WE WON THE BATTLE, BUT NOT THE WAR
Competing For Staff
Be careful what you wish for, its commonly said, because you may get it.
OK, so youve gotten a booming economy, and your tribe of clients is increasing beyond your wildest dreams. But the catch, like the philosophers nightmare, is that you cant get the people to help you service the business. The competition for lawyers is keeping managing partners awake at night. The financial services industry is hiring accountants at considerably more than you can afford to pay them. You got what you wished for, but
One need only look at the Help Wanted pages of the newspapers and trade journals. CPAs needed. Openings for Associates. Not very appealing in todays competitive market. Nothing much to distinguish your firm from others. Not much to give the applicant who knows he can get the best an exciting feeling of desire to join your firm.
Its a highly competitive labor market for professionals, and one in which you cant always compete in dollars. Whats to be done?
The key lies in the word competitive. If youre competing for staff whether its for professional or support staff -- then you compete as you do for clients. You use the tools of marketing.
As with all marketing, it begins with the customer in this case, the prospects you want to come work for you. In attracting them to your firm, its not a function of what you want, its what they want. Why would anyone come to work for you?
Money, obviously. Its always been at least that. But if you cant afford to match salaries being offered by others, or if theres some other reason that precludes money (such as unfavorable geographic location), what are the other possibilities? What do employees really want?
Abraham Maslow, the humanistic psychologist, spoke of an hierarchy of needs that employees have for job satisfaction. At the base, of course, are the physiological needs, including salary, health coverage, and so forth. Then come safety needs security in both the employment and in the workplace. Next are the belongingness and love needs the feeling that one is part of something, such as a team. And finally and for many people the most important are the esteem needs. The esteem of others and the opportunity for self-esteem.
While most such analysis tends to be superficial and glib, at least Maslows hierarchy tells us that money isnt always everything in job satisfaction. Other values have substance as well. This is a good foundation to understand how to compete for employees in a tight market, when you cant compete with money.
There have been a great many books and studies on what motivates employees, but because every firm is different, you learn best from within your own firm. Look at your own people. Why are they here? What do they like and dislike about your firm?
Unless you have a particularly happy place to work, you may have difficulty getting useful answers by asking directly, but a few staff meetings to brainstorm with the partners and staff on recruiting methods will tell you more than you might expect. Its a simple device, in which you get sound contributions and ideas from people just by asking for their help. And as in any marketing context, defining what you have that best answers the needs of your target audience is the foundation for delineating a position a presentation of your firm or your services that best responds to the needs of your target audience. The position, which must be an accurate representation of what you really are, is the foundation for advertising, for public relations, and for aggressive recruiting.
An ad campaign uses a position as a foundation for appealing to those desires of prospects that go beyond money. Some basics
The following is an actual ad (names changed, of course) that was written from a delineated position. The firm is located in a particularly competitive city for attorneys. What were the three things that the foregoing process showed that distinguished this firm from others? The answer was access, responsibility, and partner path. This is how it came out (this is an actual ad, and may not be used without permission)
IF GROWTH IS IN YOUR FUTURE, COME GROW WITH US
Access to clients and client matters makes you a part of the process -- not an outsider waiting for your turn to get off the bench. As an associate at Smith & Dale, you are hands-on from virtually your first day with us.
We assume that you are a responsible attorney -- and we give you responsibility. Responsibility with clients, responsibility with the firm, responsibility with the legal process.
Your partnership path begins on the day you join us. And if you decide that you don't want to be a partner, or we decide (after a reasonable period of time) that we can serve each other's needs without partnership, we may still value your skills well enough to warrant your staying with us under a different arrangement.
INVESTMENT IN YOU
When you join Smith & Dale, we invest in you -- in your training, in your opportunities, in your skills, in your future. We want you to succeed and prosper, and we'll do everything we can to make that happen.
We assume that with 2 to 5 years of experience in your specialty, you're qualified to join us -- and to participate in our very rapid growth.
Currently, we need...
If our needs match your experience, come talk to us. You'll find we have a lot in common.
- In recruiting, on campus or elsewhere, the focus is also on the same key points, painting a picture of the firms environment and practices with its associates and professional staff. It should be inherent in the firms literature, in its oral presentations, in its interviews and discussions with prospects.
- Public relations plays a significant part in recruiting in a competitive environment. The firms reputation for its professionalism, for its culture and environment, for the success of its people, for its specialties. What works to promote the firm to its prospective clientele works to make the firm attractive to prospective employees.
Recruiting good people must be done as assiduously as prospecting for new clients. Its best done with a concentrated and well planned marketing campaign.
Will it win the superior candidate from the firm offering 30% more money than you can afford? Probably not. Sometimes yes. But it will certainly give you the edge over firms that recruit the old fashioned way.