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Gain a competitive edge, win the talent war


More than 60 executives attended the GCP Middle-Market Talent Forum on Dec. 12, which focused on “Winning the Talent War: Strategies to Attract and Retain the Very Best People.” Our panelists provided insights and tactics to help mid-market companies gain a competitive edge in attracting and retaining top talent.

Some key takeaways from our speakers (left to right in the above photo) include:

Aaron Grossman, president, Alliance Solutions Group:

  • Strong culture creates strong foundation for company growth. Know your company’s mission and vision statements and incorporate that into the recruitment/interview process.
  • Recruiting is marketing. The way to do it well is social marketing. Alliance recommends leveraging LinkedIn, Facebook and Twitter to grow your talent pool and learn more about prospective candidates.
Steve Gravenkemper, leader, Talent and Organizational Development Practice, Plante Moran: Culture fit is the key to a successful hire, which is another reason for companies to live their mission and values.
  • Retention efforts begin with spending quality time with staff. Start with dialogue rather than waiting to convince a valuable employee, who’s considering leaving, of why they should stay.
  • Incorporate succession planning into your strategic plan. Focus on range of key positions. Create individual action plans.
Jody Wheaton, executive director, Client Solutions & Program Management, Corporate College at Cuyahoga Community College:
  • Learning is a business investment: Training is most effective when learning is real world, creates behavioral change and can be directly applied to the job.
  • Training isn’t always about teaching job skills. Front-line leaders most often fail due to lack of interpersonal and strategic skills.

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Social media: The new gateway for recruiting

By Aaron Grossman
President, Alliance Solutions Group

To be competitive and recruit good employees today, you have to be creative, innovative and tech savvy. That means for recruiting, social media is the new gateway to find and land top talent for your company.

And it helps level the playing field for middle market companies against the Big Guys because it’s inexpensive and, often, free.

Further, because it’s so visible, in a real sense, social recruiting is a tremendous form of visibility, word-of-mouth, and great marketing for your company. So beyond just finding great talent to add to your team, it’s a very powerful way to add to your marketing voice.

But like any initiative, particularly a new technology-based tactic, you have to do it right. So before you start scouring LinkedIn for job candidates or recruiting on Facebook, consider the message you want to send.

Company culture and values play an important role in finding the right candidate, and social media is a VERY transparent window into your company’s culture and values. So be sure you’re projecting what you actually want to project. A strong company culture creates the foundation for growth:

  • It defines whom you hire.
  • It defines expected behavior.
  • It bonds employees.
  • It creates a common purpose.

At our company, for example, we communicate our vision, values and mission clearly and frequently. We don’t just put them on a poster and forget about them. Our culture is what we live every day. We incorporate our values and culture into our interview process, reviews and individual meetings. We revisit it often each year an employee is with us.

With a clear culture defined and reinforced, you’re ready to recruit.

Social media is here and growing. Candidates and recruiters alike reach out to one another in zones where they are comfortable. According to one Social Recruiting study I saw from a company called Jobvite:

  • 92 percent of recruiters have hired through LinkedIn.
  • 24 percent have hired via Facebook.
  • 14 percent have hired using Twitter.

Each social media outlet has key benefits to recruiters; there’s quite a bit that each offer, far more than we can describe here. But let me offer a few observations on the leading social recruiting channels:

Facebook, for instance, has the greatest reach, with 1billion+ users, which include 189 million mobile users. You can not only recruit potential candidates on Facebook, but if you have a well-developed company page, your potential hires can even use Facebook to get a glimpse into your company’s environment and culture with job candidates.

Facebook recognizes the huge demand for social recruiting among its users: its new Graph Search feature helps find people who share interests and assists in making a list of keywords to find diversity candidates.

LinkedIn, probably the widest-used social recruiting site, has a “Work With Us” feature that showcases open positions on your company profile page and includes an “Apply Now” button. LinkedIn also has adapted its recruiter technology for iPhones.

Think Twitter is just the province of the young? Think again: Twitter’s fastest-growing demographic is in fact 55-64 year olds. Twitter’s a powerful tool for reaching out to potential candidates you’re interested in, regardless of age.

Google’s social network Google Plus is not only a place to find candidates but when used effectively it can even improve your personal and company search engine rankings. It also boasts “hangouts” that allow recruiters to interview candidates online and include others from the company in the interview.

What does all this mean? It means to be competitive, you need to be an active and innovative recruiter on social media.

Some tips to develop your social networking strategy:

  • Be proactive and reach out to the passive candidates, i.e. those who aren’t job-hunting at the moment.
  • Participate in relevant groups or circles on social media.
  • Participate in “Sponsored Jobs” on LinkedIn to jump ahead of competitors.
  • Don’t rely on one social media outlet to recruit. Diversify.

Whatever you do, approach it correctly and be present. Be consistent. And be patient. Like any new initiative for your company, best results build over time, so don’t expect immediate hits on Day 1.

So, tweet away, everyone!

Insights into the middle market

How to become a “social business”

Middle-market companies looking to enhance their brand through social media should spread “a social mindset” throughout the company because it can provide “a competitive advantage over larger companies that may not be as nimble.

Dorie Clark, a National Center for the Middle Market contributor and marketing strategist, shares this and other advice of Mark Fidelman, author of Socialized!: How the Most Successful Businesses Harness the Power of Social.

According to Fidelman, a true social business will use social media both to share and glean information, and then adapt their approach based on what they learn. In embracing a comprehensive social strategy, "companies can benefit by being more agile, responsive to trends, and swift to fill the top of the funnel with leads."

Click here to read more.

