The unemployment rate in the United States is at 3.9%. It’s the lowest rate in years, and companies are feeling the squeeze. Some employers are going all out to woo workers, even offering college counseling service for the children of employees. High employment makes it difficult to attract and retain the very best employees, particularly in the SMB world. For many entrepreneurs and owners, it’s simply not in the cards to offer industry-leading salaries or tuition repayment assistance.
The current labor market is a reminder that employees are really customers. Just because they’re internal doesn’t necessarily make them any less worthy of your best effort. Plus, if your internal customers aren’t happy, there’s a good chance your external customers won’t be, either. Fortunately, Millennials are not solely motivated by dollars, and will look to other elements to determine where they want to work.
If your company can’t compete on expensive perks, no need to fear. You just need to find another way of distinguishing yourself from the rest of the labor market. Here are ways you can offer a unique value proposition that will help attract and retain the very best candidates:
1. Rewards and Acknowledgement
Most people like a little congratulations when they do something great. At work, be sure to give credit - publicly - to others when they achieve something big. After all, their accomplishments make you look good, too. Come up with a creative way of tracking individual and team achievement, and make it a quick, fun celebration everyone can take part in. It doesn’t have to be elaborate. One of my clients has a bell in the office that employees ring at particular sales milestones.
2. A Prominent Culture by Design
This is a critical element of attracting younger generations to your company.
Ensuring a strong culture can be costly in time, and maybe in money, but it’s an investment that will pay more than its share of returns. Culture is what gets good employees in the door and keeps them coming back.
3. Development Programming
When considering whether to take a job, younger people consider a company’s “resume” just as much as the company considers the applicant’s. Millennials want to know what they will get out of their time, and how it will help them grow professionally and personally. Your company may not have the money for elaborate offerings, but there are still ways to be competitive on this front. Create a robust mentoring system. Invite colleagues from other companies to appear as guest speakers. Consider sending employees to local community colleges for training in particular areas. It doesn’t have to cost a lot to be effective.
It sounds oddly simple, but it’s true: employees feel better and perform better when there is good light in their office. In fact, Harvard Business Review recently found that access to natural light was the #1 attribute of the workplace. So find ways to increase the good light in your office. Maximize the number of people who face a window. Change the type of light bulbs you use - warm white instead of fluorescents - and if you can, use a lensed, indirect lighting system. Take a meeting outside, or host a weekly walk. Candidates will immediately notice the difference when they step into your bright, happy office.
5. Flexibility Through Technology
Technology is a great connector, but many employers are afraid to use it for remote work. They fear a lack of supervision will lead to decreased productivity, or they believe they need people in the office environment to promote the right culture. But if you genuinely fear your employees will take advantage of the ability to work from home, then you already have the wrong culture and the wrong employees. Give your employees flexibility in this area will make them feel trusted, and can help lessen the impact of the less-than-peak salary you have to offer.
The importance of this really cannot be overstated. Work can be a drag, and sometimes the mood can get dour. You need an environment where people are relaxed and happy, and able to perform at their peak. Have a monthly BYO picnic lunch in the office. Host an afternoon ice cream social. Have your office join a local softball league. Additionally, make sure you use humor in your marketing, both internal and external. It will help keep them engaged and make the message stick better.