I always think twice about grabbing lunch at a restaurant that has a “Help Wanted” sign in the window – especially if the sign looks like a permanent fixture. I can’t help but wonder about the possible implications: are they short staffed because they can’t they find good help … or can’t they keep good people? Do they even remember that the sign is out there?
There is only one good spin on the “help wanted” sign: what if the management is always accepting resumes because there is always room for the best waitress, best chef, best bartender, or best maître d' whenever they become available? What if it’s not about immediate needs, but potential opportunities?
Growth-focused companies should be continuously recruiting for the best and brightest, especially as part of succession planning. And this can’t be strictly an HR function. As leaders, we all need to keep our antennae up for the best and the brightest talent – people we meet through the natural course of our lives. In my experience, new hires who walk in with a strong referral from someone already on the team just make better employees. This includes, by the way, people recruited from within the company to take on a different responsibility.
This shouldn’t be surprising. High-powered head hunters can help us find people with amazing credentials, accomplishments and celebrity-level endorsements. But that doesn’t mean they are a good match with our culture and work ethic, or that they embrace our values. How do we screen for people who will be able to inspire collaboration in the teams they must lead? Only someone who works within a company can reasonably predict that a candidate will be a good fit. And there is general agreement that employee referrals are the best source of above average candidates. (You can read the research by Dr. John Sullivan here.)
This habit of continuous recruitment becomes even more critical in companies that are anticipating the retirement of some of their most capable and trusted leaders. Succession planning should be ongoing. Have you every stopped to think about who will fill your shoes when you move on in your career or retire? Should you be looking beyond your immediate staff? Are there individuals in the organization you should be mentoring and grooming? Do you know someone who could be a huge asset elsewhere in the company, if you just took time to connect them properly?
Leaders seek and attract future leaders. There’s no downside to recruiting and mentoring talent. But failure to look beyond our own career is selfish at best. Take a moment to think about it; who should be doing your job in five to ten years? What should you be doing for them today?