Drive disruption: Meet your customers’ unmet needs

Middle-market companies should be driving disruption, according to Chuck Leddy, a National Center for the Middle Market contributor and freelance reporter. In his blog, he discusses the ideas of Harvard Business School Professor Clay Christensen who says that disruption isn’t limited to technological innovation. Instead it’s about serving unmet customer needs.

Leddy also offers five steps middle-market companies should be taking right now to disrupt markets:

1. Understand what disruption is.
2. Take a long, granular look at the market you serve and try to determine if there's a gap between what customers want and what they need.
3. Know that disruption can be about simplicity on the low end as well as complexity at the high end
4. Develop dynamic, adaptable strategic objectives that take into account changing customer behavior.
5. Don't protect your market share; meet your customer's needs.

Click here for details.

Manage unidentified risks with supply-chain resiliency

Efficient supply chain management has been considered as a competitive advantage for decades. According to the National Center for the Middle Market (NCMM), another aspect of supply-chain management—resiliency—also has become important for companies to remain competitive.

NCMM-sponsored research has found that mid-sized companies must also develop the flexibility to manage unidentified risks, as well as predictable ones, instead of only focusing on risk management to predict what can go wrong.

Erik Sherman, an NCMM contributor and author, writes about six steps a mid-market company can take to become more resilient:

1. Build stronger relationships with inbound and outbound supply chain partners.
2. Form strategic horizontal alliances with competitors.
3. Create a cross-functional management team.
4. Focus on core competencies.
5. Innovate within core competencies.
6. Capitalize on employee loyalty.

Click here to learn more.

Employers Survey on Diversity under way

The Commission on Economic Inclusion’s 2013 Employers Survey on Diversity has been distributed. To accommodate the early-April date of the GCP 2014 Annual Meeting, when the Best-in-Class winners will be honored, the survey and award selection process timeline has been changed.

To be considered for Best-in-Class and Commission 50 recognition, organizations must submit their survey responses by February 3.

Commission-member survey contacts who have not received your survey link and password, or who have survey-related questions, should contact Scott Harrington at or 216.592.2213.

The Best-in-Class winners will be recognized before more than 1,000 business and community leaders attending GCP’s Annual Meeting, which will be held from 4 to 7:15 p.m. on Wednesday, April 2, 2014, at the Cleveland Convention Center. In addition, award winners will be featured in the Commission’s 2013 Annual Report, on the GCP website, and receive other media coverage.

In addition, as a survey participant, your organization will receive:

  • An aggregate report of the survey results with both regional and national diversity and inclusion benchmark data. The Commission provides the national data through a relationship with DiversityInc, a national benchmarking and consulting company that focuses on diversity management in the workplace.
  • A confidential individual score card sent to the CEO and senior human resource professional that can be used to monitor your organization’s progress on diversity and inclusion outcomes.

GCP hosts St. Lawrence Seaway Administrator Betty Sutton

Last week, GCP hosted a program, on behalf of the Great Lakes Metro Chambers Coalition, for about 50 business leaders with St. Lawrence Seaway Development Corporation Administrator Betty Sutton. She shared her vision and goals for this important asset that connects Great Lakes ports with the Atlantic Ocean. The former Northeast Ohio Congresswoman assumed her new role in August.

In her remarks she noted that:

  • Major work is being done to improve the Seaway infrastructure, the first since it was built in the 1950s.
  • The Seaway Corp. is working collaboratively with several stakeholders to fully meet its responsibilities in both the environmental protection and economic development arenas.
  • More emphasis is needed on marketing the environmental friendliness of the Seaway and maritime transportation industry
  • Messaging about the Seaway needs to reach a larger and broader audience.
  • She hopes to bring more business to the Seaway, which is operating at 50 percent capacity.
  • The Port of Cleveland’s recent announcement that regularly scheduled express freight shipping service between the Cleveland harbor and Europe will start in April is a game-changer for Greater Cleveland and its companies.

Application deadline extended for CMSD Board appointments

Applications for two vacancies on the Cleveland Municipal School District (CMSD) Board of Education will continue to be received until Friday, January 31, 2014.

One vacancy, created by the resignation of Eric Wobser, is for an unexpired term ending June 30, 2015, and the other vacancy is for a full term ending June 30, 2017.

Click here for details.

News from United

Using the new United mobile app


United’s new mobile app for Apple devices utilizes several features that are already built into the operating system. There are several ways to use it so you can travel more efficiently including:

  • Checking in and using your phone as a boarding pass (at all locations United flies to domestically, as well as 50 international airports);
  • Booking flights (including award travel with MileagePlus® miles);
  • Receiving flight status updates and alerts, along with the ability to see where your plane is coming from; and
  • Viewing where you are on the upgrade stand-by list.

Click here to learn more.

United ending partnership with US Airways

US Airways announced that it has legally combined with American Airlines and will exit Star Alliance.

Effective Monday, March 31, 2014, US Airways will no longer be a MileagePlus or codeshare partner with United Airlines.

United customers with Star Alliance travel on US Airways flights will continue to receive Star Alliance benefits through March 30, 2014. The airlines are working together to ensure a smooth transition for MileagePlus members.

What customers need to know:

  • All current tickets for travel on US Airways will be honored.
  • Award travel can be booked on US Airways using MileagePlus miles through March 30, 2014.
  • As long as customers earn award miles, they will also earn Premier qualifying miles and Premier qualifying segments. On eligible US Airways flights between January 1 and March 30, 2014, customers can earn also Premier qualifying dollars.
  • Star Alliance status benefits will apply on US Airways through March 30, 2014.
  • Customers with a United Club membership or traveling on a United international premium cabin ticket can access US Airways Clubs through March 30, 2014.