It’s a common recruitment challenge. You’re feeling the pressure to extend an offer or risk more attrition – or, even, losing your headcount in potential budget cuts. But you also don’t want to hire the wrong person. 

Now what?  

Open headcount can have a significant impact on team morale, productivity and efficiency – not to mention your bottom line. A ‘bad hire’ can cost your organisation up to 3 times that employee’s salary. The longer the role remains open, the greater impact it can have.

In other instances it’s not just about the losses – it’s about departmental leads ensuring headcounts and related expenses are secured, even if only temporarily. If budget cuts are looming, open headcounts are often cut before seated employees.

Given these challenges, hiring managers and HR leaders may be pressured into making quick hiring decisions based on the current candidate pool. While this may seem like an optimal approach at the time, an abbreviated search and applicant vetting approach may lead to a ‘bad hire’ – and that leads back to another open headcount. The solution? Be proactive and strategic. The right talent is out there. You just need to find it and keep funnelling it back to your open headcounts.

Step 1: Create a constantly evolving talent ‘bench’

To overcome this challenge, focus on building out a constantly evolving network of talent – people who could be assets to your organisation, now or in the future. 

Even if you don’t have open roles or opportunities for these individuals, engaging them, sharing more insights about your company, and understanding their desired next steps and career objectives can help you build a roster of go-to talent should the right roles present themselves. This is especially critical for niche industries or if you frequently find yourself hiring for highly specialised positions.

Colleges and universities can be an ideal first step in building out your potential-hire network. Many of these institutions have department chairs who can point you towards high-potential graduates and undergraduates, or student-led organisations that attract engaged, active leaders with an eye on the next step in their career. By building strong connections with these individuals and groups, you can easily create a mutually beneficial relationship – you become a direct access point for internships and recent-graduate hiring, while the schools can help point out premier talent.

Other potential network-boosting partners include professional and industry-specific organisations. Not only does this enable you to target and engage professionals in specific areas of work, but it also helps create a better culture of diversity and inclusion at your company. Working with women in technology groups or minorities in business associations, for example, can boost both recruitment and ensure you have a broad, representative talent pool.

Step 2: Implement an employee referral programme

You can also tap in-house experts: employees with similar roles and responsibilities. Many professionals have connections from previous jobs, social contacts or have access to industry groups and threads – and, with that access, they can help promote open headcounts and share more about life within your company. 

These types of referral programmes can simplify recruitment and hiring – and can lead to better retention and employee success. Because your current teams best understand organisational culture and day-to-day demands, they can best articulate the employee experience. At the same time, from this vantage point, they’re also often best equipped to identify people who would be optimal fits for your workplace – plus, candidates trust employee feedback more than company messaging.

As a result, referral hires tend to be happier in the role, with less attrition and a better understanding of company needs on day one. They also tend to be more engaged – they know someone within the organisation and go to them with any questions, concerns or other early-stage processes to learn.

To maximise the impact of your referral programme, consider high-value incentives – additional paid time off (PTO), financial compensation, public recognition and other perks. 

Likewise, employees are often well-positioned to identify candidates who would best align with the organisation. Together, this can translate to quicker hiring processes, lower recruitment costs, and decreased turnover. Referrals can also be an easy way to identify niche talent or individuals for hard-to-fill roles. 

Step 3: Never stop recruiting

It’s important to keep engaging high-potential talent for traditionally high-demand roles. Between talent turnover in the double digits and organisation-specific needs, this talent will likely be needed sooner rather than later.

To that end, be sure your teams are always focusing on building a strong network of talent – even if you don’t have roles for them (yet). This can happen through college and university connections, engaging industry organisations, starting or building out your employee recruitment programme, and continuing recruitment for key roles once places are filled. Again, you’ll no doubt need a new talent pool, and this approach ensures they’re standing by.

Filling open headcounts efficiently is key – but it’s also essential to bring in the right talent for the role, especially now. 27% of companies in the UK say hiring the wrong person costs over £50,000 and leads to decreased morale and productivity – so don’t allow yourself to feel rushed into a bad decision. Be strategic and be proactive and, soon, you’ll have a robust talent pool at the ready.