Don’t Just Recruit New Res Ed Staff, Re-Recruit Current Staff Members

We’ve heard the attributions of another year covered in the cloak of COVID-19’s shadow–arresting the development of our residents, limiting academic engagement and success, and continuing to exhaust the efforts of our residential life staff members. Though there have been many types of efforts at recognizing these vital staff within a university, I offer an additional, strategic consideration: re-recruiting your current staff members. As we are in the process of our annual recruiting efforts, it’s important to attend to the retention of your existing team. The term re-recruiting points to “the vital link between attracting and maintaining talent” within an organization. The benefits of re-recruiting are many, but let’s focus on two: talent management and peer recruiting. 

Talent Management

It can often feel that every department-wide initiative must be chaired or led by a leadership team member (mid-level management or higher), but is that really the case? Of course there are certain planning meetings or top-down pieces that will certainly require this approach, but where are there opportunities to allow new and different folx and roles to serve in these capacities? 

Tuning into the strengths, areas of opportunity, and desires of your current team can align several different needs for your department. Think of the ways that allowing someone to chair an exploratory workgroup or lead a training initiative may advance your progress towards your goals. You can tap into a staff member’s interest in stepping into a leading role and accomplish departmental objectives at the same time. You may also see your staff member shine in a new way. This builds trust in their ability to execute plans, allows them to develop confidence in themself, and prepares them to expand their professional lens into department-wide thinking and planning. 

Start by checking in with supervisors and then talking directly to your people about what they may be interested in. What motivates them? What challenges them? Can their plate allow for this opportunity? (And if not, is there something that can be removed or put to the side for a short time to accomplish something else?) A side effect of this for mid-level managers is also practicing how we can empower our team members to carry out programs, ideas, and even some mission critical operations (e.g. training, move-in day, staffing, etc.). My experience this year in allowing some less-tapped folks to step into these roles has been incredibly fulfilling. Not only are we able to better carry the load of some vacant positions (a plight we can all understand), but we’ve also seen staff members at all levels really grow their skills and produce amazing things.

Peer Recruiting

Providing these “stretch assignments” for your team to find new avenues to succeed will also directly translate into how they speak of their institution, department, and supervisors. In an increasingly competitive field, in particular within live-in roles that allow for an easier transition between institutions, departments must pay attention to how their current staff members convey their experiences. Is the work challenging? Yes. We deal with humans and humans are messy. What is key is how we work to support our staff and allow them the chance to grow in these roles, which is how your departmental culture is described. During new candidate interviews, when current staff are asked about their favorite and least favorite things about the department, you want them to have examples of times they’ve been able to thrive in their positions. This allows the candidate to apply that to themselves and how they may be developed in this organization as well, assisting in the recruitment of staff who want to step up and take initiative as they settle into the job too. 

The “team dynamic” is a key deciding factor for job candidates, a reason I have heard cited frequently, and even felt for myself. It is always present in decision making when accepting or declining a new role.. In a field where relationships are essentially the currency of what we provide to our residents, our staff members want the same ability to find collegial support in their peer teams.

Because the concept of re-recruiting deals with operational opportunities and the emotional health of your team, it can, and should, occur throughout the year–weaving into the process of how we supervise and nominate folx for leadership roles. As HRO Today’s author Crone states, “re-recruiting puts organizations in a proactive rather than reactive stance, and there’s no time not to do it.”

Your department may also engage in this type of activity. Great work! However, bringing some intentionality to these assignments through fact-finding conversations and surveying of interests may help fill in gaps where some have been overlooked. This exploration must involve widespread involvement of your team members, versus the outdated practice of always tapping the same few overachievers (which often leads to their burnout and possible resentment from other staff members).

To get started, begin with reflecting and assessing what projects, tasks, assignments, etc. can be led and carried out by someone other than “you.” Then, step back and reflect again.  It’s likely that list is too short. 

Good luck and happy re-recruiting!

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