A business partner once told me, “Where there is uncertainty, there is profit.” The lesson was that clients value you for solving their fear issues or providing clarity to their uncertainty. And these days, talent acquisition pros need to work extra hard to overcome candidate fears about making career moves. For context, Liz Ryan’s article Ten Signs of a Fear-Based Workplace from Bloomberg BusinessWeek laid out some signs of a company that’s in a bad place:
The principal signs of a fear-soaked senior leadership are a preoccupation with looking out for No. 1, a clampdown on consensus-building conversations, and the shunning or ousting of anyone so bold or naive as to tell the truth about what he or she believes. We’ve seen the fear epidemic hit dozens of major firms over the past few years, and it isn’t pretty. When a leadership team’s attention turns from “How can we do the right thing for our customers and employees?” to “How can we keep our stature, our jobs, and the status quo intact, at any cost?” then fear officially rules the roost.
Now, imagine that a competitor’s shop has become “fear-soaked.” A star performer working in a fearful company feels like the King’s Food Taster—every day she goes to work knowing it might be the day she gets poisoned. If you manage it smoothly, fear can turn competitors into your feeder pools.
Once you find the star who is considering her options, it’s important to acknowledge that she will come in defensive and suspicious of big promises. Remember though, you can only profit if you can take the fear away. Joining a company that went south was a huge career staller for that star, and she knows she has to get this career decision right. If you design the positioning of your opportunity with finesse, she’ll see your firm’s value. As Steve Boese told us about in the The Jar-Jar Binks Theory, though, “people clinging to the status quo will undervalue the benefits of (a) proposed change…by a factor of three.” Even though she knows she is in a loser company, she will still be gun shy. Don’t make a lame play offering a typical interview day with random department heads and some VP’s.
So, how do you show her how she fits into your plans? Get as specific as you can, because transparency is the best antidote to fear.
- Show stability. Set up meetings with senior leaders to discuss market positioning and review 3, 6, 12, and 24 month forecasts, business plans, etc. Go as open book as your culture will tolerate. A star will picture her role in adding value to the plans.
- Provide proof. “A” players want to talk to “A” players in their field. Send your candidate to dinner with the last rock star you recruited to share the real story of being a top performer in your culture.
- Paint the long term picture. Arrange meetings with your tenured rock stars, and she’ll see that talent stays with you for the long haul.
- Be genuine. Loosen up the structure of your meetings, so the candidate does not feel like a role player in your production. True talent will see through BS.
Regardless of the economy, good talent pros are always looking for the next impact player for their company. If you sense that a competitor is on the ropes, find the talent that aligns well with your firm and help ease their fear.