Episode 34: How to Recruit Top Talent with JP Burkwald of Element6
On today’s episode of Brandstorm, we welcome JP Burkwald, co-founder and vice president of business development at Element6 Talent. JP discusses how their team finds great employment candidates in a currently shallow talent pool, and what companies can do to create an attractive culture for its future hires.
JP states that Element6’s proactive approach to recruitment services is quite different than other headhunting agencies. Element6 has the capabilities to round out all the areas that a Human Resources leader needs to build an effective recruitment strategy, onboarding process or succession plan. Instead of charging companies based on a percentage of the new employee’s first-year salary, Element6 works on a monthly retainer.
With the U.S. unemployment rate currently under 3.9% during a robust economy, businesses are struggling to find good people. Element6 educates their clients on how to get everyone on their team involved in the recruitment process. Much like how the Element6 team interacts with clients and potential job seekers, JP encourages employees and employers to reach out to others in the industry that they see as successful, and promote their culture and growth as a way to attract potential hires.
JP says his team begins any partnership with a road map or “architectural drawing,” of their client’s year. While things may change or move around, having a blueprint of that organization’s needs assists in recruiting talent for multiple positions. Element6’s retainer fees are also based on these numbers and the year-long outlook, then annualized and fixed so there are no surprises for the client. It can also result in recruitment costs that are considerably less than Element6’s competitors.
Though specifics vary based on the organization, Element6’s recruitment strategy is industry-agnostic and involves everyone from customer service all the way up to an organization’s CEO. Element6 employees are all subject matter experts in a variety of industries.
JP says that specific strategies are determined by the level of technical expertise and requirements of certain roles, and while they always create a job posting for a position, this isn’t how they typically get most of their candidates. Element6 also works with outsourced partners in India who, based on search criteria, aggregate data on potential candidate options. Another method they implement is LinkedIn, which JP says Element6 lives on. He feels it’s a great tool and environment to get a look at someone’s professional experience and abilities. Other social media channels like Twitter, Facebook and Instagram aren’t necessarily swimming with employment opportunities.
Instead of pitching job requirements to a potential hire, Element6 asks questions about a person’s career goals and what they’re looking to do beyond today. JP defines an active candidate as someone who is seeking employment elsewhere for a good reason, such as a salary bump or to climb the ladder, and a passive candidate as someone with a wealth of experience who has possibly has indicated on LinkedIn that they aren’t looking for a job change. But these are the people Element6 wants most, as they likely excel in their current positions. JP and his team are interested in why they’re doing so well, and how they can recruit that candidate.
How to Improve Company Culture
Creating a culture may be easy when hiring new employees, but what about improving or overhauling your company culture for those who have been serving you for many years? JP believes it boils down to what the company is striving for and examining your current state versus your future goals.
Significant and truly impactful cultural change comes from the top, and those leaders need to define and distill down what makes their business so special. Asking employees why they have stayed for 15 to 20 years is key. When asking questions such as “What defines you?” or “What are your core values?”, Element6 always compares whether a CEO’s answers differ from that of an employee. It’s extremely important to know whether a company is living their cultural message or not.
Best Times to Recruit?
When asked if there are preferred seasons for better recruitment, JP points to the holidays and summer breaks as being two good opportunities. During family gatherings around Thanksgiving or Christmas, JP says conversations between family members about job satisfaction or looking for a different job often sparks a change. And when school lets out, Element6 notices an uptick in availability, and usually gains traction in placements.
Record Numbers of Retirees
JP explains that over 10,000 Baby Boomers are retiring every day in America, and a vast amount of knowledge and experience is walking right out the door of today’s corporations. But retirement does not prohibit Element6 from reaching out. Retirees may still be seeking ways to stay busy, and Element6 engages with these successful individuals for potential short-term assignments or work that requires 1-2 days per week in the office. JP says it’s incredible to see someone with great world knowledge filling a gap or providing a different perspective within an organization.
Advice for Getting the Best Talent
JP’s recommendation for companies who want to be more attractive to the best potential talent is for organizations to empower their employees to speak openly about their culture. He says it’s important to have their culture defined and for everyone to be on the same page, using the same lingo, on social media, at a networking event or during a friend’s BBQ.
He also says that although what you do may be clear, the “why” may be lost. It’s important to speak to that as well. For example, a manufacturing company that works on components for medical equipment should be focused on the fact that they’re changing and saving lives every day, not just making widgets. He encourages companies to get outside of the four walls of what they do, take ownership, and be the best recruiters they can be, because they are. Even creating a strategy for senior management to use LinkedIn to reach out to talented people for a cup of coffee is a great step. It’s a simple act, but also time consuming, and that’s why a company like Element6 exists.