Winning The War For Talent: Push vs Pull

By W. Coby Milne

Just another sales pitch.

We are all struggling with the realities of the Great Resignation and the effects of trying to find and retain the best people. Something that many people overlook when thinking of the labour market is how it really is not that different than the consumer market. Both rely on supply and demand, both evolve as the result of global forces, and most importantly both are very concerned with reputation. Employees, like customers, have some predictable patterns of behaviour based on well-researched psychology. Namely, they don’t like a hollow sales pitch being pushed on them.

Traditional efforts to push our opportunities, jobs, and products on our target audience to make our offering attractive so they will choose us, at the end of the day, it doesn’t really work.  It doesn’t matter what environment you are in or what opportunity you are looking to convert, you are just another sales pitch. Nothing more. The public is smart, and they have been telling companies and organizations for a long time that they don’t want to be sold too. The problem is we are not always listening.

But this really shouldn’t surprise us, we’ve all been there, we’ve all dealt with people trying to sell us things. Whether it is a used car, a new type of bank account, an extended warranty, or how you can work from home and make your own schedule while earning enough money to drive a brand new Bentley. (By the way, does anyone drive Bentley’s anymore?) We all hate the hard pitch, we hate having opportunities, ideas, products, and schemes pushed on us. We are the most informed generation of consumers ever. If we need to purchase something we can look it up, read reviews, balance our choices, weigh the pricing options, look for the model that fits our needs, and then find the best place to purchase it. Most of our choices are not pushed on us; most of the things we choose pull us to them by being the right fit for our needs. This is the way we acquire new things in the 21st century.

Push vs Pull strategy

This is a good time to talk about the Push vs Pull strategy. When it comes to talent attraction Push and Pull can be explained as:

Push: the company markets their job or opportunity to the labour market, who may not be aware of, nor seeking it. This is the Cold Sell effort through various promotional activities such as job boards, recruitment campaigns, or cold reach out through LinkedIn.

Pull: applicants actively seek out opportunities with a particular organization, due to its goodwill, culture, and reputation.

Push is the traditional way we hire. We pay for job ads or recruiters to reach the widest audience promoting our opportunities to anyone who will listen. Then applicants make the decision to apply based on the details provided in the job add “or sales pitch” and whatever homework they do on the company themselves.

Pull is a more intentional approach. Marketing the company’s qualities, benefits, reputation, and workplace culture. Informing applicants of opportunities through referrals from existing staff, partner organizations, school alumni communications, etc.. It is more about the quality of viable applicants that will fit the values and characteristics you are looking for, rather than a quantity approach of casting a wide net and hoping for the best.

Basically, Push is selling the hype and Pull is selling the fit.

The Employer Brand With Pull!

What you need is your workplace culture and social proof to be what PULLS the labour market to your door. When you have a workplace where people feel accepted for who they are and that they belong, you will create the loyalty that will keep them long term. Employees need to see that your organization aligns with their values, gives them a voice, is invested in their success, and creates a sense of belonging. Then they will bring their whole self to work, their ideas, their perspectives, their enthusiasm, and their productivity. Plus, they will tell others about their experiences. The thing about Pull is that it creates what we call the Ambassador Effect. Where employees act as brand ambassadors for your employer brand. Telling others about how great you are to work for, sharing positive and authentic posts on social media, and encouraging others to apply to work for you. Often this all happened unprompted, but then can be leveraged as part of your recruitment strategy!

Employees need to see that your organization aligns with their values, gives them a voice, is invested in their success, and creates a sense of belonging. Then they will bring their whole self to work, their ideas, their perspectives, their enthusiasm, and their productivity.

The Key to Pull: Retention

The fact is Pull creates retention. As a workforce specialist, I often work with industry groups and regional entities about workforce solutions.  A recent example would be conversations with communities and government officials about addressing workforce challenges through immigration. The dominating focus was around methods and resources to attract more skilled immigrants to our client’s communities. I asked about what the current retention strategy was for them once they are here? And further, what are they doing to retain the skilled landed immigrants they currently have,? And why is it that every year they are losing to larger urban centers with more community supports and cultural engagement? When it comes to attracting talent, you have to give them what they need to thrive. This often is support for their family, jobs for their spouse, a community to embrace them, opportunities to integrate into the community so they can lay down roots. So the question becomes, if you are not prepared to retain the workers you currently have, what business do you have trying to attract new ones? This is the same whether you are looking to hire a talented worker to your company, or attract whole populations to your region.

The Takeaway

The Push vs Pull strategy is a surprisingly universal method that can create significant impact in almost any situation that involves new opportunities. For success, Pull and Retention are where 90% of your efforts, resources, and time should be. Create a culture that will first and foremost retain talent and motivate them to spread the word about how great you are to work for. That is not to say that Push doesn’t have a place and important role to play, but it all comes down to readiness. Just like, if your business is trying to attract new customers you need to get your logistics, supply chain, distribution, and product quality ready before you start inviting more business. Your workplace needs to remove lingering job dissatisfaction and create a workplace culture that makes people feel and know that they can thrive and inspires them to be unofficial ambassadors for your employer brand. Once you have these pull strategies ready, then you can start to push attention to populations with the right fit. Let your competitive advantage, natural fit, and retention plans be the focal point of your Push marketing efforts and bring the right opportunities that you are now prepared to receive.

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