[Podcast] Mail Bag: The Importance of the Human Element in Staffing and Recruiting

Mail Bag: The Importance of the Human Element in Staffing and Recruiting

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In this episode of The Full Desk Experience, Kortney Harmon answers questions from our mail bag. Kortney answers questions about attracting talent, employee retention, and AI.

Kortney Harmon, host:

It’s merely the idea of using some tools to be able to help you. Could you set up some automations to be able to deliver some of those basic tasks, reminders, questions? You almost want to give every option prior to that meeting, to be able to say, “Nope, I’m out.” You want to provide so many options for them to say no, yes is the only obvious answer.

Hi, I’m Kortney Harmon, Staffing and Recruiting Industry Principal at Crelate. Over the past decade, I’ve trained thousands of frontline recruiters and I’ve worked with hundreds of business owners and executives to help their firms and agencies grow. This is The Full Desk Experience, where we will be talking about growth blockers across your people, processes and technologies.

On today’s episode, we are taking questions from you, our audience members, through the mail bag questions that you have sent us at our email or through our surveys, and we’re excited to give back and answer the questions that you’re yearning to have the answers to.

Katie Jones, producer:

Thanks, Kort. Yeah, we are. This is a really exciting episode. As you know, we chat with you guys on our live sessions and there’s often questions that we don’t get to in addition to the emails that we get from all of you. So, this is a really exciting episode for us. I’ll just go ahead and start it off. “How do I stand out enough to attract high-quality candidates?”

Kortney Harmon, host:

I think there’s multiple answers to this question. I think it’s where in your process you want to stand out, right? So, if it’s attracting talent or if it’s for your social presence, you have to be posting consistently. So first off, we talk about this in a previous episode, your window shop has to be up to par. You have to have the presence of what you want your clients and your candidates to see. So, in this case, talent.

So, what your candidates to see, depending on your industry, whether it’s whatever social media platform, is it Facebook, is it LinkedIn? Do you have the presence for when they visit your profile, they have a good understanding of who you are and what you do? If you just have the general profile that doesn’t really have anything about you, you’re not standing out to anybody. There are hundreds of thousands of recruiters in this industry, so number one is make sure you have your foundational pieces set up. So, your social presence, your name, your profile, your signature on your email. I know those things sound so basic.

Beyond that, it comes down to your vernacular, whenever you’re speaking, how you respond to talent. So, when you’re leaving voicemails, let’s say you’re trying to attract talent and you’re trying to reach out to, let’s just say passive talent at this case, because we’ve been preaching this for so long. If you’re reaching out to passive talent, what is your strategy? Are you consistent with your strategy? Are you using all media platforms in your strategy? Are you using the social? Are you emailing and leaving a voicemail, or calling, close proximity of each other? And what are you saying? Are you literally just saying, “Hey, give me a call back.”? Or, are you specifically saying something to intrigue them, with a sense of urgency?

One of my favorite pieces that I used and one of our voicemails that we taught new franchise owners to say was, “You were working on a project and you’d love someone’s feedback.” Now, people would be like, “I’m not working on a project.” But you are. You’re working on a project to find the top talent in your industry. You almost make them feel like they’re missing out on something. Create a little sense of urgency, create some FOMO when you’re leaving your voicemails. Not, “I have this really great opportunity, you should call me back.” Everyone else in your industry is also saying that.

So, how are you standing out? If it’s voicemail one to voicemail four, you should have four voicemails planned out and you should build upon each one of those. It should be progressive. Your last one is your Hail Mary. What are you saying differently? We always joked, one of my offices used to say, “I hope you’re not in witness protection.” And people would give him a call back just because it was quirky and unique and they were like, “I had to call you back because I giggled when I heard your voicemail.” Or, some people look at the other side of things and they say, “It’s just business process, it’s business etiquette to give me a callback.” I’m not that person. But you have to think of what your brand is, what your messaging is. What is your value of why someone should work with you? You have to think, what would your talent do?

