EPMEPM: HR and Recruitment

Searching for Wally

Finding the right member of staff can be a matter of sifting through a great many potential candidates before you strike gold. For our new people-focused column, Fiona Blayney asks: is your people strategy really sustainable, or is it time to think outside the box?

AS I TUCK MY daughters into bed, we go through the final leg of the evening ritual: the bedtime story. Some nights, like tonight, it’s a combination of reading and playing, in the form of Where’s Wally.

I’m sure you know the book: a goofy-looking guy with his red and white skivvy and electric blue pants, who dons his backpack and treks around exotic locations with a million other people, and it’s your job as the reader to sift through the detailed picture and associated visual noise to find him.

More often than not, my evening ritual of watching the kids find ‘Wally’ is a reflection of my day, watching my clients play their own real-life version of the game. The Wally in their scenario is their next recruit, and they are sifting through the world at large to find him or her.

When you’re reading Where’s Wally, there is only one Wally on the page. No matter how many people are sitting around reading the same book, only one of you can be the first to find Wally. If you’ve never played, you may not have realised how many other great things there are to find on a Where’s Wally page. Perhaps you’ve missed out on the other interesting characters because you’ve been so focused on Wally.

If you are in Sydney, for example, and you’re on the search for someone to join your property management team today, you’ve probably set a criteria that goes something like this: ‘More than five years’ property management experience, has managed a large portfolio, can use REST, they’ll need to work Saturdays, be committed to their career and happy with $55k.’ Guess what – so has everyone else.

You see, right now, there are 570 jobs listed under ‘Property Management Sydney’ on Seek (you’ll see similar numbers in other states), and from my experience everyone is looking for the same thing. You are all looking for Wally. When searching for sales people, or any other staff members, the same adage rings true: your criteria is consistent.

Government statistics indicate that in the five years between 2013 and 2018 we will see 25,000 to 50,000 people exit the real estate industry nationwide. Add to this demographer Mark McCrindle’s expectation that the average length of employment will be three years and four months, and that the average school leaver will have 17 jobs across five industries during their lifetime, and it is blindingly apparent that to ensure your people strategy is solid and sustainable you need to change your approach and do so quickly.

There are just not enough Wallys out there for everyone. It’s time to start looking for Wendy, Woof the dog and the Wizard.

To break your thinking, here are a few thoughts.

  1. The junior in the office need not be 17 years old and take two years to train. It’s possible to get someone with life experience (The Senior Junior, I call them) up and running in 60 to 90 days, even as a portfolio manager.
  2. The Senior Junior has life experience; you no longer calculate value just based on industry experience. Life experience, transferrable skills and motivation to learn have an equivalent reward.
  3. Churn happens! Work out your rate. If you haven’t had someone leave in a while, get ready: you may have multiples at once, so plan for it.
  4. Develop an onboarding program and professional development plan for upskilling – reduce the lag time for success.
  5. Work with your People Partner (okay, you call us recruiters). Let them understand your three-year strategy so they can be constantly on the lookout, rather than finding out about the gap when it becomes dire. They know all the characters on the Where’s Wally page.
  6. Yes, some people do want to take a less intense role for work-life balance. Not everyone is as ambitious as you, and that’s a great thing – we need constant worker bees.
  7. Review your people structure and task allocation. Perhaps you have got a role for that awesome, talented human standing right in front of you – if you only looked at what functions you needed done in the office, as opposed to the job title that you’ve placed on Seek. You can change the hole to fit the peg.

Oh, one last thing. Sometimes Wally doesn’t want to be found – or rather, Wally just decides he doesn’t want to be found by you. You’re not his type and, with 569 other options, you’ll never see him at all.

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