Finding the best talent in a candidate-driven market is challenging. C-suite leaders are looking for top-level talent with strong loyalty, training, and industry knowledge – but it’s increasingly difficult to obtain these attributes when the base salary you’re offering doesn’t pass muster.
That’s where creative compensation packages can be a value add for companies, bringing in top talent and enticing them to stay. Over the past three years, candidates learned how to operate autonomously in a remote work environment. At the same time, increased demand for their skills led to higher compensation, and the candidate pool shrunk got smaller. So those with strong training are harder to find, and there are less of them. The bottom line: great candidates have many choices, and they know it.
In contrast to a decade ago, employees do not need to be as loyal. It is easy to find a better offer or working conditions or to “quit a screen” in a remote environment when you only know your colleagues through online interactions.
However, employers often need to catch up when recruiting within these demands. Hiring managers often discover these common problems: Desiring “rock star” candidates at a discounted price (e.g., low base pay)
The result? Interview fatigue, multiple turn downs, and lost time and productivity due to the time invested. Companies need help finding and retaining good talent. Many organizations that hire executive search firms after multiple turndowns later learn they had unrealistic expectations or knowledge of recruiting talent.
After recruiting efforts have yielded disappointing results, it may be time to reassess the priorities list.
Step back and evaluate the situation. Were there factors out of your control, such as relocation or a remote working environment? If so, move on, you cannot fix this, and maybe you did not know your candidate or they misrepresented themself.
If the declination was compensation, get creative by using the following:
1. Get to know your candidate and what is important to them
Remember that candidates are complete people who consider items outside of work. If they have families, they likely have community ties. It is difficult to give those up, especially in areas where their spouses and children are thriving.
For the ideal candidate, learn what they find important. For example, people who prefer remote work with no commuting are often willing to give up some compensation to continue that arrangement. Organizations insistent on office time and commutes are almost always likelier to find luck with a local candidate rather than relocation, unless the new position represents a significant promotion or executive level position. For some candidates, it might be compensation, exposure to learn additional skills or to manage others. Go to the bargaining table knowing what is most important to the candidate so you can ensure they know that you have “heard” them. This develops a relationship going into the negotiations that will earn the candidate’s respect (whether or not that you can meet what they want or need).
2. Offer flexibility
Most offers no longer include long discussions regarding personal time off (PTO). The workplace changed, so minimum weekly hours and set schedules are not as important. Now, the expectation is to finish the work, and the bottom line is getting the job done when you need to get it done. This is an easy negotiation between the employee and manager.
Note that many candidates do feel reassured by knowing PTO is available. Be sure to offer and communicate the entire amount of PTO available at the time of hire and trust candidates to complete the job on their own schedule. Many times, the corporate standard might be different than the hiring manager’s, and that should be part of the conversation.
3. Use creative bonuses
When a budget or department inequities can’t meet the high-cash salary expectations of top talent, or the talent is leaving cash (unvested equity) on the table, this is the time to get creative. Come up with creative bonuses that won’t break your department budget.
How about a bonus broken into meeting different milestones? For example, candidates can receive bonuses after celebrating their six-month, one-year, and five-year anniversaries. Also consider performance-based bonuses over a period of time to make up for lost equity, or a paid vacation at their start date to get an employee on the payroll and enable the employee to take off some time between positions.
4. Offer long-term success
Top talent will not be top talent in the same position for decades. If the CEO sees a candidate as the next General Counsel, let them know their successional earning potential. While guaranteeing a promotion may be difficult, be sure to communicate the possibility or value that they feel this candidate will bring to the table.
Creative compensation can be the essential difference between securing a top candidate or an average candidate. Find ways within your compensation structure to add these incentives, and your searches may proceed much more smoothly and successfully. It will also demonstrate to potential candidates that you care enough to accommodate their needs and acknowledge the shifting dynamics among workplaces. The best thing you can do for the success of your company and the moral of your employees is to get creative with your approach.