Phoenix Group urges use of innovative staffing strategies

In historically tight labor market, getting creative with finding people is the name of the game.

A local management consulting firm has several ideas for businesses running up against talent hurdles in 2022.

Anne Leighty. Courtesy The Phoenix Group

Anne Leighty, co-founder and partner of greater Grand Rapids-based The Phoenix Group, recently spoke to the Business Journal about how companies can ease the talent crunch heading into 2022.

Founded in 2017 by Leighty and her business partner, Bryan Blackburn, The Phoenix Group is a management consulting firm specializing in accounting, finance and technology solutions for clients across many industries, including manufacturing and nonprofits.

Leighty said like all companies in the past couple of years, The Phoenix Group and its clients have had to get creative with finding talent to fill the gaps. She said if approached with positivity and a can-do spirit, it’s not an insurmountable challenge.

“You’re not alone. Everybody’s going through these struggles. Everybody is getting creative. You just have to think a little bit outside the box and be willing to make some changes internally,” she said.

“Some of the tips (we are sharing) require reflecting on what you’re currently doing and maybe changing it a little bit, and we have to be open to that. If there’s anything we’ve learned from the past couple years, it’s we need to be a little bit more fluid, so I think that goes for when you’re looking for talent, as well.”

Four main strategies

The Phoenix Group said employers may find themselves wondering several times a day, “Where have all the people gone?” The firm found, through informally asking clients, a few insights. Some parents have found the shifts back and forth between virtual and in-person learning during the pandemic “too much to cope with,” and one parent may have elected to stay home. Others have started their own business, even if it’s something as small as selling goods on eBay. Some have shifted to working in the gig economy, driving for Uber, delivering groceries and food from restaurants, etc., and still others are collecting unemployment.

To find talent at a time when it’s so elusive, The Phoenix Group recommends employers:

Embrace talent they have

Leighty said employers should talk to their staff and ask them questions, such as why they are staying, what they like about their job, and would they recommend it to others.

“It’s great that you want to hire new people, but it’s equally important that you put enough effort into keeping the ones that you have,” Leighty said. “There’s something about the company that keeps them there. It’s really important that you tap into that and find out what that is, because maybe you are thinking it’s one thing, and so when you’re doing postings or talking to other people, you’re promoting one aspect of the business, when maybe you’ll find out that it’s something else.

“It’s rare when you talk to people about why they leave jobs that they leave because of salary. Most people aren’t staying because of that.”

After interviewing employees, the company could then create a marketing video where those existing workers share what they like about the company for advertising purposes.

Another idea is to ask current employees to refer others.

“Good people always know other good people, so capitalize on that,” Leighty said.

Reach out to peers

Leighty said she recently called some out-of-state clients that weren’t struggling with finding talent for their shop floors, and they said they had found an alternative labor pool in returning citizens who had committed nonviolent crimes, as well as individuals with disabilities.

“That doesn’t work for everybody, but it will work for some,” she said.

Networking also is a big part of this strategy. Leighty said people in West Michigan love to help their peers, so attending luncheons and other business functions can be a great way to get new ideas.

Use a temp agency or pool

“An organization in Lansing that was always well-known for developing their own labor pools was Auto-Owners (Insurance), because they’ve spent many years successfully having their own temporary labor pools. They would have employees that might retire or maybe working mothers that are available for certain times, and they created this giant temporary pool and they never had to use outside agencies because they had their own people that were signed up to do that,” Leighty said.

Recently, The Phoenix Group crafted job ads targeting stay-at-home moms to work as part-time consultants during the school day.

“When we just put out the ad saying we were looking for part-time people, we didn’t get hardly anyone, but when we specifically went out there saying, ‘If you are a stay-at-home mom who has these skills that we’re looking for, we’re willing to work around your children’s schedules, so give us a call.’ And we just got great people,” Leighty said. “… Getting creative with who you’re targeting really makes a difference.”


“There are some pieces of your business, usually marketing, IT and accounting, that are easy to outsource,” Leighty said. “If you just take a little bit of your processes, maybe revisit those and tweak them a little bit and do a little reorganizing, you can outsource some of the areas that you may be struggling with.”

The Phoenix Group offers accounting, consulting, software and outsourced CIO and CFO services for companies that, for example, may have someone on staff handling the day-to-day of information technology or finance, but need part-time help with higher-level strategy and vision setting.

“If they revisit their processes, I’m sure people will uncover opportunities for outsourcing. They can decide if they want to keep the transactional work in-house and outsource the strategic piece … or vice versa,” Leighty said.

More information on The Phoenix Group is available at

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