Business Strategy

Sourcing Talent Without “Bankrupting” The Budget

bankrupt budget

Personnel related costs are the largest line item in my budget.  These costs have grown 87% year over year as Ivy Exec has expanded its operations and opened up new offices.  It’s a high priority for me to keep the lid on escalating personnel costs.  I am able to do this while offering competitive compensation packages because I source talent from some alternative talent pools that are worth considering.

Yes…I’ve pursued the obvious ways to manage the salary line.  In the early days, I’ve hired interns who are often eager beavers, short on any real experience, but long on enthusiasm and work ethic.  They are also affordable (but can be more elusive in some seasons than in others). As a hiring approach, this can be hit or miss — some may be keepers and some you’ll be glad to see go.

I’ve hired promising graduates with limited work experience and have home grown some super stars. Since these hires lack significant work experience they are often affordable hires for a limited salary budget. They are anxious to get a foothold in the working world and can be worth their weight in gold once fully trained.  And,

…I’ve hired consultants/contractors who can be pricey, but will work extremely hard for short periods on specific projects.  The positive is that they come with no strings attached and bring significantly more experience than your garden variety intern or recent graduate.

Recently, I’ve tapped a different kind of talent pool – on-ramping women professionals.  This breed comes with a pedigree — undergraduate and graduate degrees from top schools and/or top tier previous employers.

Did you know?   According to a study of off-ramping professional women sponsored by The Center for Work-Life Policy (completed in 2005, updated in 2010,) almost one third of professional women off-ramp at some point, often pulled by family considerations.  The average length of the off-ramp is almost 3 years, though in many cases it can be much longer.  Over 90% of on-ramping women do not want to return to the company where they used to work.  73% of women trying to on-ramp have trouble finding a job, and those who manage to return to full time work lose 16% of their earning power and often re-enter at lower organizational levels.

Hiring on-ramping professionals is not without some inherent risks: on-rampers’ technical skills may be seriously outdated, their confidence might be somewhat eroded, they may require part time or flexible hours with additional flexibility from time to time to address issues on the home front, and it may take some time for them to make the leap from “corporate mode” to “start-up mode.”

However, I believe employers, and especially start-ups, can generate a solid ROI hiring on-ramping professionals in a selective manner for the following reasons:  They bring a wealth of “real world” professional and personal experience (call it depth and dimension?) that can complement a Gen-Y heavy team, they are hungry to regain a foothold in the work force so are highly motivated to perform, and they can be highly negotiable on salary when presented the chance to work again in a meaningful way.

By creatively sourcing employees and balancing the mix of employees, I have managed to maintain my firm’s salary costs at sustainable levels while building a team of creative, energetic, committed employs – each of whom brings something unique and vital to our success.

About the Author

Elena Bajic is the founder and CEO of Ivy Exec, a selective online career network for top performers.