And it used to be what would Jesus do? WWJD? It’s what would your talent do if they got your voicemail? Call yourself. Leave yourself a voicemail. Send yourself an email, see what they see. Send yourself a video message on LinkedIn or send it to someone you know, because that’s another platform that you can use to be unique. How many of you are getting video messages out there from recruiters? I know I’ve received probably three, ever. And that’s another way to stand out. So, I think you just have to come up with your value statement, number one. Think of that very frequently, whenever you’re using and saying your communications, so you can stand out from people, but make sure your foundational building blocks are set up correctly.

Katie Jones, producer:

Awesome. Thanks, Kort. Question two, “If you don’t have a learning and development specialist, how do you keep up on training? Are there any tools to help with this process?”

Kortney Harmon, host:

That’s a great question. Not a lot of organizations have the ability to have someone on staff, to be able to dedicate a full-time resource, to be able to set up their processes, set up what they’re doing, create SOPs. It’s the idea of, “What should I do. If this, then that.” I think of it as if they say no, where do I go? Do I pass go, do I collect $200? And these are things that often get pushed by the wayside because we don’t have resources.

Number one is, first establish a process. Even if you don’t have a learning and development person, you can establish your processes. So, whenever you’re working through lunch and learns, or you’re working with morning meetings and you’re doing round robins with resistances, that your teams figure out what they should be saying, what they should be doing, what they should be putting into play and processes, so you as a leader can get the accurate metrics that you need to make your business decisions at the drop of a hat.

There is a tool. So number one, you could essentially write SOPs. A little time consuming, depending how you want to handle that. But there’s a tool out there that I used actually when I ran part of my learning and development program as a director, it’s called Tango, T-A-N-G-O.us. It essentially creates how-to guides in seconds. It tracks your clicks, where you’re moving. So as an owner, you should think of this as, “How do I want someone to record something the right way in my system? Where do I want them to go? What do I want them to add? Where do I want them to add it to?” It is a really good and easy resource. There is a free version of this. You can get so many guides or so many how-tos to be created within seconds, but then you can also up your subscription and continue to create them around all of your processes, it’s not a bad idea. But first, again, you have to establish that process first.

So, I think that would be number one out of the goal, is establish, and number two, you could use tools like Tango or you could have your teams write them. If you have your lead salesperson, if they have the best practice and you like how they do that, ask them to write something, because you’re getting your team to invest in the process. Because they do it in such a way that’s so good, you want to make sure the entire team does it that way. So, there’s a few ways that you can do that, but that’s an easy tool and a free tool that you can utilize at your disposal.

Katie Jones, producer:

So, Kort, this is a question that goes off of one of our previous episodes also.

Kortney Harmon, host:


Katie Jones, producer:

It says, “How can I implement social media into our new development processes?”

Kortney Harmon, host:

I love that. Number one, thank you for thinking of this. This is not something that people usually think that they’re a part of. You have your employees that have their own social media profiles, that doesn’t mean you can’t give them best practices. People that are joining your organization want to know what the best way to be successful is. So, you can implement one-on-one trainings and do lunch and learns. I know I say that frequently, but we actually at my past organization, both of my past two organizations, we actually did LinkedIn sessions. So, once a month we had essentially a small group that we ran as a basic introduction to LinkedIn, “Here are the 10 top things.” We had a checklist, once they got hired, “You should go do these 10 things.”

So, what is that? That is going to update your where you work, going to update your headshot, going to update your banner. We actually had company banners for each of the 10 operating companies within our last company. So, we wanted them to change that. We wanted them to put their phone number or their email address on that banner as well, for easy access. You’re a recruiter, you’re out there, you want people to find you. So, make your information as accessible as possible with the least number of clicks.

So, we would change your about me section. We would change your headline. Headline defaults in LinkedIn to just your job description. It’s not a bad thing, but whenever you’re looking at hundreds of thousands of profiles or people are looking up you, do you just want to be status quo or do you want to stand out? So, we would always encourage that. So, in that list of 10, we would do individual coaching. So, within your organizations you could do a peer to peer. So, you could do a senior leader or you could do a senior salesperson that’s actually mentoring a junior salesperson. You could have them have that checklist of 10 things. That’s very simple through onboarding, “Make sure you do these 10 things,” with recommendations.

