If a critical piece of machinery broke down and had to be taken off site, most companies would act pretty fast to replace it. Yet they often struggle to do the same thing when a Director leaves.
On average 34% of roles in the infrastructure sector were classified by the employer as “difficult to fill” because it couldn’t find “applicants with the appropriate skills, qualifications or experience”*.
While the transport and infrastructure industries are tackling these problems head on with the introduction of schemes such as the Energy and Utilities Skills Partnership and the National College for High Speed Rail, it will be years before these strategies filter up to senior management levels.
It is a picture we’re familiar with. Frequently we are approached by clients who have ground to a halt in their search for someone to fill an important senior vacancy and unfilled senior positions have a serious impact on the business.
Loss of revenue or project delays are the most quantifiable costs associated with open positions. But more than this, often another member of staff is informally covering the role, or someone external has been brought in on a temporary interim contract.
In the first case, the individual could become stressed and burnt out by the additional workload; in the latter example, the cost will soon stack up. In both cases, decisions may well be put off, opportunities missed, team morale hit, and customers lost.
Often leaving one role vacant for a long period of time can lead to other people becoming disgruntled and leaving – doubling or trebling the problem.
Long-term high profile vacancies can also send a message to prospective employees that the company is in trouble or not a desirable place to work. Overall, this affects your ability to remain competitive in the industry.
Companies are often aware of these risks but are also wisely unwilling to hire a candidate they know is not up to the job.
So what are the four key questions you should be asking if you can’t fill your senior vacancy?
1. Is the money enough?
Salary is the most obvious thing to assess. If you are offering well below the market rate for the skills you’re seeking, filling the job is never going to happen. We offer salary benchmarking which helps to ensure the salary on offer will not be a blocker to attracting interest in the role.
2. Is the role clearly defined?
Salary isn’t everything, and simply throwing money at candidates isn’t necessarily going to make the role more desirable.
If there is a lack of clarity around what the role will actually do companies often over-specify the requirements in the job description, with different stakeholders adding an ever-longer wish list of criteria that will never all be found in one person. It’s important that everyone a prospective candidate meets at interview understands and can communicate exactly what the role will be doing, why it is needed and why it’s an attractive career opportunity.
It boils down to finding someone who ticks three boxes – they can do the job; they want to do the job; and they fit with the organisation. All too often companies focus on the first and third of these aims and forget about the middle one, with predictable results.
Work out what is essential – what employers really need, as opposed to what they think they want. For example, an infrastructure asset owner may say ‘we are not interested in hiring from outside the sector, because our market is too complicated for someone to learn from outside’.
That is cutting out a huge swathe of potential candidates. There will be many bright candidates who could make the transition across from an infrastructure asset owner in another sector. The same goes for qualifications and experience, if you are willing to explore a variety of different backgrounds you are significantly widening the net and the odds of successfully recruiting someone.
3. Is the role flexible enough?
If you insist that the role must be located from the London office five days a week, you are shutting yourself off from a significant proportion of candidates. For some roles, this is an essential requirement, but if you can, allow as much flexibility as possible.
Can they work from home or work from another office one or two days a week? If not, are you able to offer to cover relocation or travel costs?
Not only will this significantly increase the talent pool geographically, but also in terms of diversity.
4. How are you sourcing candidates?
Beyond word of mouth, advertising on your website (when appropriate) and your internal recruitment team using LinkedIn, what are methods have you tried? Executive search could be the answer.
By marrying the company’s expectations with the job it is offering, we always back ourselves to crack even the hardest to fill role. Click HERE to see how we can help you fill your long-term vacancy.