I am often asked by friends and network contacts how I recruit and retain team players in this difficult market. Recruiting great people is a challenge for all companies, including credit unions, especially today in an employee’s market. The unemployment rate nationally is the lowest it’s been since 1969, down to roughly 3.6%. This is making it difficult for employers to find the right people for the right job.

Recently, I was privileged to be one of three panel speakers on the topic of recruiting for the Global Women’s Leadership Network Annual Conference. When asked by Liz Winninger, CEO of Xtend if I would participate, I thought sure, I can come up with “something” to say. The reality was, I had tons to say. In fact, I could have spent the whole day talking about recruiting. Since this is such a hot HR topic and one that everyone is struggling with, I thought I would share some of my insights.

What are the three biggest challenges today in recruiting?

Navigating an employee’s market

Low unemployment means there are more employers looking for employees to fill their open jobs than there are employees looking for them. Though there is a 3.6% unemployment rate, that doesn’t mean that there are people available for your job. Of the 3.6%, how many have the education, experience, work ethic, or are in the location you need them to fill your position? The candidates you often want or need may already be employed. Convincing them to change companies and come work for you can be a challenge.

Rapid changes in recruiting resources

The internet is our friend in the recruiting world. However, there are so many resources out there. It leaves us with a million questions, and if you ask Siri, you will get a million answers. Where should I be posting my positions? What are good databases to use? How do I keep up with the ever-changing recruiting world? The list is endless and daunting for recruiters.

Retaining employees in a competitive market

Finally, once I find these great people, retaining them seems almost impossible at times. As I am busy trying to recruit employees away from other companies, companies are recruiting my people away from me. Realistically, turnover is a good thing. It brings in change, new ideas, and fresh perspectives, but it also gives us challenges and headaches.

As an employer you have to combat these issues daily. How do you do that?

Top five solutions for facing these challenges

1. Do your homework

Before you ever begin the process of looking to fill a position, do your homework. Understand the job for which you are recruiting. While most of you probably already have a job description, that is just one piece of understanding the job. Be able to really talk about the job. Understand the difference between the “must-have” and the “like-to-have” skills. Yes, there is a difference. “Must-haves” are things you can’t train. “Like-to-haves” are the things you can train for but would prefer not to train. What are your team dynamics? What skills or personality traits are missing from your team? Do you want someone who will fit in or someone who will stir things up? As a hiring manager your investment in the process is critical. While it may be time consuming, in a tight market, knowing what you want and need can help expedite your process.

2. Grow your own candidates

How can you grow your own? What skills can you train? I encourage our management team to find candidates who have the right attitude and aptitude and to train them on how to do the job tasks. You can also work with local colleges and universities to offer internship or part-time employment opportunities for students. This can be a win-win. As an employer you find someone who you can train and grow, and with whom you can hopefully build a long-term relationship, that wants to stay with your company beyond school. The students get great work experience and possible career beyond college.

3. Navigating the internet

There seems to be new tool on the web every day. We hear about social media daily and for those of you, like me, who have been around the block for a few years, this can be overwhelming. But don’t sweat it, there are no wrong answers. Social media can be an amazing tool. Because there are so many platforms on the market, many of the online applicant databases offer posting to these sites as part of their service. I have heard friends say that it is too expensive to buy an online application. I disagree. I think it is too costly not to have one.

You can purchase an online applicant tracking system that posts to over a dozen different sites for you. These applicant tracking systems can do most of the work for you. Now don’t get me wrong, I still think companies should have some social media presence on Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter, etc. These sites are fast ways for you to get your word out. Let people know you are looking for help and how to apply.

4. Databases may be the wave to take us to the future

This is a tricky question. Databases require resources to go out and search for candidates. Yes, the data is there, but most of us operate lean shops. We don’t have people just sitting around searching for candidates. Database engines like ZipRecruiter or LinkedIn have come a long way. They now have easy to use search capabilities. You can post your job and find candidates that are looking for jobs and find candidates that have the skills you need but are already employed. Remember I said earlier that many of those you want or need may already be employed? Databases are one way to get to those candidates. Are they happy where they are? Can you offer them a better challenge? More money? Better work environment? Databases are just one method to help you find your next star employee.

5. Retaining your talent

Turnover is a necessary evil, and while we understand that some turnover is good, we need to do our part to help retain staff. We all know that money is a driving factor for employees to look for other jobs, but that is not the only thing. Employees leave because of issues with their boss, their coworkers, the work tasks and many more reasons. Because people are so different and want so many different things, you will never create an environment that makes everyone happy.

Part of retaining good people is hiring people that have needs that your organization fits. I once worked for a company that openly admitted to not being the number one payer in the industry. Their recruiting slogan was, go somewhere else to make more money, come here for a great learning opportunity and work-life balance. They hired amazing people all the time, because they were honest and hired people who wanted what they offered.

Now, being honest about your environment doesn’t mean that you shouldn’t make sure you are offering fair and competitive benefits and compensation or that you shouldn’t offer other programs that create a warm, fun, or exciting place to work. Employees need a holistic compensation and benefit package. They want more than just insurance and base pay. Some programs and benefits that you may want to look into include: bonus programs, student loan repayment programs, wellness programs, onsite daycare options, gym discounts, tuition reimbursement programs, service award programs, and retirement programs.


  • Amber Overla

    Amber Overla is an HR professional with over 20 years’ experience in a variety of different industries. She serves as Vice President of Organizational Resource Development for CU*Answers. She is responsible for leading CU*Answers’ overall human resources strategy, talent acquisition, leadership development, diversity and inclusion, organizational design and cultural development, employee education and development, compensation and benefits, HR operations and technology, employee relations, and security.

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