As I made clear in my previous post, I love musical theatre. So, with this year’s Tony Awards having recently been handed out, I wanted to take a moment to reflect on a new show that is incredibly moving – and actually can provide meaningful lessons to recruiters everywhere.
Come from Away, which was nominated for several Tony Awards and won for Best Director, is set in the town of Gander, Newfoundland, and takes place over the five days following the September 11, 2001, attacks in New York City. The FAA closed the U.S. airspace that morning, and 38 planes from all over the world were ordered to land unexpectedly in Gander, leaving thousands of people, as one of the show’s songs puts it, “on an island in between.” The townspeople of Gander and surrounding communities housed, fed and entertained the stranded passengers, who nearly doubled the population of the town. The characters in the musical share the names and stories of real “Islanders” and “Plane People.”
Similar to the Islanders, recruiters occupy a time in between two parts of candidates’ lives and help shepherd them from one situation to another. And just like each of the Plane People stranded in Newfoundland, every candidate has their own story, their own journey. Come from Away tells these stories of human connection and perseverance – and the messages carry through to talent acquisition.
The Islanders met every passenger with kindness regardless of their situation, whether that meant creating a safe space for anyone to pray, making “a balloon animal for a crying toddler” or putting out rows of phones and computers for the Plane People to contact their loved ones.
Similarly, it is up to the recruiter to meet every candidate wherever they are in their lives, to understand where they are coming from and to make a space where that candidate will shine. Demonstrating sympathy for the candidate’s difficulties – whether that is a busy schedule or nervousness – as well as celebrating their wins will go a long way toward brightening their life, even if they don’t end up getting the job.
To alleviate rising fear and mounting tensions (“On the edge of the world or wherever we are, we are on the edge!”), the Plane People are invited to be initiated as honorary Newfoundlanders – no matter whether they were from Texas or England, gay or straight. What an onboarding experience! This acceptance and even celebration of differences reminds recruiters that the most successful teams are the most diverse, bringing with them a variety of characteristics, experiences and ideas. Additionally, welcoming new employees with open arms and a comprehensive process helps ensure that they will remain happy and productive.
In a feat of staggering proportion, Gander Air Control spent hours directing 38 planes to safely land in the town’s tiny airport and successfully find them places to park. Recruiters can learn from the steadiness of the airport workers in managing large requisition loads. Sometimes it will be tight, but actively finding time for each requisition ensures that people are satisfied with the process and that the position is filled with the best individual for both the company and the role.
This small community of some 9,000 people then had just a few hours to make preparations to house, feed and care for more than 7,000 passengers.
Annette: I made a tray of sandwiches!
Beulah: We need 50 more.
Similarly, with varying requisition loads for myriad positions all over the world, it can be difficult for a recruiter to source enough qualified candidates for a role. Just as Beulah labels any extra food with the name and date, savvy recruiters build talent communities to keep in touch with qualified candidates.
Another hurdle to overcome was what to do with all the food the Town of Gander was receiving and making for the Plane People. Instead of trying to coordinate hundreds of separate refrigerators, the Islanders simply turned the local hockey rink into the world's largest walk-in refrigerator. Similarly, creating a central repository of candidate information, automated processes, plug-and-play candidate experience apps and comprehensive analytics will increase efficiency, allowing recruiters to spend less time on technology and more time engaging with the candidates themselves.
In the end, Come From Away’s remarkable grace – the story of humanity’s best impulses rising to meet its worst, the generosity of and to strangers helping those in need rather than choosing fear – is the show’s driving force. It is a story and a lesson about coming together.
This is what we do every day in our roles as recruiters. We are the centerpoint around which people from all walks of life rotate. We work to ensure we have the right people in our organizations to innovate, to solve problems, to collaborate, to make things happen – to make a difference every day. And we make sure to do all of this with kindness and compassion for every person, because every person comes with their own story.
So the next time you pick up the phone to screen a new candidate, to welcome a new employee, to deal with a problem, think about the spirit of these lyrics:
You are here, at the start of a moment, on the edge of the world
Where the river meets the sea.
Here, on the edge of the Atlantic, on an island in between
There and here.
Where will that moment lead? How will you make a difference in that person’s life?
Post contributed by Katie Marks, Marketing Operations Specialist. Connect with her on LinkedIn.