In my years as an executive pastor of a growing church, I faced the challenge of attracting and retaining staff without being able to offer the most competitive salaries or benefits, and I was asking them to work on weekends as well. Despite this, our team grew from a dozen to over 150 members, and our church expanded to seven locations with over 10,000 weekly attendees.
Our approach was to focus on creating a culture of inspiration and development. We didn't just hire people; we recruited them to a vision. We invited them to an opportunity for growth and leadership, to be a part of something bigger than themselves. Our winning strategy wasn't to offer a job or a paycheck, but to help candidates see how joining our team would help them grow into the leader they wanted to become.
This culture of inspiration and development can be applied to any organization. Rather than viewing hiring and retaining as separate tasks, begin to focus on attracting and developing talent. Shift your perspective from hiring and retaining as a function of HR and rather as part of a larger strategy for growth and impact.
Refuse to get caught up in the arms-race of wages and benefits. That is a competition most can’t win. So, if scarcity is influencing your approach when it comes to your workforce, recognize where that is counterproductive. By focusing on recruitment and development, your organization can attract and retain talent, even in competitive markets full of workforce woes.
This means getting clear about the vision of your organization, the future you are working to create. That is what you want candidates to be attracted to.
Here are a few things you can start doing:
Words Matter: The barriers you face with your workforce are real, but don’t let that squelch the opportunity. Look and listen for where scarcity might be influencing your approach. Think about the words that are being used, like "hire," "find," and "retain." Those are self-focused needs. Make sure your language matches your values. Using words like "develop," "growth," "opportunity," "attract," and "recruit" can help you focus on the person you’re trying to hire, not the role you're trying to fill. Remember, these are people, not spots on a hierarchy or matrix of positions.
Lead With Vision: People want to work for organizations that have a clear sense of purpose and direction. Make sure your organization's vision is inspiring and well-communicated. Then, take that a step further and learn to articulate that vision for each position and job description in the organization. This allows you to turn scarcity into vision. What do potential employees need to know about your company, about the role? Don’t try to find the talent, invite them into an opportunity.
Focus On Meaning: Think of employees like customers. Prioritize their needs, wants, and desires just as much as you would a customer. Just like you work to create a positive customer experience, you must work to create a positive employee experience. However, that isn’t just about work rhythms, “balance” and self-care. Your employees need meaning in their life. They need a vision that compels them, they need to see that their work matters and that they can make a difference.
Develop, Don't Keep: Help them develop into the leaders they want to become. Start by creating ways for them to share their dreams and make their development opportunities known. Celebrate their growth by providing opportunities for career advancement, coaching, feedback, and recognition. Additionally, create a work environment that fosters growth and supports employee well-being.
Share Stories: Just as your organization invests in marketing to attract and retain customers, invest in employer branding to attract and develop talent. You can achieve this by creating a strong company culture and reputation, showcasing employee success stories and testimonials, and highlighting the company's mission and values. Share the stories of individual employees, including their backgrounds, growth within the company, and other relevant information.
Remove Lids: Identify areas in your organization where people are hitting a ceiling and create ways to help your leaders continue to grow. For instance, consider how you can help your managers and supervisors learn to delegate and not be "super-doers." While many of us are promoted and move up in our careers due to our ability to get things done, we need to learn how to lead others to avoid becoming a bottleneck.
Lastly, Be Convicted About The Opportunity: If working for your organization is a worthwhile opportunity, then be bold and convinced of it. Lead with this conviction in your hiring and retention efforts.
By focusing on inspiration and creating a culture of growth and leadership, you can attract and retain top talent, even in most competitive markets. Don't let the barriers you face with your workforce squelch the opportunity.