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Hiring managers know that top talent is hard to find. To the casual observer, this statement might be surprising given the chronically stagnant 7 percent U.S. unemployment rate.
Experts at Deloitte call this problem a “talent paradox”—meaning that even with a surplus of job seekers, companies are struggling to attract and retain the talent they need.
For small businesses, recruiting is a major pain point. After all, they’re competing with giants like Google, which offer perks such as on-site doctors, ball pits, company-sponsored ski trips, and vending machines with tech freebies. It’s to be expected that 60 percent of small business owners and managers say finding skilled workers is their company’s greatest challenge.
Allison Hemming, founder and CEO of the talent consulting group The Hired Guns, has one core piece of advice for small businesses struggling to find the talent they need. Don’t compete.
“Seriously, if someone wants the safety net of a big company, it’s likely that they’re never going to be happy with you,” she said. “Instead, work hard to attract like-minded talent that gets a thrill out of being in the entrepreneurial universe.”
Small business owners can outsmart the competitive hiring landscape by taking the following steps:
Your current employees care about building your organization, so look to them for referrals. Most likely, your star performers know other talented professionals who would be a great fit with your company.
“If they love where they work, they are unlikely to bring in people who will mess with a solid gene pool,” said Hemming.
Your business may be small, but it has a lot to offer. Small businesses have several key competitive advantages over their larger counterparts: They’re flexible, variable, and always growing. On the other side of the equation, top talent craves the opportunity to advance.
“Top talent right now is terrified of working for three years inside a company and having nothing to show for it,” Hemming said. “Talk to your new recruits about the impact they will get to have on the organization.”
Deep down, star performers want more than free meals, arcade games, and on-site ball pits. Sure, these perks are nice, but top talent is driven by a desire to expand their skills and deliver maximum value.
“Highlight how people who’ve gone to work for you learn and grow over time,” Hemming said. “Let them know that they will be able to color outside the lines of their discipline and that they won’t get stuck in a silo.”
Small businesses never have to settle for second-best in the competition for talent. Instead, entrepreneurs should work relentlessly to find top performers who fully embrace their organization’s mission and vision. Invite your entire team to participate in the hiring process, and always look to build relationships for the long haul. A candidate may not be a strong fit now, but in five years, the stars may align just when you need his or her skills the most.
Ritika Puri specializes in business, marketing, entrepreneurship and tech. She writes for American Express OPEN Forum, Forbes, Investopedia, Business Insider, CMO, the SAP Innovation Blog and others.
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