Sports analogies are common in the business world. They usually revolve around notions of cooperative team play, work ethic, and the value of self-sacrifice in pursuit of a common goal. All those comparisons are helpful and good, and effective managers use them all the time to motivate their employees to accomplish the mission of a business.
There’s one analogy that I think is perfect, though, which you may have never heard before: effective recruiting and hiring in the world of business is a lot like fielding a team in Major League Baseball (MLB). Think about it. Both businesses and ball clubs have to assemble groups of people—teams—that are required to work together well. The success of the business, or team, depends on it. But I have to admit that whereas baseball has the process dialed in, businesses can do better—and they could learn a lot from the big league teams.
The baseball rule book states that on any given day, a major league team in North America can suit-up 25 players. But that doesn’t mean each team has only 25 players to choose from. In fact, they have more. Many, many more.
Every major league team has an expanded roster with fifteen additional players who are immediately available if needed. Every team also has a farm system of seven to ten minor league teams. This gives them another 175 to 200 or more players to call on.
Chew on that. On any given business day—meaning game day—a team has a talent pool of over 200 players to fill just nine spots on the field. In the language of staffing and business, that translates to over twenty qualified applicants per position per day.
It doesn’t stop there.
Teams can trade players with other teams. They also employ talent scouts. These scouts work in countries across the globe, funneling additional talent to both the major and minor league clubs.
This coordinated approach is why MLB teams always have someone to fill every role the instant the role needs to be filled. A game is never cancelled because there aren’t enough players, and there’s never an open spot on the field. There are always nine players in the starting line-up. That’s actually one of the few things you can count on in the world.
Leaders in baseball know that it is not a matter of if they will need additional talent, but when they’ll need it. So, they spend a lot of time and money planning for the when.
Let’s think about this in terms of your company. Your roster of employees—your daily line-up—is changing all the time. People leave; jobs are created; promotions happen; new business comes in. All of which generates open seats. Just like baseball, it’s not a matter of if a job will open, but when it will open.
An effective minor league system for companies rarely exists. And when it does, it usually cannot supply enough talent the moment it is needed.
Imagine if your company had a farm system of aspiring applicants waiting in the wings, ready to step in and immediately accept open jobs. That would be a dream scenario for managers and owners. Businesses need a system like this. They also need a well thought out process that quickly adds quality talent to their active roster, i.e. their group of working employees. An ideal system would include ways in which businesses could accomplish the following goals:
Enhance Candidate Gravity
Creating a stronger pull on the market, called Candidate Gravity, requires drawing in more top talent more quickly. Most companies leverage a handful of resources and rely too heavily on the same methods as their competitors. One or two job boards are often used by the same companies in the same market. This is like several major league clubs all vying for the talent on one minor league team. It would never happen.
A robust flow of talent requires eight or more different recruiting resources. While referrals are still the best source for the highest quality candidates, many businesses also need to run events like open houses and engage a wide variety networking strategies. An obvious place to start is social media. Here are five additional ways to create a robust talent flow that are regularly overlooked:
- Sponsoring and/or participating in user or trade specialty groups
- Conducting content-rich workshops tailored to your candidate audience
- Hosting happy hours that attract like-minded professionals to meet and mingle
- Marketing at churches and community centers near your employment location
- Cultivating relationships with industry appropriate professional associations
Build Talent Inventories
Instead of waiting for a job to come open (remember the when not if maxim), internal talent scouts should build a Talent Inventory—a roster of potential employees that is ready to be called up at any time. Even companies with a small recruiting staff can do this. All it takes is prioritization. For example, key roles that directly impact productivity could be considered core functions. Talent Inventories should be built for these jobs first. Other essential roles come next. If time permits, an inventory of potential talent is then lined up for ancillary roles.
If time and resources are limited, building a Talent Inventory for one or two core roles can make a huge impact. When (not if) jobs for those roles open up, they’re filled quickly from the Talent Inventory, which allows more time to work on filling other open seats.
Partner With External Talent Scouts
Businesses should engage external talent scouts such as third-party recruiters and staffing firms who can provide additional talent that is available for on-demand hiring for both contract and full-time roles. Not only do good staffing firms have an extensive network of candidates, but many also guarantee their services, offering replacement talent for a specified period of time.
To select a quality partner, be sure to ask questions and check references. Zero in on the five following areas:
Flexibility: What types of flexibility do they offer for the shifting needs of your business?
Accuracy: What percentage of their candidates have to be replaced? How does their guarantee work?
Quality: How do they ensure a quality fit? For which other companies have they provided similar, high-quality services?
Value: Does the company have a one-sized fits all approach, or do they offer value-based solutions that meet your specific needs? If provided, what are the specifics of their unique, valuable solutions?
Immediacy: How quickly can they deliver candidates? How swiftly can they have someone working? What proof can they provide of these promised timelines?
A winning record in baseball requires a continuous flow of talent, ready to play every game. The culture revolves around the concept of next player up. Every team has a group of motivated, talented individuals chomping at the bit to get to the big dance. The businesses that develops a similar culture will be a step ahead of the competition. They’ll have a stacked roster no matter what happens, because they’ll always have a group of motivated, talented individuals who can’t wait to work for them. And winning—in baseball and in business—always comes down to having the right people in place at the right time.