It’s scalable. It’s something you can put out to every new employee or employee that’s been at your business that hey, maybe they don’t have the exact presence that you want on social. But then we also would take that one step further. As they got into the organization, they got comfortable, they had their baseline of information for their social status or their social profile up to par, but now, how should I engage? And I think this is where companies really are like, “Oh, I don’t want to tell them what to do.” But if you have someone that’s in your organization that is killing it on that front, why wouldn’t you say, “You don’t have to do this, but this is the key or the recipe to success in our industry.” And there’s no one that knows it better than your organization, because you’re literally talking to those candidates and clients on a daily basis.

So, my recommendation and what I would encourage all of you to do for your organizations is set up that foundation of your profile, your storefront window. Have people share things on a certain cadence. So, if you’re in an organization and you know you put things out on Mondays and Fridays, go share those things, Mondays and Fridays. That should be a cadence. That should be somewhere where you can be one of three things. I know I talked about this before, but you could be the original artist, but that takes a lot of time and not everybody has that want to do that. But the good news is, you don’t have to do that. You don’t have to be like you and me, Katie, where we’re doing videos day in and day out. It’s not where everyone wants to be. Not everybody wants to be on camera, but you can share the video of someone that’s on camera. You can put your own thoughts to that.

You don’t even have to share something from your organization. It could be something outside, just within your industry. That’s where people think, they only think that they can post open jobs. Well, that’s great, but is that going to get you the traction that you want to see? There could be something on quiet quitting. There could be best practices on leadership skills or four day work weeks. Not all of those things necessarily are applicable, but those are going to see things that you’re going to have in manufacturing, or accounting, or healthcare. There’s big changes in healthcare since COVID has hit. Are you sharing industry knowledge? So, the candidates that you’re attracting, are they going to want to see the stuff that you’re posting? I think you have to think through that.

So, giving someone in your organization guidelines as to best practices, “This is how you’re successful. This is what you could do.” Is a great option to be able to put forth for someone who wants to do it. Not everyone in your organization is going to do it. Should you have repercussions for not doing it? No. But most people want to be successful in this industry and if they’re sitting here trying to do this and putting in the time, they’re open, they want to hear things from you. They want to know what the best touch plan strategy is, “Should it include social? Should I make LinkedIn voicemails if I’m already making voicemails on their phone? Should I do videos? Should I be engaging?” Or, “How do I engage?” I think that comes down to a pretty common question. “How do I even engage on social?” Do I say, “Nice article.”? Most people tend to do that. They don’t want to sit and think, it’s whether they’re scrolling through at night or first thing in the morning.

But, “Do I ask a thought provoking question? Do I want them to respond to me? Do I send something separate out of the blue? What is my best practice?” So, I think, just having a few things or having a lunch and learn, to be able to say, “What are the things that you found successful in our industry?” We write them on paper. You have your expectation of what you should do with a profile and you go from there. And good news, there’s a lot of free tools out there already on LinkedIn and other places, that you could say, “Go watch this video about this person creating their LinkedIn profile. It’ll set you up for success.” You don’t even have to create anything on your own.

Katie Jones, producer:

I think that’s probably the best part too, is that because LinkedIn isn’t new, Facebook isn’t new and business on LinkedIn is certainly not new, that there’s plenty of stuff out there. That’s a really great point, Kort.

Kortney Harmon, host:

I’m not going to lie, there’s things like Sales Navigator, I never use that. There’s videos out there for free to teach you how to use that. I did that as of just recently. So, I’ve been here, I use this platform so much, but there’s still so much that I don’t know, that I may be a veteran, but I’m not an expert.

Katie Jones, producer:

Okay, so this one is very relevant to today’s job market, not just in finding talent, but in retention. Retention, I’m sure is a very popular buzzword in everybody’s practices today. “How can I retain my recruiters and sales associates in this competitive job market?”

Kortney Harmon, host:

That’s such a great question. And that’s something that everyone’s facing right now. I think the market shift may have a little people leery of leaving. They don’t want to leave, they don’t want to be the first one in, last one out. I think that’s the common thing that you hear. But the problem is, there are still people offering good money for jobs that you have your people doing as well.

