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Five Keys to Attracting Top Talent

Posted by Barbara North on Jun 24, 2014, 1:28:43 PM

No issue gives Massachusetts employers more sleepless nights than the struggle to find talented workers.

FourpeopleTalent separates the winners and losers in an economy dominated by knowledge industries, advanced manufacturing and skilled trades. J.D. Sherman, Chief Operating Officer of online marketing giant Hubspot in Cambridge, says “When people ask me what competitors I worry about, it’s not so much our business competitors, it’s about folks coming after the same engineers we’re trying to hire.”

Managers, recruiters and human resource departments spend time, money and emotional energy looking for top talent. They craft compelling ads, analyze the best venues to find good people, troll social media, sift through countless resumes and conduct interviews to find that one top candidate everyone agrees should be given the job.

But the hiring process remains a two-way street, fraught with all the uncertainty and angst of the high school dance – you may know with whom you want to dance, but does that person want to dance with you?

Landing the perfect candidate is as much sales as it is HR, especially since job candidates now have access to a virtually unlimited flow of online information about your company and its values. So how can you ensure that top job candidates choose you?                            

1. Build a Good Reputation

While you are checking references and running background checks to verify the reputation of the job candidate, remember that the savvy applicant is doing the same thing with your company.

Social media and the Web are full of sites like Glassdoor.com and eBossWatch.com where employees anonymously dish on the pros and cons of their companies and bosses. Employees can disclose salaries, how a company conducts job interviews, the company’s recreation activities, workplace photos and in some cases even talk about what the bathroom is like.

What’s your company’s reputation within its industry, with its customers and with past and present employees? How do outsiders view your culture and values? Have you seen the reviews? If so, how do you stack up against your competitors? If you haven’t seen the reviews, it may be time to take a look.

Make sure your company presents itself online as the kind of place where high-level performers want to land. Know the demographics of the employees you wish to attract and pay attention to whether your company appears to meet their needs.

Monitoring your company’s online reputation is a good idea even if you are not hiring because it exposes potential problems with products, customer service and workforce morale.

2. Keep Things Flexible

High-level performers today value flexibility and choice as much as salary and benefits. Give them more than the competition.

Provide flexibility in work assignments, schedules, teams and even benefit plans. Think about telecommuting, flexible work hours, paid time off banks and choices on task/project assignments. If you don’t, your competition will.

3. Determine the Value You Provide to Employees

Many companies have a value proposition for customers, but few have one for employees.

What does your company offer to its employees? Are your compensation packages competitive? Does your company offer opportunities for employees to gain new skills or take on interesting projects? Are there opportunities for employees to grow within the organization?

Managers are thinking of creative and cost-conscious perks they can offer to their employees that will help differentiate them from the competition.

Regardless of your size, the top valued benefit to employees continues to be health care. What comes next depends on what demographic your employee population represents.  Some employees feel strongly about flexible work schedules, work/family balance and the opportunity to telecommute. Others look for career growth opportunities, tuition reimbursement and the ability to travel. And there are those who seek out casual dress codes, a relaxed work environment and pizza Fridays.

4. Steady as She Goes

What’s the first question you asked when you interviewed for your first job? Chances are: “How stable is this company?”

Is the company growing? How long have most of your employees worked there? Have you promoted from within? Do you offer profit sharing? Have you downsized or imposed staffing or salary freezes? 

If your company has gone through tough times, as many companies have, find an honest and compelling way to communicate the manner in which you handled those situations with employees. Tell the public what you learned from revenue challenges.

Be candid about how the company is performing now, what the future goals are, and how you intend to reward the top candidates who play a significant role in helping the company achieve those goals.

5. Social Responsibility

Winston Churchill said that “responsibility is the price of greatness.”

More recently, Ford Motor Company Executive Chairman William Clay Ford Jr. commented: “Creating a strong business and building a better world are not conflicting goals – they are both essential ingredients for long-term success.”

The most talented job seekers, especially millennials, are keenly aware of matching their personal values to companies that share their commitment to social causes, the environment and the community. These potential employees are accustomed to acting on their beliefs - running in benefit 5Ks, building homes in the inner city, mentoring students - and want to work for a company that rewards those efforts.

How does your company give back? What is your social cause? Do your employees know about it and are they allowed to get involved?

Many companies link their social cause to their company mission. Technology and engineering companies, for example, often support initiatives to improve science and math education in the public schools. This is a great way to underscore your company brand and to differentiate yourself from competitors.

In the end, you don’t need to be a multi-billion dollar company to attract top talent. You just need to be an organization that is an attractive dance partner.

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Topics: Recruiting, Human Resources

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