Where do I find high quality employees and how do I keep them

It’s no secret that the challenge of finding high quality employees in today’s tight labour market is on every business owner’s mind. Many companies – especially smaller ones – think that attracting the best employees is a lost cause for them, because they can’t match the perks and programmes showcased in the Sunday Times Top 100 Companies Awards.

Although most companies don’t “get it” when it comes to attracting and retaining employees, some do. These companies are the Talent Magnets – the employers of choice for highly talented people. They know the key to attracting and retaining quality employees isn’t compensation and benefits packages or gimmicky programmes.

If money were the only factor, then the conventional wisdom wouldn't be far off because small businesses simply cannot compete with the employee purchasing power of their larger counterparts. However, the good news is that financial remuneration isnotthe only factor. And, while financial issues are important, there are also several non-financial factors you can leverage to make your small business more attractive to prospective employees and contractors. These tips for attracting employees will up the odds of attracting and retaining the people you need.

Find out what the going rate is for the position and at least match it.

One common mistake small businesses make when creating a position is to base the salary on their budget rather than on the market realities – in effect making sure that their employee recruitment efforts are going to be unsuccessful.

Offer an employee benefit programme.

In times when employees get to pick and choose, an employee benefit programme moves from their wish list to their necessities list. If your small business does not have an employee benefits programme, talk to your insurance company about setting one up.

One of the advantages of belonging to business organisations, such as the Chamber of Commerce, is that they offer more inexpensive insurance, including employee benefit programmes, so check with the organisations you belong to first.

Make lifestyle part of your employee recruitment offer.

Many employees are just as concerned about quality of life as they are about the amount of money a position offers. If you’re fortunate enough to be located in an area with great beaches, extensive hiking/biking trails, excellent golf courses or other attractive features be sure to play them up when you’re trying to attract employees.

Emphasize the benefits your small business offers.

Make your company more attractive to potential employees by offering things such as flexible hours and work at home options. Among the more unusual benefits some small businesses offer are being able to bring a pet to work and allowing employees to power-nap during the day.

Be creative with perks.

As a small business, you may not be able to offer the perks large corporate companies are able to offer their employees – but you may be able to offer a reasonable facsimile. For instance, many large companies offer on-site health facilities such as a fully equipped gym. Chances are good that as a small business, you’re not going to be able to add one of these to your premises, but you could offer employees coupons to use local gym or spa facilities.

Offer employees some way to move upwards.

Most employees aren't looking for jobs where they’ll do the same thing for the next thirty years. They're looking for positions that offer opportunities for advancement. What will the position you're offering provide the applicant with the chance to develop new skills? A stepping stone to a position with more responsibilities? More money after a certain amount of time on the job? Whatever it is, in terms of attracting employees, be sure to get the future possibilities on the table.

Create an employee incentive programme.

Employee incentive programmes not only reward good employee performance but give prospective employees something to look forward to if they come work for you. Whether it’s an annual company-paid retreat or spa day, or a programme where employees collect points that they can trade in for cash, employee incentive programmes can increase your chances of attracting the people you want to hire.

Institute a profit sharing programme.

It’s not for every business, but there’s no better way to give employees a stake in a company’s success. For businesses that look like they’re going somewhere, profit sharing programmes can be a powerful inducement to come work for you instead of for someone else.

Sweeten the pot.

When competition for employees is fierce, a plain old signing bonus may be what’s needed to attract the employee you want and get that person to work for you rather than for some other company. If you choose to do this, there are two things to keep in mind. The signing bonus has to be large enough to matter, and the signing bonus has to be contingent upon x amount of time of employment. Otherwise you’ll be running a revolving door as people sign up, take the money and run.

Widen the scope of your advertising.

It’s not enough to just place an ad in the Help Wanted section of the local newspaper anymore; your chances of attracting the employees you want will be much better if you broaden your advertising. Place ads in places such as job web sites and college/university campus boards, for example. Advertise in other towns or cities.

And if you have other employees, don’t forget to get them involved in the employee recruitment hunt. You can, for example, offer signing bonuses to those who successfully refer a new employee.

Flexibility

Small businesses are usually much more flexible with their employees than large corporations. The big companies thrive on organisation. They rely on systems to keep the ship afloat, leaving employees with little room for personal flexibility.

Let's say your pre-schooler has a performance at eleven o'clock on a Monday morning. If you work for a small business, there's a good chance you can attend because small businesses are built around relationships. But if you work for a large corporation, you might find yourself sending a babysitter with a camcorder.

Play up the flexibility and relationships angle with prospective employees. In some cases you will strike a chord with first-rate employees who are put off with the rigidity of a larger operation.

Responsibility

Small businesses also offer the advantage of being able to provide employees with more responsibility and more significant roles in the company. This is especially attractive to career-minded, upwardly mobile employees who are interested in gaining experience quickly.

If you are going to play the "more responsibility" card to attract higher quality employees and contractors, you need to be aware of the downside. While it's true that small businesses can offer their employees greater responsibility and experience, career-track individuals will find it more difficult to move up the ladder in a small business for the simple reason that your ladder probably has fewer rungs than the ladder in a big corporation. One way to get around this is to discuss your strategic plan for your business with job candidates. Without giving too much away, you can help them envision promotional opportunities within your business as it grows and expands.

Values

Generally speaking, big companies can have a reputation for being cold, sterile and valueless. Smaller companies, on the other hand, are perceived as being fertile soil for values such as family and community. Additionally, small businesses are almost always able to connect employees with the company "story" in real and practical ways, especially when the employees can envision themselves as part of that story. Discuss your company's values statement with your prospective candidates. Also, tell them why you started the business and how they can play a significant role in shaping the company's story as it evolves.

So, while conventional wisdom suggests that "cream of the crop" employees will follow the money trail to the doorsteps of the large corporations, that doesn't mean that you should just give up on hiring any new staff because as a small business, you don’t have a chance of attracting employees. All things being equal, there are many people who would prefer to work for a small business

There are qualified people out there who can do what you need done – you just need to attract them to the positions your small business is offering. Developing an employee recruitment policy based on the tips above will give you a better chance of attracting the employees you’re looking for. Make yours The Offer They Can't Refuse!