Tying In the Talent to Your Small Business - dummies

By Marc Bishop, Sharon Crooks

If you’re running a small organisation, every job is critical. You can’t afford to have anyone on the payroll who is either cruising or struggling to keep up. But equally, in the current job market, which is quite buoyant, you can’t sit on your laurels if you want to get the best person into the job.

Keeping an eye on the competition

Use some simple techniques to give yourself a fighting chance.

  • Start with understanding what the competition is doing. If there are other employers in the area snapping up all the school or college leavers, or getting the best sales people, try to find out what they’re paying, and what they’re promising.

  • Ask candidates where else they’re looking, and at what stage they are in the process. Wearing your interview hat, ask the candidate what’s on offer elsewhere, and how the role compares to the one you are discussing. There is no point in investing much of your time if a candidate has a job offer already and is 99 per cent certain they are going to accept.

  • If a candidate is fantastic you may have to move fast to make a counter offer, but never let time pressure cloud your judgement. Before you get all excited and make a hasty offer, revisit whether the person meets all the criteria you set at the beginning of the recruitment process. If they really are the right person for the job, they will see that too, and may even turn down the other offer for the one you are making.

The most successful appointments are the ones where you and the candidate are equally excited about the prospect of them starting work with you. Small business owners live in an increasingly brand-conscious world, and the idea of ‘employer brand’ has emerged as a way to describe how employees perceive their employer. It’s not just your commercial brand and position in the marketplace that matter to candidates. Employer brand includes your location, benefits, development opportunities, flexibility on hours, and the working culture.

Even if you can’t afford to pay as much as a local competitor, you can make the role attractive to the ‘Millennials’ by describing the level of autonomy they will have, to Generation X by how they can manage their work/life balance, and to students or interns by how much valuable experience they will gain.

Being seen as an ‘employer of choice’

If you want to grow the business you need to be seen as an employer of choice – to be the place where the best candidates naturally gravitate. You could call it a self-fulfilling promise – the best talent always goes there, because that’s where the best talent is. Achieving that employer of choice status starts with getting the right people in the first place.

You’ve got to follow through, and if you’ve been in business for a while you will notice that the younger generation of employees don’t hang around much longer than two to three years, unless there’s something in it for them. It’s not always about the money – more often, it’s about progressing their careers, being able to influence what happens, and having satisfying work.

It is worth investing some money and time in developing these employees, and when a vacancy comes up, to think about promoting people you’ve got already and recruiting to replace them. That way you keep the costs down by always recruiting at the more junior levels, and you keep your current employees motivated because they see the opportunity to progress. Over time, that’s how you build the reputation as an employer of choice.