So first off, I want you to be realistic on what is happening in the market. What does good look like? What are other organizations paying? Are you so far below par that it doesn’t matter, they’re going to leave as soon as there’s a pulse at another organization? But money doesn’t mean everything to everyone. And honestly, if they’re going to leave your organization for a few more cents, they’re going to leave the next one for a few more cents. It comes down to motivators for people.

So, whenever you think of motivators, I’m going to pull out my training hat, there’s a few reasons people leave organizations, right? We always used to teach the CLAMPS model, challenge, location, advancement, money, people, and security, it spells CLAMPS. The idea of if money’s the only motivator, that’s alarming. Are you leaving a career path open? This is something that I saw at my last organization most frequently, is if I’m coming in as that junior recruiter, that person as a junior recruiter is not going to want to stay as the junior recruiter forever.

Do you have a clearly laid out path to go from junior recruiter, to recruiter, to senior recruiter, to junior business development person, to sales, to senior business development person, to team lead, or account exec, or whatever you want it to be? Whatever that path is, do you have it laid out? I’ll tell you, most people are missing the mark here. Most people are missing the idea that people want something more. Whenever they’re stagnant in a pond, they’re not going to want to stay.

So, you could start small. You may not say, “Well, I don’t have a whole career path laid out.” But are you offering or reimbursing for personal development? People want to move for personal development these days. My favorite in our industry is there are so many certifications out there, you have your ASA certifications that in any industry, in staffing, in recruiting, in healthcare, are you offering incentive to be able to get those people certified? It’s only, yes, it’s something that they can take with them, it’s 250 bucks-ish, give or take, but you’re investing in your people.

So, you could say, at my last organization, this is something that I helped accomplish. We offered certification programs for everyone that was at the organization over a year. We paid for them to get that certification. Whenever they got that certification, we celebrated their success. You could increase their pay by a portion or a small step if they got that certification, or they could get a bonus that they weren’t eligible for. But that shows you the people who have the drive to continue to help you move your business forward. So, certifications are huge, that career pathing is huge. Personal development in general, some people don’t want to go towards something more, but they want to have that stipend.

As I was interviewing here at Crelate, that was something that I heard at so many organizations and something we have as well, is to be able to have a stipend to help me be better me. Do you have that at your organization? There’s so many things, but I think first and foremost, you have to understand, and this is going to sound so corny, so bear with me, you have to understand the love language of the people that you’re working with. Whenever I say love language, I know you’re not courting the people in your office, but do they want words affirmation? Do they want recognition? Do they want gifts? Whatever that might be. That’s something that I did with my team, because everyone is different. I am a acts of service kind of gal. I like acts of service. I don’t need recognition, I don’t need the gift, I don’t need anything on the back, like pat on the back. But I love acts of service. That’s how I respond. Work, home, anywhere.

Understanding what motivates your people is going to understand how you can keep them. There are quizzes out there and as corny as it sounds, you can understand what motivates your people, but make sure you have a platform to acknowledge those people. A lot of the people at my last organization, it was, they wanted their, not in a bad way, but they wanted their names in lights. They wanted to hear the recognition, the good things that they did.

So, we actually had a platform as well. I’m not telling you to go buy a new technology by any means, could be an email, but we had actually a social platform that you got awarded points based on your recognition. You could go cash in those points at a store for swag or a gift card, but people felt that they were getting something from it with the things that mattered the most for them. So, I think that’s one of the biggest things people are doing for engagement and strategy and to be able to keep their people. You need to know what matters to your people most of all. That was a long-winded answer. Sorry, Katie.

Katie Jones, producer:

That’s okay. No, absolutely. I think that you hit it on the head. There’s always a little bit of psychology that goes into running a business, and understanding your people is definitely part of that. So, that was a great point.

Kortney Harmon, host:

That’s what matters to me most is, I think psychologies were my favorite classes in school. So, I relate all of that. It’s so crazy how it affects us today, every day. Our work relationships, our leadership skills, is the psychology of what’s behind it.

Katie Jones, producer:

Absolutely. Oh, this is a good one. So, we’ve been talking a lot this hour about ways to attract talent and that kind of stuff. This is a really great question. “How do you handle and avoid no-shows?”

