Wouldn’t it be great if you had a “farm team” – a group of people whose skills and character traits you knew and who were ready to step into your company as soon as you had an opening? You probably can’t do that exactly like pro sports does, but Past President of the International Coaching Federation, Business Coach, and Serial Entrepreneur, John Seiffer, shares how you can do the next best thing.
When your favorite baseball team needs a pitcher, they don’t run an ad on Indeed and sort through hundreds of resumes to find one they hope is a good fit. Instead they call someone up from the minors. These are AA or AAA teams that they are affiliated with to groom players they want to hire. Other pro sports like football and basketball pay attention to college players as their farm teams.
In a business, the concept of a farm team works like this. You stay in touch with people that you think might be a fit when you don’t have an immediate opening. Cultivate relationships with them. These are not people you would guarantee a job to, but folks you would definitely bring in for an interview. Often the best people aren’t looking for a job but might be willing to move when the right opening comes up. It doesn’t take a lot of time – I’ll show you how.
If you do a proactive job of planning your staffing needs, you likely have already identified the next three or four positions you’d like to fill and some idea of what will trigger your opening.
For each position, prioritize the three parts of a good job description:
Based on the prioritization you’ve determined for your next few hires, you know what you’re looking for. Often the skills you want someone to have are the least important of these three parts, since it’s usually easier to improve someone’s skills with training than it is to change their character traits. (This is generally called “cultural fit” and has some modifications based on the position, but many desirable traits are consistent throughout your company. For example, is yours a company that expects people to go all out at work or do you value more of a work/life balance?)
Here are some places to find them.
Remember that with remote work, you have a wider net to cast. Stay in touch with people even after they move away.
Block out a couple of hours every quarter to stay in touch with these people. Usually that means sending an email with news about your company or your life and asking how they are doing. Sometimes it means grabbing a lunch once in a while. For younger people it could mean mentoring them about their career path.
A few hours every three months is usually sufficient. This is about maintaining the relationship, not a sales pitch about your company. Obviously when you do have an opening it’s appropriate to say so, and ask if they’re available to come for an interview. The newsy emails you send will often have identical parts you can copy/paste to many people (customized of course).
The best recruiters know that good people are often not looking for a job but would make a change if the ideal situation came along. They have relationships with people they’ve placed in the past who will answer their emails and calls when they have an opportunity that’s a good fit. Just don’t bombard people with requests. Look to see how you can help them in their journey and build the relationship.
Many business owners and managers regard hiring like they think about going to the grocery store. They don’t really think about it till they’re out of eggs – then they go to the store. Waiting till you have an opening to get into “hiring mode” is like that. The most successful CEOs dedicate as much as 30% of their time to developing relationships with people they want on their team. The farm team approach is a way to stop going to the grocery store. There may be more urgent things to spend time on, but is there anything more important?
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