The economy is doing great! The unemployment rate is at an all-time low. Things are awesome, right? Wrong.

If you have a business it's tough in this economy to attract good employees and keep them motivated. I've had my share of ups and downs. At this moment, I've got a company of stellar employees that think about our customers first. Was it always this way? No way.

There was a time we would hire employees just because they answered an ad or would keep employees because they did at least 70% of their jobs! Why does a company do that?

Desperation, desperation, desperation!

What happens then? You spend time and money attempting to train someone who ends up not understanding company values, or you have an employee dragging down his peers. As women we're known to be especially sensitive in relationships -- and if you wouldn't date someone you wouldn't be proud to introduce to your friends and family, why on Earth would you hire someone you wouldn't be proud to represent you and your brand to current and prospective customers?

Especially in this day and age, with user-generated reviews so prevalent, your own employees can really hurt your brand, not to mention the morale of other employees. The employer/employee relationship, like any valuable relationship, takes time and investment.

Stand tough! You need rock stars, not Milli Vanilli! Here are a few things I've learned after being stung.

To Attract You Need to Market

We market our company to prospective employees like we market our product. If your company wins awards, tout it. Talk about what you're proud of. People want to work for a winner. Our copy for job postings:

Who we Are: VerticalResponse, Inc is a leading provider of self-service email and direct mail solutions. We've been recognized as one of the top 100 best places to work in the bay area and top 100 fastest growing businesses in San Francisco (SF Biz Times) as well as one of the top 500 fastest growing businesses in the country (Inc.com)...

Our Culture: "Work hard, play hard" sounds so cliché but it's really the best way to describe VR. To say we're passionate about helping small businesses grow is an understatement and to say we take ourselves too seriously along the way is an overstatement. Our employees thrive on challenges and we celebrate our hard-won accomplishments with a weekly libation. You will usually see us, including our CEO, in our jeans and with our nose to the stone.

The Process -- Interviewing

  • Do panel interviews -- You'll feed off of other people's questions and learn more about your prospect.
  • Interview more than once -- We phone screen first. Then only after they pass do they come in for the panel. Time is too precious to waste.
  • Role Play -- We ask our prospective employees to demo our product. Put yourself in your customer's shoes and role play with a prospective employee. See how they hold up.

Retention -- The Hard Part

Once your new employees are in the door you need to keep them, remember, the economy is good.

  • Recognition -- When something is done well, ANYONE loves being recognized for hard work. We don't miss a beat here.
  • Listen -- I take a group of employees (not my direct reports) out to lunch once a month to get the pulse of the company and their feedback. It's where they spend a good chunk of their day so they need to be heard.
  • Money -- I don't mean to give extra money to someone who does his job -- you already pay him for that. But if someone goes way above and beyond to call of duty, tell him you're giving him money and tell him why. You want to reward great behavior.
  • Benefits -- I had to buy an inhaler the other day outside of insurance and instead of $20 it was $177. Medical is huge and costs about a few hundred a month for a full-time employee.
  • Hiring the Right People -- Your great employees know RIGHT AWAY when someone isn't working out, probably more quickly than you do. If you keep employees on that aren't up to snuff, you'll send a message -- a message that says you regard them the same as your great employees. Keep within the law and do what's right.

All in all, it's a process that you need to constantly evolve and never take for granted. Too many companies in the early stage (including ours) do -- and lose time over it. Don't be one of them.