Kortney Harmon, host:

That’s a great question. I think it’s going to vary industry that you’re in. So, let’s make that clear. Manufacturing, there’s high volume, high turnover. IT or healthcare is completely different. Is there a magic button? No, there’s not a magic button. I want to say of anything, and this is not secret, this is not anything that you need to write home about, but this is following through with process. Most of us have the intention and are in recruiting probably for a reason. I got into recruiting because I wanted to help people. That’s how I am. I do the same thing now just in a different form. But people want to help people succeed. That’s the reason most of us got in there, in this industry, I should say.

But the problem is we get too busy, we’re not able to follow up with all the calls that we need to follow up with. We’re not able to send all the messages that we need to send. We’re not able to have all the conversations that we honestly need to have. So, this comes back to, if you listen to our episode with Chris Hesson … Was it last week? Last week. It’s merely the idea of using some tools to be able to help you. So, could you set up some automations to be able to deliver some of those basic tasks, reminders, questions? You almost want to give every option prior to that meeting, to be able to say, “Nope, I’m out.”

You want to provide so many options for them to say no, yes is the only obvious answer, because you gave them every out to possibly have. I can tell you when I was running my desk, there were times that I was like, “Oh crap, it’s Monday. Joe was supposed to start today.” Guess what? I didn’t call Joe Monday through Friday last week.

Katie Jones, producer:

Did he show? I hope he showed.

Kortney Harmon, host:

But who does that come back on? That comes back on me. So, what are you doing with your desk to make sure you have all of the triggers in place? The reminders to do. So number one, I would make sure you time block a time before … If it’s every Friday, if you’re prepping for the next week, make sure you call all of your people or send messages. If you’re lucky enough to have an applicant tracking system like what we have, you have the ability to do sequencing. So, could you create a sequence to say, they’re at a start date, push start? I’m going to send a reminder on their start date prior to first week reminder. Ask for references. You can get stuff from them whenever you need it.

Whenever you want to ask for references or referrals, you want to ask when they’re happy, right? So, do you have something in place to be able to say, “Oh, I need to do that.”? Because right now talent is so hard to find, you need to make sure you have the things in place to be able to activate those pieces. I know we’re not talking about referrals and references. I’m sorry, I went down a rabbit hole. But it will help you with your no-shows.

Is it a no-brainer? No. Is it a fail safe? Absolutely not. But makes sure you don’t remove the human element too much in this process, because people go to work for people. I will tell you, most people don’t want to say, “Oh, they didn’t call me, I’m not going to go.” But, “Oh my gosh, Katie called me, she followed up with me. If I don’t go, I’m letting Katie down.” It comes down to that human element. There’s nothing that is a rhyme or reason, but I think just doing the processes, the simple things in your organization.

And leaders, I encourage you to make sure you have a process in place for your starts, for your fall-offs. If they fall off of a project or as they’re ending an assignment, do you have an ends date report? So then you can follow up with those people and get that redeployment going, because that’s the closest thing to money. There are so many things as you as a leader should be doing in that placement process as well as following up with hiring managers and key accounts to really continue to build that business. But if it’s not in place and it’s not established, it won’t happen and you won’t be able to measure it.

Katie Jones, producer:

I think that’s a great point there, Kortney, about the foundational building blocks of the human element. That’s certainly not something that we want to miss or forget. And that leads me into this next question. So, basically I think the question is asking, “At what point do we stop letting AI take over?”

Kortney Harmon, host:

Do you want the robots to be in control? No, I’m just kidding. I just talked about in the last question, it comes down to, people want to work for people. I mean, Katie, I don’t know about you, but whenever I’m calling … Want to watch what I say, I don’t want to say, 1-800 number. When you’re calling a customer service center and you want to be able to talk to someone, you want to be able to say your concerns. I don’t know about you, I push zero, I push zero, pound, zero, pound, I want to get to somebody. I don’t want to deal with a robot and if I have to deal with a robot, guess what? I’m not probably going to deal with them. I’ll take my business elsewhere. That’s how your candidates feel. That’s how your clients feel.

