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Need Great People? Try This Underrated Recruiting Tool

Forget cold, hard piles of cash. To lure the best candidates, try simply making their lives easier.
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Recruiting and retaining the best talent is a difficult imperative. You don't have the funds to outbid big competitors but still want to attract people who can help your business.

As the headline telegraphs, health insurance can become a great recruitment tool, but before getting into that, let's review a common misconception about compensation. Entrepreneurs and executives often assume that the way to provide incentive to employees is by proffering cold piles of cash. Let people wade through a tidal pool of banknotes and they'll be willing to do anything for you.

Not so fast.

Money Isn't Everything

Oh, there are some types of occupations--sales comes immediately to mind--that typically attract the money-motivated. But even there, higher compensation isn't necessarily the answer to everyone's needs.

People are motivated by, and make decisions based on, emotion. It's why marketing works. You hit the proper chord and show how a product can actually help satisfy some need and people who are receptive decide to do business with you.

Time for a reality check from your own experience. Look around. People largely are disenchanted with businesses. Companies demand the best from employees but all too often are ready to drop them at a moment's notice when it's convenient. Maybe someone has fallen into a rut, or outsourcing a job is cheaper. Out come the pink slips and there go the now-former workers.

What do people want? Maybe some loyalty. Some security. A sense that management might actually give a damn about the people who make the business run day in and out. That brings us to health insurance.

Offer What People Want

A quickly developing trend is that many employers are likely to stop offering insurance to employees. They get to save money and the workers can go to one of the health insurance exchanges to get coverage. Of course, now the worker isn't part of a group plan that has typically offered better rates because of high participation rates that the employer can use to negotiate down costs. And unless the employers increase pay to cover the expense of insurance, the net will be a significant income drop for the employees. Plus, now each employee has to do the research and paperwork that once the employer too care of.

You can't compare the situation to Canada and Europe. Those regions have single-payer universal coverage through government that doesn't leave people trying to piece together an action plan.

So combine some annoyance and cost (much of which you'd have to spend on salaries anyway) with a big emotional hook. Or you could try another security angle, like beefing up retirement benefits. Millennials save for retirement much earlier than Gen-X or Boomers. If they're that concerned--and it shows some basic financial intelligence and realism--then you may be a step ahead of competitors if you help them directly address the issue.

You want a lot from employees. Take the time to find out what they really want in return. It might be highly flexible hours, education support, even parking. Get them what they need so they can give you what you want. That's smart recruitment.

IMAGE: Ken Teegardin
Last updated: May 27, 2014

ERIK SHERMAN | Columnist

Erik Sherman's work has appeared in such publications as The Wall Street Journal, The New York Times Magazine, and Fortune. He also blogs for CBS MoneyWatch.

The opinions expressed here by Inc.com columnists are their own, not those of Inc.com.



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