professionals who want to invest in an organization that invests in them.
- What’s it costing me to go without? Sometimes, thinking with a costs mindset clouds our judgment and prevents us from seeing the positive potential. If you did invest in the right person and paid them very well, what will it free you up to do: take on new business; create alliances; charge a premium for value-added services; grow your capacity; or enhance your reputation? What business leader doesn’t want these things?
So, the next time ‘we need to hire more people’ is raised at your management meeting think positively. Have an open discussion. Involve HR and operations (equally). Calculate the positive and negative costs. Then make your decision.
About the author
Linda Ryan is National Program Manager with BCCA-Integrating Newcomers, a government funded, Canada-wide, pre-arrival career advice and employment coaching service for high skilled construction professionals immigrating to Canada. Funded by Immigration Refugees and Citizenship Canada, the program is hosted by BC Construction Association under its workforce development stream. The BCCA-IN team helps connect high skilled construction newcomers with employers. The program is a free, pre-arrival, nationwide service, and occupations supported include the skilled trades, licensed technical professions (e.g., engineer, architect, quantity surveyors, H&S etc.), and a wide variety of strategic business disciplines.