Competing for Talent: Tips for Associations

The nonprofit workforce is the third largest of U.S. industries and at last count, this included over 93,000 trade and professional associations employing over 1.2 million people. Nearly 1 in 10 workers in Washington, DC alone are employed by associations.

The cost of hiring and firing any employee is astronomical when counting the expense of time spent and the psychology of a failed choice. Between the cost of onboarding, training, coaching, staff time, wasted salary, benefits, and administrative costs, HR professionals project that an organization can easily spend thousands of dollars on a hire that has gone wrong.

So how do you get it right? Here are 9 Tips for How Associations Can Improve the Hiring Process.

1. Think about your short and long-term organizational strategy.

Before you conduct your first interview or draft a job description, think about your short and long-term organizational strategy. How does the new employee fit into this vision?  Are you drafting a profile for the past, or hiring toward the future?

2. Be honest about the hurdles the prospective employee will need to overcome to achieve the goals.

Be brutally honest about the obstacles and opportunities that lie ahead. Don’t shy away from asking how the candidate envisions tackling these issues. Ask very specific questions about how the candidate has met similar challenges—and opportunities—in the past.

“You’re Not the Person I Hired!” authored by Barry Deutsch, Jane Boydell, and Brad Remillard should be on every hiring manager’s reading list. The authors’ insight on how to make hiring great talent a top priority is game-changing.

3. Create an Employer Brand, and build a hiring strategy that fits your brand.

What makes your association a great place to work? It’s often the cultural DNA that draws a candidate to an organization. Your Employer Brand reflects your organization’s culture, mission, and values.

Talented candidates will have more than one job offer, and your Employer Brand is your trump card. Build a great career page on your website that reflects your culture, open positions, benefits, and a focus on people as your greatest asset. And remember: your greatest brand ambassadors are current and former employees—so it’s best to walk the talk.

4. Hire for behavioral characteristics that are job relevant.

One of the surest ways to hire the right person is to look beyond job responsibilities, skills and degrees. What are the traits that your successful employees have in common? Duplicate those.  What traits are missing? Find those. Relevant behavioral characteristics, by far, provide a more reliably predictive model in determining who will be a successful hire.

5. Build diversity into your hiring process.

Whether your association is large or small, creating a hiring team is essential to developing a well-rounded profile of the candidate, and to building diversity into your hiring process. If those who are conducting interviews don’t reflect an inclusive workforce, candidates are more likely to self-select out of the hiring process because the culture doesn’t resonate with them. Creating a diverse hiring team creates a more balanced and inclusive hiring and assessment process.

Candidates not only consider diversity when deciding where to work, they want to see the organization’ commitment when deciding whether to stay. Organizations that fail to value diversity invariably have higher turnover rates.

6. Plan your interview objectives, always check references, and ask only legal questions.

It’s always amazing how informality can beset even the most well-meaning interviewer. You are far less likely to fall prey to unintentional, inappropriate questions if you stick to a plan. You are also far less likely to be surprised post-hire if you have talked with at least 2/3 of the references provided.

7. Don’t shy away from assessments, ATS and HRIS technology.

Don’t shy away from proven technology that can help you track, evaluate and manage candidates and employees. There are a multitude of highly effective products on the market that can help your association better build and manage the hiring process.

Applicant tracking systems (ATS) securely store past and current candidate information all in one place, and keep track of candidates you might want to consider in the future. These systems improve collaboration, make remote recruiting easier, and provide insightful analytics to track applicants, hiring, and turnover. Several HRIS programs can track employee development and training, and help you identify employees for which you want to create a career pathway.

Assessment tools like Myer-Briggs® and the Everything DiSC® family of products play a key role in helping individuals understand how they learn, work and communicate, which helps you build a stronger workplace culture, sales force, and bottom line.

8. Have company policies, employee guidelines and onboarding procedures in place.

Having solid HR resources in place is essential, even if you don’t have an internal HR department. There are a lot of organizations who provide ad hoc, interim, consulting or full-time HR services on an outsourced basis. It’s worth your time and money to find a partner now, before unfortunate situations occur—and they eventually do.

9. Build a talent pipeline.

Always be on the lookout for people you want on your team, especially “hidden or passive” candidates—those individuals who are working but not actively seeking a new job. Try out firms that specialize in association talent, network online, and explore resources such as HBCUs. Network even when you don’t have open position and take the time to interview even when you not hiring.

Association, Hiring, Recruitment

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