Talent Ripe for the Picking: Targeting Top Talent in Hurricane-Impacted States

Devastating storms such as the hurricanes that have been ravaging Florida recently are no laughing matter. Such events take lives, wreak havoc on local economies, and leave residents living in fear. While the storms are relatively short in duration, their impacts leave a lasting impression not only on those who experienced them first hand, but also on those who watched the destruction on television news programs around the world. Like it or not, they impact the recruiting profession as well. If you have been following the news coverage, you know that many Florida residents in areas hit by multiple storms are fed up and are contemplating moving elsewhere. This sentiment creates a recruiting opportunity for firms located elsewhere ó and a retention challenge for firms with locations in areas affected. While it may seem like adding insult to injury to target talent in Florida, failing to recognize and take advantage of the recruiting opportunities Mother Nature has provided makes you oblivious to the competitive factors that drive capitalism. Others will take advantage, and in a war, failing to do so is tantamount to giving up. Leveraging Bad Weather and Natural Disasters Natural disasters are discriminatory, and tend to strike with a rather predictable pattern. Anything in life that has the ability to impact business and can be predicted is fair game when it comes to being competitive. Location has long been something firms have used to distinguish themselves, be it in sales or, in our case, recruitment. Some geographic areas are more prone to disasters, and some disasters are more targeted than others. A world-class recruiting strategy must include components that recognize and take advantage of such disasters, from hurricanes and tornados to snowstorms and earthquakes. Building a natural disaster response into your strategy is actually very simple. All your firm need to do is determine which geographic areas possess relevant talent in volumes significant enough in size to target. When such areas are then struck by disaster, your sourcing systems respond to reach out to the targeted population. Some methods of reaching out include:

  • Calls of concern. Contact applicants and candidates in your database who reside in affected areas to ensure that they are doing okay. You may even consider putting together care packages that also include subliminal recruiting materials.
  • Onsite support. Showing up in affected areas with items in demand and making your resources available to aid in the recovery provides visibility to your organization that you would not normally get as an out-of-town organization. If your firm owns its own fleet of tractor-trailer trucks (semis) with visible branding, consider volunteering several to transport needed items to the affected areas. Relief organizations are always looking for this type of assistance.
  • Advertising. Disasters isolate people and provide a highly concentrated and trusted channel to reach them in news-related media. Placing advertisements on television and radio and in newspapers provides an excellent way to communicate your opportunities to a targeted audience while they are paying attention. Such disasters can knock out power lines, increasing reliance on radio and newspaper as sources for both news and entertainment.

In bad situations it doesn’t take much to look like an angel. If you have the resources and need the talent, nothing should stop you from building a relationship with potential candidates in their time of need. The message you send can be one of desperation ó or one of respect, dedication, and compassion. The difference is in the execution. Other Thoughts Related to Natural-Disaster Recruiting

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  • Radio is by far the most effective tool for getting the attention of candidates in affected areas, since electricity may not be available to power televisions and transportation of newspapers may be limited.
  • Subtlety is key in ensuring that your actions come across in a positive light ó as opposed coming across as a desperate organization feeding off the injured.
  • Phone calls drive immediate action. Allowing candidates to talk to others in their role or whom they would work with if they were to join your organization can drive an immediate decision.
  • You can also have a huge impact by communication with your target via his or her family. Tapping into the emotions of family members in your advertising and assistance encourages the family to pressure decision makers into considering a move.
  • Since relocation is a major undertaking, prior to launching your reaction it is important to have available current information on housing costs and schools in your region. You need to anticipate each of your potential candidates’ “move” concerns and be able to answer all of their questions as they arise.

Conclusion The idea of taking advantage of natural disasters might initially be a problem for some. But the more you think about it, the more comfortable you should get. The damage caused to the local economies of areas affected often results in layoffs and reduced work schedules for non-exempt labor, and potential longer term impacts for professional workers. By absorbing some of the affected workforce, your organization can reduce dependence upon government aid and gain talent at the same time. Consider targeting talent in Florida a social program, one that is good for everyone involved.

Dr. John Sullivan, professor, author, corporate speaker, and advisor, is an internationally known HR thought-leader from the Silicon Valley who specializes in providing bold and high-business-impact talent management solutions.

