4 Ways to Find and Keep Top Employees

You’ve built a solid business and product you’re proud of. Now you face the challenge of finding the right talent to help you keep growing. However, unless you are a household company, you probably aren’t receiving resumes out of the blue.  

Everyone knows about Google, Goldman Sachs and General Motors. But just because workers want corporate perks, like Facebook’s nap pods, doesn’t mean they can’t be lured in other ways. People are looking for interesting opportunities and innovative companies, not just getting big names on their resume. 

So what can smaller firms do to make a compelling pitch? Here are four strategies you can use to scope out and attract the cream of the crop.

1. Know what you have to offer and how to sell it.

Small businesses struggle with self-doubt when it comes to recruitment. A recent McKinsey Global Institute survey found that 82% of small companies believe they do not recruit top talent – and, when they do, 93% say they struggle to keep it. But smaller firms have an inherent appeal that, when communicated well, can get corporate talent to pull the plug.

  1. Put your cards on the table. Smaller businesses appeal to top talent for a number of reasons. They offer the opportunity for greater individual impact, have family-oriented cultures, provide additional flexibility, involve fewer layers of bureaucracy and deliver a greater connection to the community. Some major employers have those qualities too, but they’re the exception rather than the rule.
  2. Know which benefits will attract top talent. The flashiest, most expensive perks aren’t necessarily those that workers want most. Build your benefits package according to what’s feasible for your budget and best for your talent pool. You may not have the funds to build your own gym, for example, but could you offer discounted memberships to a local one?
  3. Center job descriptions around your culture and mission. Yes, you need to detail duties in a job description. But duties don’t catch attention like culture does. Is your business breezy and casual or are you a no-excuses, get-it-done-quick changemaker? Reflect your company’s mission and culture in the description through tone and style.  
  4. Spell out requirements without being too specific. Never shoo away potential candidates because your requirements are too stringent, especially as they will probably change as you grow. Instead, focus on personality matches. Who are you looking for? Everyone wants a “hard worker” and a “team player.” What do you need that’s different from what the big companies need? 

2. Invest in quality recruitment strategies.

When you’re just starting out, you need to get your name out there. But blasting job ads on every platform with no audience targeting could make your business look desperate and worse, not help you recruit the right people. 

  1. Choose the proper platforms for your business. That might be Indeed, ZipRecuriter, or LinkedIn, but it might also be Instagram or YouTube. To decide, think back to who you’re trying to hire. Do you want a millennial social media manager? Don’t bother placing print ads. Look, too, for industry-specific sites: eFinancialCareers is unheard of in many sectors, for example, but it lists thousands of global roles in financial services.
  2. Go to networking events in person. Talented people with experience at enterprise companies are pitched by employers, not the other way around. Attend industry events, and have your company pitch down pat. Create a spreadsheet of contacts after every conference or networking dinner, and organize your spreadsheet by interest. Who seemed most excited about your business? Follow up with those people every few weeks, checking in to see if, and when, they might want to join your team.
  3. Ask your employees for help. You might not have the budget for a full-time HR team, but your staff knows the type of people they want to work with. Ask your existing team members for recommendations, and you’ll cut your recruitment time in half. Implement a cash referral bonus for workers who suggest successful hires.

3. Show that you’re serious about your mission.

Once you’ve nailed down your company’s mission, you should put it front and center in your recruitment content. If you’ve got a blog, be sure every piece of content refers back to it in some way. Add those aspirational statements to your recruiting emails and slide decks. Wear your company’s heart on your sleeve.

  1. Interview in a manner that befits your mission. If your company’s mission is to make the world a greener place, don’t have food delivered or offer disposable water bottles. Don’t use a chatbot for the first-round interview if your goal is to bring the human touch back to customer service. Nobody wants to work for a company that comes across as hypocritical.  
  2. Demonstrate that you value diversity. Whatever you’re trying to achieve, the data is clear: You’ll be more successful with a more diverse team. Show that you’re serious by seeking out talent from many different demographics: gender, race, age, sexual orientation and experience. The broader your bench, the more original ideas your company will develop. Talented people want to work for innovative, inclusive companies. 
  3. Prove your relevance. The path to your mission is constantly changing. If you’re a marketing agency that helps companies shorten their buying cycle, you have to be able to speak the language of martech. Talking about tech the whole time might not be such a smart strategy if you’re a recruitment platform that promises to make the job hunt more personal, though. 
  4. Let them take a test drive. Lots of companies talk a big game about their mission but just care about making money in practice. Let talent see for themselves where your priorities lie. Trial runs are a recruiting staple at TubeScience. In less than three years, the performance video company has had substantial growth by allowing recruits to test out the company and position with trials formulated for each open position. 

4. Commit to your promises.

Once you’ve convinced talented workers to commit to you, you have to commit to them. Think back to those advantages of smaller employers that attracted them to begin with.

  1. Foster an environment of autonomy. Nobody likes feeling like a cog in a machine. Let recruits suggest and develop new processes rather than forcing them into your existing workflow. Trust them to work on what they say they are. If you hired a database developer, don’t check in every day asking for a progress update. Big projects take time, and any necessary check-ins should be done by a project manager.  
  2. Engage employees as individuals. A recent Gallup study demonstrated that as many as one-third of U.S. workers say they don’t feel engaged at work. Don’t just buy everyone gym memberships and check “engage employees” off your list. Learn what actually makes them tick. Is one-on-one mentorship important to them? Would their family appreciate better health benefits? Startup leaders have the luxury of building real relationships with everyone on their team.
  3. Provide constant feedback. One of the biggest problems at large corporations is that employees feel invisible to the leadership team. Their work goes unacknowledged, and their frustrations go unaddressed. Prove that your smaller company won’t fall into the same trap. Give feedback and constructive criticism. Start conversations. Don’t allow folks to leave the room until everyone has had the chance to speak. 
  4. Treat everyone with respect. Office politics are another major problem at enterprise companies. Don’t let them become one at your smaller business. Don’t play favorites. Use gender-neutral language. Listen to employees’ complaints, whatever they are about. Make sure everyone’s ideas are welcomed.

Talented employees know they have options. Don’t act like your company is the only one on the block, but do explain what makes it special. Seek out the best of the best, and convince them that a change is worth sticking around for. 


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