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How to attract and keep talented employees



For many business owners, finding high-quality employees is a serious concern right now.

According to the Canadian Federation of Independent Business (CFIB), 55% of small businesses can’t get the staff they need for current operations. Unfortunately, popular strategies to attract and keep good employees are often too expensive for most small businesses – like a pay raise, pension plan, or comprehensive benefit package.

It’s important to remember that financial compensation may not be the only thing employees look for in a job. They may value other things you can offer, such as a relaxed work atmosphere, supportive company culture, additional vacation time, flexible working conditions, and a customizable benefit program. Also, some employees may simply be attracted to your business mission and potential.

Take a closer look at what employees want to learn how to hire and keep great people.

Employees want flexible work arrangements

Depending on the nature of your business, consider offering a flexible work option that accommodates the needs and schedules of different employees. For example, if your business operates employee shifts, you may have an easier time filling those challenging evening and weekend schedules by cutting shifts down from eight to four hours.  

For office jobs, nothing is more rigid than a nine-to-five work day. Offer employees some schedule flexibility to accommodate a long commute or family commitments – for example, a parent who needs to log off by 4 pm to pick up their kids.

While remote work is very common these days, you may find that some employees actually want to go to the office for a few days each week. Consider offering a hybrid model that splits time between home and office.

Employees want opportunities to learn and move up

One of the most common characteristics of motivated employees is their focus on professional growth and opportunities for advancement. Investing in employee skills development benefits everyone: You’ll get a better trained worker and your employee gains additional job skills. Consider:

  • Skills training – it doesn’t cost a lot of money to deliver a skills training program.
  • Management training – make a plan to get your best people ready for leadership roles.
  • Promoting from within – look first to your existing employees whenever a supervisory or management role opens up.

Not all small businesses can accommodate careers, but a business can give their employees opportunities to add to their resumes, like leading a special project or attending an industry conference.

Employees value a good benefit program

Benefit packages are usually provided in a one-size-fits-all template, but there’s no reason why they can’t be tailored. What appeals to one employee may not appeal to another.

Consider giving employees a benefits program budget and the flexibility to choose what they want. Examples of popular benefits include:

  • Paid time off, like sick days and vacation days
  • Health insurance (medications, physiotherapy, upgraded hospital care)
  • Dental insurance
  • Vision care
  • Fitness club membership
  • Childcare benefits
  • Home office improvements for remote workers
  • Travel allowance
  • Sign-on bonus

Employees want a cool place to work

What’s it like to work for your business – is it fun, challenging, and exciting? Do co-workers support each other and hang out together? If your workplace is tense and boring, no one will want to work there. 

Ask your existing employees for ideas to improve workplace culture and visit other workplaces for inspiration. You may hear ideas like themed Fridays, staff outings, or adding a nap room.

To help improve workplace culture, pay attention to your computer equipment. Making employees use 10-year-old laptops with outdated software, and slow internet connections won’t help a business to attract top talent. Investing in the latest office tech will make your employees more efficient while demonstrating your commitment to staying competitive.

Try recruiting before you need to hire

The hiring process can be challenging – especially if you’re short of workers right now.

Here are some free and low-cost methods for attracting qualified candidates:

Invite existing employees to refer potential hires from their social networks – and let them know you’ll reward then with a bonus if their candidate is selected.

Let your network know you’re looking for help. Put the word out to your business networks, industry organizations, social media contacts, and LinkedIn groups.

Search for candidates in your area by trying out LinkedIn Recruiter.

Post your ad to online job sites like Indeed, Monster, Workopolis, or Simply Hired. And don’t overlook free options like Craigslist and Facebook.

Collect applications and review them based on the qualifications and experience you seek in a candidate. Be sure to keep any applications that interest you but don’t quite match your expectations for the available position — you may want to re-visit those applications later when other positions open up.

If you usually have to scramble to bring on a new employee, consider beginning the recruitment process well before you need to hire. That way, you’ll be less rushed in making a choice and will have a better opportunity to hire a talented individual who's a great fit for your company.

Allow an even longer timeline if you’re looking to build a management team so you can search for the absolute best leaders to help steer your business.

Final advice and recruiting tips

One of the most attractive features of working for a small, dynamic business like yours is the opportunity it presents for the job candidate to see the results of their contributions, get involved in discussions, and feel like part of something special. Talk about those advantages when hiring an employee and watch their eyes light up. 

A few final tips:

Update the job description for each position you’re trying to fill and list the reasons someone should want to work for your business.

Be sure to offer existing employees the same perks you’re offering new recruits.

Assign a mentor to each new employee to help them learn how your business operates.

Set up a line of credit to support payroll and cash flow needs by speaking with a Meridian Business Advisor.

Learn more about managing your business

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Should you outsource payroll?

How to increase cash flow with financing

Meridian Credit Union communications are intended for informational purposes only and do not constitute financial advice or an opinion on any issue. We would be pleased to provide additional details or advice about specific situations if desired.

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