When you think of Staples, you probably remember the former slogan, “That was easy,” along with those ubiquitous red “easy” buttons. (At some point in life, you know you wanted one of those!)
Alas, there’s no easy button to push in talent acquisition (oh, how I wish there was!). In our current landscape, unemployment is low, competition is high and the expectation of work is fundamentally different than 20 years ago.
At Staples, like many other companies, we’ve been feeling the pressure to not only attract and hire the best people, but also hold on to our own talent and help them reach their full potential at our organization and in their career.
The Power of Growth
People leave organizations for various reasons — sometimes it’s for more money or relocating, other times it’s because they feel disengaged at work and are looking for something to refresh their purpose and enthusiasm. But what I’ve found — through annual employee engagement surveys and exit interviews — is that people want to see growth ahead of them. They seek opportunity to advance their career.
From my own experience, I know that companies have those opportunities available. The problem is not that we don’t have opportunities for growth and learning and advancement – it’s connecting our internal talent with those opportunities. It’s first thinking about our current associates for these jobs.
I have a feeling we’re not alone. While our recruiters search high and low, turning over every rock and resume to find the right people, often the best candidates for our open positions are already part of the Staples family.
I should know. I’ve been a master of mobility at Staples (a title I may or may not have deemed for myself). I’ve been with the company 18 years and have held eight different positions. Why have I been able to advance? It’s certainly not because I’m the most talented or educated person in the company. It’s because over the years, I’ve gained a deep knowledge of the company, its people, its strengths, its opportunities. I know how to get things done here. That cross-functional knowledge does make me valuable.
Simply put (and with living proof): Recruiting your own employees adds value to your business. But just because you identify in-house candidates doesn’t mean the recruiting process will be a breeze (sorry, still no easy button!). I discussed this topic recently at SmashFly’s Transform Virtual and offered some of my learnings on internal recruiting strategies that may help you fill that next opening without having to search outside your own office.
Create a Culture of Mobility
This shouldn’t be a surprise to you in talent acquisition: Managers aren’t eager to let go of their top team members for other internal opportunities.
If your employees aren’t truly happy, they’re going to seek opportunities on their own anyway.Click to tweet
I get it. Every manager wants to hang on to their best employees. They’re not trying to hold people back from advancing, but they know how difficult the hiring process is. They don’t want to go 30, 60 or 90 days with a gap in their department or wait for a new hire to get up to speed, which realistically means they still aren’t at the level of the team member who left.
But the truth is, employees are leaving anyway! External recruiters are emailing them or flooding their LinkedIn inbox with messages. If the associate (at Staples, our employees are associates!) isn’t truly happy, they’re going to seek out new opportunities on their own. For your sake, it might as well be within the organization.
To retain associates and fill positions from within, you need to create a culture of mobility. At Staples, our CEO Shira Goodman is super passionate about this – you can’t ask for more than having your most senior leader talk about the importance of internal mobility. But even if you don’t have a Shira (there’s only one!), you can still start small. We’ve utilized our Young Professionals ARG to spread the word about new openings in the company. It doesn’t have to be top down. Sometimes, a bottoms-up approach can be stronger! When there’s a culture of mobility, hiring managers become less concerned about losing people, as they expect that they may get another great internal candidate to fill the gap.
Internal mobility doesn’t have to be top down. Sometimes a bottoms-up approach can be stronger.Click to tweet
Enable Internal Processes
For most employees, it’s easier to find a new job somewhere else than it is within their organization. It’s crazy, but it’s happening every day:
- 42 percent of people who left their job would’ve stayed with their company if they found an opportunity there
- 66 percent of employees will look for a job internally first before looking elsewhere
- 89 percent of employees would consider a lateral move within their company , but only 27 percent would consider a lateral move externally
- 78 percent of people would stay with a company if they knew their career path in the organization
People don’t necessarily want a new company, they just want a new opportunity. Why are we not capitalizing on this?! What I’ve found is there aren’t processes in place to support employees’ ambitions.
Survey after survey shows that career development is one of the top motivators for employees. At Staples, we’re focusing on developing our high-potential talent and preparing them for the next step in their careers. We’re not where we want to be yet, but we recognize the need for a rigorous talent management process and helping our associates prepare for future roles.
To promote internal mobility, you must create a system that proactively enables it. It starts with knowing your employees’ career ambitions, setting expectations and providing the training and development to get them there.
Improve Opportunity Sharing
When you have thousands of openings in a year and your employees aren’t aware of them, it’s time to make some changes. Serious changes!
I will own up to an unconventional tactic that I implemented at Staples initially. It involved pushing our recruiters to call employees about open roles in the company instead of being passive. Sometimes it’s better to ask for forgiveness instead of permission!
In fact, our employees appreciated us reaching out to them and making these opportunities visible, even if they decided not to apply. It’s all about the effort of awareness and transparency. How great would you feel if someone contacted you about a different role in your organization, ahead of you seeking it out?
We’ve also just launched an internal career platform called Career Pro, which is powered by a local startup in Boston. This platform matches associates skills and capabilities with career opportunities. Using machine learning, the system will be able to suggest better matches for associates the more it learns about their actions and interest. One other cool aspect of this platform? It will show internal candidates other employees who are already in a role they’re interested in so they can connect with them and learn about the position before they apply. It’s all about creating more connections and building awareness within, and across, the organization.
My number one goal is never to hear an associate say, “I never heard about that role.” With these new practices, we’re moving in the right direction.
We’re at the beginning of our internal recruiting journey at Staples, and we’re learning more every day. The war for talent isn’t over; competition is fiercer than ever. But in the fight for fit, if you recruit your internal candidates, you’ll win more battles than you lose. And in the long run, I believe internal mobility is a win for everybody.