In the News

Four ways for small businesses to attract, retain top talent

In today’s world of record-low unemployment, small businesses are feeling the squeeze. Attracting and retaining top employees in this climate is a difficult task, and as any good small business knows, hiring the right talent is crucial to business growth.

The unemployment rate in Iowa has hovered around 2.5% for the last year or so — right about full employment. So how do you, as a small business owner, overcome the hiring challenges? Here are four ways to attract and retain top employees without having the biggest salary offer.    

Purpose and meaning

Top employees typically aren’t in it for the money. And if they were, they would be hard to retain for a small business anyway. Most of the time, they are looking for a deeper purpose or meaning to their work. While you want to at least match the going pay rate for the position you are trying to fill, you can boost your chances by providing a purpose to your business. This is particularly true for young people, who strive to affect change in all facets of their life. 

First, start by creating a mission and vision statement. Not only will these help guide your company, they will also give your prospective employees an opportunity to learn more about your business. Then, put policies and opportunities in place that cater to a purpose-driven employee, like paid volunteer time off, donation matching (even if it’s a small amount) or connections to community engagement events. 

Remember, any sense of purpose and meaning must start at the top. Here’s a snippet from Toby Nwazor, CEO of the Millionaire Writers Agency.

“The desire for meaning and quest for purpose comes with a dose of energy that must be tamed, channeled to productive purpose-embedded tasks and followed through on,” he writes. “If young talent is going to stay with your business, they want to see that you can provide leadership while they get the job done.”

Flexible work hours and arrangements

Flexible work arrangements are becoming more and more prevalent in the modern workplace, especially among bigger companies. There’s a reason why: Today’s employees value flexibility, whether that be flex hours, flex days and/or remote work.

These benefits are attractive to all potential employees, and they don’t cost a thing beside a change in mindset and workflow. There are numerous benefits for the business as well. Some studies have shown that remote work actually contributes to more productivity and less burnout. A 2017 Gallup study found that 51% of employees said they would change jobs for one that offered them flextime.

Translation: Flexible work arrangements lead to happier and longer-tenure employees.

Growth opportunities

Nobody wants to be stuck at a dead-end job. A 2016 Gallup poll found that 87% of millennials feel that career growth opportunities are important in a job. While small businesses often have short corporate ladders and limited funding for higher salaries, they do have the flexibility to allow an employee to blaze their own path.

For self-starters, this could be even more attractive than the typical corporate ladder. Their careers will grow organically to find work they love to do. Leverage this advantage when interviewing prospective employees. It could be the benefit that entices them to join your business. 

Create a culture

We know this is much easier said than done, and there isn’t a one-size-fits-all solution. The average American worker spends most of their days at work, and having a toxic work culture will lead to lower productivity and morale.

Culture is technically intangible, but it’s easily detectable by a prospective employee. Organically building your culture by rewarding employees, being flexible and avoiding micromanaging will go a long way toward hiring the right fit. 

3 ways you can become a better leader and mentor

Part of owning a business is providing crucial leadership and mentorship for your team. Mentorship is essential for the development of your employees and, in turn, the growth of your business. It also contributes to employee retention and attraction, a key benefit in today’s climate of record low unemployment. 

Mentorship comes naturally for some people, but that’s not the case for everyone. It’s a learned skill that can make you stand out as a leader and business owner. A mentor-mentee relationship is also one that develops organically. It’s not one you can force.

If you do find yourself in a position to be a mentor, here are three tips to keep in mind.

Always be listening

As a mentor, it’s not your job to solve problems for your mentee. Your role is to guide them toward a solution while letting them solve it on their own. It’s a tricky task, but it starts with being a good listener. Listening to your mentee’s problem will help you determine next steps.

While your mentee vents or talks their way through a problem, just lending your ear and advice can make a world of difference. The power of listening is an important tool. Some of the best and most highly regarded mentors spend much more time listening than they do speaking.

Honest feedback

Your mentee will never improve if they don’t know what they’re doing right or wrong. Your feedback is invaluable to their development, and you don’t want to sugarcoat it. Give them an honest assessment of their work, good or bad. Celebrate the good, and help your mentee learn from the bad.

There’s a point where criticism can go too far. So always treat every situation with a constructive mindset — “How can we improve from here?”

Leaders in some of the biggest companies said their mentors were people who shared some of the harshest feedback. But it was provided in a constructive way, and it ultimately helped them improve and set expectations high.

Drive inspiration

Inspiration can come from sources big and small, but it’s a crucial piece of what motivates your mentee to be their best self. Send a note when they accomplish something notable. Forward along an article you’ve read that’s relevant for your mentee. Help push them out of their comfort zone so they can achieve more than they thought.

If you did things right, you’ll see your mentee grow before your eyes and perhaps become a mentor themselves. They’ll become stronger, more motivated, more confident and more thoughtful — the ultimate goal for any mentor.