Fighting the Battle for Talent

Hiring Talent Workers Employment Market

Four Ways That Small Businesses Can Find the Right Workers in a Tight Employment Market

Your business may still be small, but how can you grow if you can’t hire the right talent? Right now, the employment market strongly favors job seekers. Your tight budget does not make it easy to attract people who are looking for higher earnings after about a decade of prolonged tight salaries.

If you consider that, as of the end of the economic downturn, small businesses created 62 percent of all private sector jobs, it’s clear that your company may have some hiring advantages over big business. They may offer the money, and recent reports indicate that small business hiring is currently lagging behind that of large companies; but, you offer unique opportunities. Here are four ways to exploit your competitive edge that will help you build an awesome team.

#1. Focus More on Potential Than on Years Of Experience

Find candidates with the right attributes, and you’ll have employees who are ready to learn and thrive. Unless you need doctors for your medical practice or require any type of highly-specialized expertise and educational backgrounds, you may find that the best employees are the ones that you have trained in-house.

Speaking of educational backgrounds, have you considered filling part-time positions with college students studying within a related field? You’ll have to work around their class schedules, but they’re smart and motivated to learn — and they may be ripe for full-time positions when they graduate. I know one programming intern who became the department manager upon graduation. He was one of the best managers whom I ever knew.

Experienced individuals can certainly bring some new ideas into the mix. But, they are just as likely to have indoctrinated work habits that are not compatible with your process — and are hard to break. Smart, motivated newbies might be the people you value most over the long term.

#2. Stress Unconventional Employee Benefits

Last year, a number of large companies, like Yahoo and IBM rescinded their work from home programs, reasoning that their employees needed to be in one place in order to innovate effectively. This reasoning might be accurate in big, impersonal companies, but your small business’ natural family-like environment generally makes it a non-issue. I can attest from personal experience that small company employees who work from home generally want to maintain a strong connection with their co-workers. They also generally produce significantly more work.

What other workplace amenities can you brag about during an interview? Maybe employees can save on gym memberships by using your in-house exercise equipment (showers recommended, though). Perhaps you encourage recreational time with anything from foosball tables to nap rooms. I really enjoyed getting free monthly massages … until the woman with the sharp elbows took over.

Unconventional benefits are also attractive to millennials. Add an eco-friendly environment and opportunities to give back to the community, and they may be thrilled to say “yes” to your job offer.

#3. Sell the Ground-Up Experience

Put employees in one of a thousand large-company cubicles, and they will learn how to shuffle a select type of papers. Granted, an October 31st White House ceremony announced a commitment by numerous large companies to offer job training programs. While this type of training teaches specific skills, it’s unlikely to provide big-picture business training. Small business training teaches employees how to do many jobs — and maybe how to run a business someday.

Small businesses are great environments for learning how things work. Employees typically wear many hats, gaining a variety of experiences. Rather than being isolated in one area of the business, they interact with everyone. They get to witness how their work provides a better view of the way products or services get to customers. They really see how money is made while learning how to consider costs and other operations details when suggesting changes.

This is an exciting opportunity for applicants who want to feel engaged and empowered in their work. Make sure that you really sell it during interviews.

#4. Turn to People You Know

When jobs are scarce, job applicants often turn to their networks to gain a leg up when they want special consideration from potential employers. You can get a similar leg up during a buyers’ market when you turn to your personal and professional network to attract great job applicants. Whether the people you contact are looking for new opportunities, or if they know of other worthwhile applicants, all you need to do is ask.

Also, don’t forget about the temp workers, summer interns, and contract workers who impressed you in the past. These people may prefer to retain flexibility, but they already know and like your business and its people, which can convince them to take the plunge into a permanent position. Familiarity can definitely breed approval when employment relationships start with mutual admiration.

Don’t Surrender to Today’s Unemployment Statistics

As of last month, the number of U.S. job openings exceeded the number of unemployed workers! Even large companies find that they have to get creative to fill open positions. Before you throw up your hands in despair, however, you need to recognize that your small business may actually be in a better position to find the employees that you need.

Your small business should have the word ‘agility’ somewhere in its name because that’s how you compete with larger competitors. You know how to turn on a dime rather than jump through corporate hoops, and this ability can make a major difference as you work to attract talented new hires.

Get creative. Look at the activities, benefits, and opportunities that motivate your current team, and stress them during job interviews. Perhaps most important, don’t let applicants’ prior experience outweigh their interest and enthusiasm when making hiring decisions. The people you hire at this time may become the best employees in short order. With luck and cunning, you’ll be glad that you invited them to join your team.

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