He’s a prolific author with over 900 articles and 10 books covering all areas of talent management. He has written over a dozen white papers, conducted over 50 webinars, dozens of workshops, and he has been featured in over 35 videos. He is an engaging corporate speaker who has excited audiences at over 300 corporations/ organizations in 30 countries on all six continents. His ideas have appeared in every major business source including the Wall Street Journal, Fortune, BusinessWeek, Fast Company, CFO, Inc., NY Times, SmartMoney, USA Today, HBR, and the Financial Times. In addition, he writes for the WSJ Experts column. He has been interviewed on CNN and the CBS and ABC nightly news, NPR, as well many local TV and radio outlets. Fast Company called him the "Michael Jordan of Hiring," Staffing.org called him “the father of HR metrics,” and SHRM called him “One of the industry's most respected strategists." He was selected among HR’s “Top 10 Leading Thinkers” and he was ranked No. 8 among the top 25 online influencers in talent management. He served as the Chief Talent Officer of Agilent Technologies, the HP spinoff with 43,000 employees, and he was the CEO of the Business Development Center, a minority business consulting firm in Bakersfield, California. He is currently a Professor of Management at San Francisco State (1982 – present). His articles can be found all over the Internet and on his popular website www.drjohnsullivan.com and on staging.ere.net. He lives in Pacifica, California.



5 Comments on “Talent Ripe for the Picking: Targeting Top Talent in Hurricane-Impacted States

  1. This is a good article about recruiting that most people never consider. As a recruiter I am always looking for a way to let candidates know that I care and there is no better time to show concern then when nature has impacted them. Both known and unknown talent can be cultivated. The biggest thing that I found is that one must have tack when interacting with impacted people. I agree that it does not take much to look like an angel however I will also say that it does not take much to look like an opportunist either, if one is not careful.

    Good article!

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  2. The Recruiting Buzzards are circling Florida!

    While there will be a number of people who will make the decision to leave FL, I think you will find a surprisingly very large number will elect to stay. I lived in Pensacola FL for 17 years and went through 2 major hurricanes in 1995, Erin & Opel,that occurred within a period of 2 months.We also experienced a number of smaller ones. I lost the roof of my house in Opel. I left florida in 2000, not because of hurricanes, but because of family reasons.From 1995 to 2000, the Pensacola area grew significantly. People built homes and businesses on Pensacola Beach, a little strip of barrier island made of sand knowing full well that there was a possibility of having it blown away. My point is this—–People make decisions to relocate or not relocate based on many factors with weather being just one of them.

    Why do people love to live in Minnesota, North Dakota or Canada? It’s 40 below up there! As a recruiter, it always baffeled me when I would try to recruit people from MN and WI in winter. Those were the 2 toughest states to get anyone to leave at any time of the year. People change jobs for many reasons. Weather conditions are probably number 8 to 10 on the list.

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  3. Whereas I agree that recruiters need to be aware of and take advantage of the labor market dynamics at all times, in consideration of the loss of property, businesses and lives resulting from the three hurricanes that hit Florida, and the further loss of property and life as the storms moved north, Sullivan’s timing for this article is not only insensitive, it is blatently callous. Recruiters, and the consultants who promote themselves as the experts in this field, represent corporate America. With allegations (and convictions) of corporate executives, the negative publicity generated from offshoring of labor and offshore tax havens, the image of corporate America is not shining. Sullivan has further dulled that image.

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  4. I am vendor for the Recruiting Industry but was a recruiter at one time. While I agree with targeting all your resources and keeping up with the times, I feel that targeting people after experiencing a huge loss and playing on peoples emotions is inappropriate and we need to draw the line on professionalism and the stereotype of corporate america.

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  5. As I can certainly understand how this could be very lucrative for certain businesses and entrepeneurs, I dont feel that it is professional to be capitalizing on anothers loss to benefit others and certainly not to write an article about it.

    No matter where you go, there are Hurricanes, Tornadoes, Snow Storms etc. Good recruiting doesn’t come from capitalizing on anothers misfortune or weaknesses, but finding the talent you need through conventional methods.

    Any people that may be recruited because of a hardship or major weather event like this is not likely to be a long term employee. They will probably be recruited away on the short term, and then eventually realize that storms of this nature, although strong and dangerous, only occur every 10 to 20 years (or so statistics state).

    I am a Nursing Recruiter, and all of the nurses throughout the country and throughout Florida, we are very proud of how they have pulled together to help patients through this time of need. We are also in a deep shortage with nurses and I am sure you can understand that it is quite disconcerting to read articles recommending to people to come steal some of our staff.

    I apologize if I appear too bold in my convictions. Thank you for your time, and I do generally look forward to reading your articles.


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