Break The Cycle

The Exodus Cycle

I call it the Exodus Cycle and it’s all too familiar to Hiring Managers these days.  If you’ve been in the hiring business for any time at all, you’ve probably experienced it in some form.  In this article, we’re going to take a look at it and I’m going to share some things I’ve learned that might help you break the cycle.  Or, better yet, avoid it altogether.

Simply put, The Exodus Cycle amounts to chasing the crisis du jour.  A department somewhere in your company blows up and people start leaving.  The powers-that-be freak out and order you to drop everything and fill those positions asap.  So, you oblige by immediately loading all of the open positions into your trusty ATS and posting them on as many job boards as you can find.

As the days go by, applicants trickle in, but not fast enough to stem the tide of two-week notices, so you spend your hiring budget like a drunken sailor.  You move from free job boards to paid ones sponsoring your Indeed posts, paying for Craig’s List ads, and boosting everything you can on Facebook.  This helps and after endless hours of phone tag, you have some interviews scheduled.

Next you fight through the no-call/no-shows as you interview everyone with a pulse in a 20 mile radius.  Some make it through screening and background checks and suddenly there’s hope.  You make more calls extending offers to all the lucky finalists.  Then, after another round of voicemails, call-backs, and disappointing news from all of the ones who took other jobs in the meantime, you hire some candidates.

As your new crop of hopefuls works their way through training, on-boarding, and orientation, you finally feel like you can breathe for the first time in weeks.  Then, the unthinkable happens.  Your phone rings and you find out that, while you were chasing the last crisis, another department blew up and it’s time to do it all over again.

It’s enough to make you cry or swear.  Believe me I’ve heard plenty of both over the years.

How To Dig Out

Unfortunately, there’s no easy way to dig out of the Exodus Cycle.  Once you’re caught in maelstrom, all you can do is try stay afloat and paddle for dear life.  You might be able to shorten the cycle, though.  Here are a few ideas:

The Real Enemy Is Time: It can be easy to see the openings, the job market, or the economy as the enemy.  After all, you can remember a day when it was easy to find applicants.  Now, it’s a constant struggle.  However, your real opponent is the clock.  The longer it takes you to fill those empty positions, the more will go wrong.  Budgets will tighten, because of all the overtime you have to pay the ones who stayed.  And, those faithful remaining folks will quickly tire out from the extra hours and workload.

Skip The Free Ad Phase: If you think about it, when you’re spending money on job ads, you’re not really buying candidates.  What you’re truly buying is time.  The more you spend, the more applicants you get.  And, hopefully, this approach gets you to the hires you so desperately need in a shorter amount of time.

Phone Calls Not Emails: One of the biggest things that will shorten your time-to-hire is connecting applicants to living, breathing humans as quickly as possible.  Email is nice when you can afford the slower pace, but an actual person can answer questions and overcome obstacles way faster than an email can.  I recommend that my clients have every applicant on the phone with a HR Staffer within an hour of the application click if possible and absolutely within no more than 24 hours.

Combine Steps: In the middle of an Exodus Cycle, procedural red tape will kill you.  Combine as many steps in the process as you can.  Use the screening tools offered on platforms like Indeed to pre-screen your applicants and weed out the tire-kickers.  Have your interviewers ready to make offers at the end of promising interviews.  Hire on the spot if you can and move people right into background checks and on-boarding.  If you can legally proceed and make compensation contingent on clear results, it won’t hurt them to go through orientation while you wait.

How To Avoid The Cycle

Once you get clear of the madness, you can implement strategies to avoid going through it again.  This doesn’t mean that you’ll never find yourself fighting your way out of another Exodus Cycle, but it sure will help reduce the frequency.  Here are my best suggestions:

Chart All Your Openings: The key to winning the war is the ability to effectively fight on multiple fronts.  You need to be able to see all of your openings in one place and monitor their progress.  You can load them into a dashboard application, type them into a spreadsheet, or even just write them up on a big whiteboard.  Whatever works for you.  The point is to keep your eye on the whole picture–not just the crisis at hand.

Create An Advertising Strategy: Design a strategy of when and where you’ll advertise your jobs so that all areas get covered.  You may want to just write it out on a calendar.  Think of it in terms of ad spots.  Maybe you’re going to run three ad spots each week for 4 weeks.  Mark out on the calendar in each of those weeks Job X in Ad Spot 1 on Craig’s List | Job Y in Ad Spot 2 on Indeed | Job Z in Ad Spot 3 on Facebook.  The goal is to standardize your advertising.  By choosing regular ad spots, you can stabilize your budget and rotate your open jobs in and out of the ad spots as necessary.

Get All Over The Low Hanging Fruit: Think in terms of total number of openings.  If you have 50 current openings, but 20 of them are relatively easy fills.  Concentrate on those.  Showing progress and reducing the total number of openings will boost morale and give you a feeling of accomplishment.  Letting simple hires languish in your ATS is death by a thousand paper cuts.

Focus On Retention: I realize that focusing on retention may sometimes seem like a luxury you’ll never afford, and the truth is you’ll never get to work on it as much as you should. That’s why you need to make a list of relatively easy to implement actions that you can put in place during the brief windows in between hiring cycles.  In the beginning, retention efforts can be like guerrilla warfare.  That’s why you need to start with simple ideas until your retention begins to catch up to your advertising.

Well, there it is.  I hope that you found something helpful in this post.  As you know, there is no one-size-fits-all solution when it comes to HR.  The things that work for small companies with a few openings won’t necessarily work for large corporations with dozens of openings.  And, I’m certainly not the expert with all the answers.  My goal is simply to offer some suggestions that get you thinking and begin a discussion where we can all work together to help each other succeed.