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Biting the Bullet: How to Bring Hard-to-Find Talent Aboard

02/05/2015 10:36 am ET | Updated Apr 07, 2015

2015-02-04-DetermineYourUltimateBoss.JPGSometimes, I just don't understand my fellow business professionals.

Over the last few years, I've seen a rising tide of C-Suite execs bemoaning the lack of top-notch, highly-qualified professionals in their fields--the type of people they need to help take their organizations to the top. This is especially common in the high-tech field...and it never ceases to baffle me. Yes, "hard-to-find" talents tend to be snapped up quickly and are relatively rare in any field, comprising maybe 1% of the workforce. But think about it: 1% of tens or hundreds of thousands of workers still boils down to substantial numbers.

When you get down to it, even "hard-to-find" talents exist by the hundreds or thousands. I see and speak with them every day. Sadly, they often end up creating their own start-ups because they can't find a satisfactory position in the business world as it currently exists.

Isn't it ironic that the companies looking for these talented professionals can't find them, when you can't seem to walk a block in places like Silicon Valley without stumbling into one? This isn't a new problem, either: people like Page and Brin of Google fame, and Apple Computer founders Jobs and Wozniak, should have been snapped up the moment they stepped onto the world stage...but they weren't. So they went on to make themselves billionaires.

Sometimes you can find a great worker willing to do the job for a moderate salary, but the true hard-to-find talents tend to be ambitious, and yes, money-hungry, especially once they realize their skills are superior. Unsurprisingly, they want the very best deals they can get before they commit. And yet those people tasked with hiring the best talent are either hamstrung by limited budgets, or just too cheap (or strapped--a catch-22) to pay for what they need. They also seem to lack the vision to build viable compensation packages when they can't or won't spend enough... so the ones who do are the ones who seize the most promising employees. Either that, or those promising people give up in disgust and create their own opportunities.

The Sports Analogy

Finding and hiring the best people for your team has always been a challenge for leaders at all levels. The savvy leader knows that finding the SuperCompetents in our midst requires focus, research, and sometimes, cautious courting until we can bring those people onto our teams. Yes, sometimes we're limited by salary caps--but so are professional sports teams. That doesn't mean it's impossible to build an A-team. Some sports owners have put together blockbuster teams despite their limits, as owner Wayne Huizenga did with the 2003 Florida Marlins, who won the World Series that year. Other pro sports owners have found that one or two top players, like an A-Rod or Kobe Bryant, can work wonders when surrounded by a supportive team of lesser lights.

Both models can work for other business, if you're willing to face the situation, do a lot of thinking about where you spend your money, and take some chances. Oddly, some companies reluctant to pay high salaries for top employees seem to have no qualms offering six and seven-figure salaries to top managers. Admittedly, those in the C-Suite do have high-pressure jobs, and have to make decisions about the fate of the entire organization on a daily basis. Their positions are indispensible. But often, when it comes to budgets, they act like the fox guarding the henhouse. How often have you heard of the C-Suite giving themselves raises and bonuses while the rest of the company crashes and burns? The names "Circuit City," "Enron," "AIG ", and "U.S. Congress" spring immediately to mind.

The reason that sports team owners and managers can build winning teams despite salary caps is that they take the time to decide where best to spend their money. If given $45 million to work with, they may spend $5-10 million a year each for several key players they then build the team around--or as Huizenga did, they may hire a whole crew of great-verging-on-legendary players, and wipe out the competition once they've stitched them into a true team. The lion's share of the money in a pro sports team doesn't go into hiring the manager and his assistants, after all.

It's time to stop being unimaginative cheapskates when it comes to hiring the very best workers in your field. These people exist; you know they do. Rather than complaining because you've deliberately selected yourself out of their consideration, sit down and think about the type of bait needed to hook them. Do your research and learn about them as best you can, then try to build a compensation package they'll find attractive, even if the money isn't the very best.

Offer awesome benefits--maybe even a company car, or the use of company lodging when they're traveling. Provide lots of PTO and pay for them to relocate in style. Give them award-winning equipment. If the best people already work for someone else, send in the recruiters and make the best offer you possibly can.

You have two choices here: you can stop complaining about being unable to hire anyone and get serious about attracting the best people possible, or you can continue to languish, making do with the smaller fish willing to take the smaller baits. When you're fishing for sharks, you don't put a minnow on your hook.

How have you or your company gone about bringing aboard the best hard-to-find talent?

Laura Stack, MBA, is America's Premier Expert in Productivity. For over 20 years, Laura has worked with business leaders to execute more efficiently, boost performance, and accelerate results in the workplace. Her company, The Productivity Pro, Inc., provides productivity workshops around the globe to help attendees achieve Maximum Results in Minimum Time®. Laura is the bestselling author of six books, with over 20 foreign editions, published by Random House, Wiley, and Berrett-Koehler, including her newest work, Execution IS the Strategy (March 2014). Widely regarded as one of the leading experts in the field of performance and workplace issues, Laura has been featured on the CBS Early Show, CNN, the Wall Street Journal, and the New York Times. Connect via her website, Facebook, or Twitter.

*Photo provided by Microsoft