The old adage that good people are hard to find and retain is more pertinent than ever. In today's job market with a very low unemployment rate, hiring diverse, highly skilled, senior-level staff is increasingly difficult.
Corporate competition, the natural cycle of campaigns—not to mention poor management practices—have prime candidates shying away from the campaign and advocacy industries. This hiring hurdle will become even greater as more campaigns look to add highly skilled staff to their ranks leading up to 2018 and beyond. Here are some ways that campaigns and consultants can solve this human capital management problem.
Invest in hiring
Even while adopting cutting-edge practices from the private sector in big data, media buying, polling, and other areas, few organizations have adopted today’s standards of talent management and recruiting. This is especially problematic as campaigns increasingly compete for high-skilled staff with the private sector.
In the current environment, recruitment resources are limited and hiring relies too heavily on listservs, LinkedIn, coffee-stained business cards from three cycles ago and the Rolodexes of veteran operatives. Putting money behind recruiting by incorporating human resources and best practices in hiring will expand the pool of candidates.
Don’t completely disregard your Rolodex, but …
The working relationships developed over years in the campaign trenches and many late nights are invaluable. Human resource and recruiting experts recommend expanding toolkits beyond the Rolodex because this practice limits inclusivity and diversity. Moreover, it can lead to a reactive instead of a proactive hiring process.
Private sector companies who are truly committed to diversity and inclusiveness recognize the importance of skill- and merit-based systems in hiring, which can identify and nurture diverse candidates beyond the reach of personal-based networks. It's time for us to catch up.
Maintain searchable, proprietary candidate databases.
There are databases for nearly everything campaign-related these days. Why not create sophisticated database applications for senior talent and candidates of diverse and specialized backgrounds, then maintain it over time? This will greatly increase the capacity of hiring managers to find exceptional talent and even track their career development.
It’s a rule of thumb in HR that the higher the level of management or skill required for a staff position; the harder it is to fill. Corporate HR departments develop tools and systems that keep track of mid- and senior-level professionals for years.
Combine analytics with social media networks to amplify relationships. Social media profiles (LinkedIn, Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, Snapchat, et cetera) help managers find candidates in existing personal networks as well as nth-degree colleagues. In proprietary databases, managers can quickly find promising talent due to real-time (and/or opt-in) social media integration.
Better talent management and hiring practices for organizations should be the future of our country, and it must start in the campaign industry. Now is the time for industry leaders to address the gap in its talent management practices and sow the field for 2018, 2020, and beyond.
The race for talent has already started—let’s win it.
Chris Jones is the CEO of CapitolWorks/PoliTemps, a political staffing agency.