You learn a lot about consumer preferences by reading the reviews on Yelp. Thousands of users are eager to tell you what they love and what makes them crazy. You don’t have to spend much time on the site to understand the difference between outstanding and dismal. Whether it’s a restaurant, hotel, or doctor’s office, people create that five-star experience.

Each time you consider adding to your team, it’s a choice that has a critical impact on your organization’s future. Whether the new hire is a junior employee or head of a key department, they will represent the brand experience you want for members and shape the culture you seek for your staff.

On a recent Association 4.0 Podcast, I talked with Sarah Mitial, Founder and CEO of People Architecture Group.

People Architecture is a human resources company providing talent acquisition, development, and consulting services to small to midsized organizations. Sarah and I discussed how to find and keep the special employees who will contribute to your association’s success.

This is a unique time for the association community. We are aggressively challenged to deliver value. Both for-profit and other nonprofits are targeting members with education and product options. In this competitive environment, the impact that people make on brand and culture has never been more important. However, the job of finding those talented individuals is increasingly difficult.

Even with the threat of recession on the horizon, these statistics indicate that the Great Resignation does not appear to be a passing trend.

Applicants are seeking work/life balance, personal fulfillment, and career development.
  •  According to a survey by LinkedIn, 61% of U.S. workers are considering leaving their jobs in 2023.
  • Robert Half found that 46% of U.S. workers plan to look for a new job in the next six months.
  • The Bureau of Labor Statistics projects that the unemployment rate will remain low, at 3.9% in 2024.

Even if the job market becomes more advantageous to employers, post-pandemic job seekers are intensely focused on issues that go beyond compensation and benefits. Personal fulfillment, career development, and work/life balance are among the intangibles that applicants are seeking. The widespread availability of opportunities means that the most qualified can write their own ticket.

Review the Data

I asked Sarah how she advises employers to approach this challenging environment.

“Begin with the data,” Sarah responded. “Whether you are developing a job description or trying to improve the vetting and selection process. Studying factual information will help you make better choices.”

I love that answer. When my clients need to make important decisions, I always recommend that they use data to guide their thinking. HR analytics can bring objectivity to what is frequently a highly subjective process.

If you haven’t been tracking workforce statistics, now is the time to begin. Paired with emotional intelligence, these numbers take human resources initiatives to a powerful level of expertise. They support:

  • Identifying applicants with the best prospects for success at your organization
  • Retaining the great talent you recruit
  • Smoothing employee transitions
  • Maintaining adequate staffing levels
  • Demonstrating commitment to improving the employee work experience

You can track, compare, and contrast metrics, such as:

  • Search costs, timelines, and number of applicants per position
  • Performance KPIs and productivity
  • Data from employee satisfaction surveys
  • Turnover rate
  • Salary ranges and the cost of benefits
  • Demographics including age, gender, race, ethnicity, and previous experience

HR software tools frequently include an analytics component. However, the data you gather will depend on what information proves to be most useful for your organization.

Drill Down

An objective understanding of your group’s needs is another prerequisite that Sarah emphasized for success.

Before adding talent, have a thoughtful conversation.

“When a manager wants to add talent, have a thoughtful conversation,” Sarah advised. “Really drill down with the responsibilities and qualifications they are seeking to fill. Review the job description carefully to determine what new expertise is needed. Then, before you go shopping, look at what you already have in the fridge.

“Consider whether there is someone in your organization who could advance to fill that position. Giving people the opportunity to move forward is a big plus for employee satisfaction.”

I frequently encounter similar situations on digital transformation projects. Clients may initially believe they need to hire someone to fill a new responsibility. Once we talk through the issues, they realize that there is a current employee, who with the right training and mentoring, would be a great fit for the role. This is often more cost-effective, especially when you add the benefit of the goodwill surrounding a promotion.

Don’t Rush

We all make hiring mistakes. I asked Sarah what she sees as our biggest bloopers.     

Sarah noted that most of the missteps occur when we are over-anxious to fill an important position. “Instead of hiring a temporary consultant or freelancer to ease the pain, managers rush to sign a permanent employee without taking the time to think through all the details,” Sarah advised. “You risk hiring someone who will be unhappy as a result of multiple misunderstandings due to the speedy process.

“Selecting people with a genuine interest in your mission and vision and who are eager to help you accomplish your goals is a good way to avoid mistakes. A willingness to see work/life balance issues from the employees’ perspective and accommodate those needs is also important right now.

“At the moment, nobody wants to be in the office 100 percent. If you’re searching for an employee who will work on-site five days a week, you will probably have a tough time,” Sarah observed. “Technology offers plenty of collaboration strategies that don’t require people to be physically present. Be creative with the available tools.”

I can make the case for both in-person and remote work. But we have to face reality. We’ve all seen that business continues, even with people in multiple locations. Most employees simply don’t want to commute. Younger workers are especially reluctant to get out of their sweats and back on the train.

Gen X and Z applicants have also forced employers to refresh hiring practices. Sarah and I discussed how you might have to adjust your approach.


Present options designed to appeal to the people you interview.

Netflix and Amazon have conditioned us to services tailored to individual preferences. Sarah recommends considering that expectation when you recruit. Present roles in ways that are designed to appeal to the variety of people you interview. For example, if you’re talking to digital natives and your IT isn’t exactly new and shiny, emphasize different benefits that appeal to this group, such as professional development and a career path.

On the other hand, don’t use filters to enhance your image. Touch-ups will backfire. During a presentation at .orgCommunity’s Solutions Day event, Jamie Notter, Co-Founder and culture strategist at Propel, made this observation. “You need to be disciplined about describing what your culture is.” For example, don’t tell applicants that you have a culture of empowerment and self-direction, when the reality is that most projects require multiple levels of approval. Know your organization’s actual characteristics and practice articulating those qualities.

Swim in Another Pool

Learning to appeal to a variety of applicants creates the workforce you need for success. If you are having difficulty finding diversity in your talent pool, Sarah suggested testing new waters. “Diverse candidates are out there,” she noted. “Sometimes you just need to work a little harder to find them. Relationship building continues to be important. So, spread a wide network.”

Sarah offered this final advice. “Remember that people’s potential and value is beyond what you or they can see in the moment. Who we are today is not who we will be tomorrow. Learning is transformational. Employers can, and should, play an exciting role in that process.”

So, by all means, search for that fresh talent. But don’t overlook the potential you already have in the fridge.”