So, if they feel that they’re working through a robot, they’re not going to spend time with you. They’re going to go somewhere else. Grammarly is something that you can use as a tool. I love tools like that, that can go in our tool belt to help us be effective. Right? It’s maybe changing the wording, making sure we sound smart, making sure our words make sense, making sure our punctuation’s right, because I’m not going to lie, I don’t write on a daily basis like you do, Katie. Those tools will make me sound better. But whenever it comes to those automations, the other pieces, the sourcing tools that are maybe only going to measure the amount of times the keyword is recognized from the resume, that doesn’t mean that person’s more qualified, it just means that they actually have that word in their resume more times than somebody else.

Katie Jones, producer:

Yes, Kort, that’s another good point is that just because somebody has their keywords in their resume, doesn’t necessarily mean that they’re going to be say, a great cultural fit for the company. And that brings me into our next question, which also is kind of related to AI. As you know, last week with Chris Hesson, we recorded a whole episode on AI versus automations versus machine learning and what that means for the recruiting and staffing industry as a whole. So, this question actually comes on the heels of that. It came in through email after we didn’t have time to take all the questions in that episode. It was a popular episode. If you have a chance, go back and listen to it.

Kortney Harmon, host:


Katie Jones, producer:

“Are there any specific places or use cases where you think AI is further behind than what’s being promised?”

Kortney Harmon, host:

I really think AI is a buzzword right now. AI, whenever you hear the topic, it’s like it almost creates some FOMO in you. And if it doesn’t, you might not be human. But it’s the idea that there’s this false promise that AI’s going to solve your problem, it’s going to be the magic button to connect your candidates and your job orders. It’s a well-intentioned thing, I understand that, but if there’s ever a time that they’re saying that AI can replace head count or do your job for you, I want you to pause, because really what it comes down to, it’s … And I said this on our episode, so I hope no one takes offense to this, but it’s really an appeal to the lazy. It’s someone that wants that magic button to say, “Okay, I want this job done for me.”

But if you as a leader want to replace headcount or you want to be able to make your jobs easier for your people, that’s great, but what kind of recruiters are you hiring to begin with? Because it’s not your silver bullet. Can it help and aid in technologies? Yes. Could it possibly have good tools, like we have integration partners, so I think of that, could it have good integration partners to help you be better or quicker at your job? Absolutely. Can it do your job for you? No. Can it solve your problems? No. And if you think that at any time that AI can solve your problems, there’s probably a deeper rooted problem to begin with. Maybe your processes aren’t there, maybe your metrics aren’t established. Maybe you don’t have the leadership or senior authority within your organization, that you just think that this is going to solve.

If those things are still broken on the back end, that does not mean that this bullet is going to fix everything, because it’s only going to cover it up and only going to make your attention go elsewhere for the next six to 12 months. And then you’re going to walk out of it and say, “Well, that didn’t do what I thought it was going to do.” Don’t use it as a silver bullet that it’s going to be the answers to everything that you need. Spend time with the operations and make sure you have everything established within your organization. Have the cold, hard truth of, do I have this set up right in the beginning to say, “Oh, you know what? It’s going to have to automate that. I got to write this process down.” If you ever have to think that, then you probably don’t have it right in the beginning.

Don’t think that AI’s going to solve everything for you. Make sure you have the honest conversation. Think about the tools. And I said automation, use the automations versus the artificial intelligence to be able to help your teams work effectively and possibly quicker, just not do your jobs for you. Don’t remove the human element.

Katie Jones, producer:

All right, Kort, that’s all the questions that we have today. Thank you so much for your time. And if you guys in the audience listening on the podcast, didn’t get your question answered, please either stay tuned for our future AMA mail bag episode, probably dropping in December or January. I can’t believe we’re already talking about January.

Kortney Harmon, host:

Oh my goodness.

Katie Jones, producer:

Or, feel free to resend the questions. So, Kort, that’s all from me today for our mail bag. Thank you.

Kortney Harmon, host:

I love it. This was so fun. Please send in more questions like this because again, if you have these questions, guaranteed someone else does as well.

I’m Kortney Harmon with Crelate. Thanks for joining The Full Desk Experience. Please feel free to submit any questions for next session to [email protected], or ask us live next session. If you enjoyed our show, be sure to subscribe to our podcast wherever you listen and sign

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