The competition for employees has become fierce. The economy has not only a gap in skills, but also a gap in the number of people available to fill existing jobs. With unemployment at all-time lows, having a foosball table in the break room isn’t going to put your firm over the top with the best candidates. Candidates can be pickier as they search for the right job in the right company. Money is great, but in this environment, people are looking for more than that. How can you determine what matters most to the candidates you’re after? And once you get the talent, how can you make sure they’re happy and engaged?

Eleanor Estes has a front row seat to the competition for the strongest candidates. Estes is the CEO of TPI, Inc., one of the top IT and engineering recruiting firms in the country. She has seen firsthand the critical mistakes companies make as they attempt to attract candidates with the skills they need. Estes is a member of The Rotary Club of Birmingham, Alabama, the Women Business Enterprise National Coalition (WBENC), and the US Women’s Chamber of Commerce. She is a member of The Tiffany Circle of the American Red Cross, where she was also a member of the Board of Directors of the Alabama Region. Estes is also a member of the Board of Directors for Maranathan Academy.

Here is Estes’ advice on how you can offer what your dream applicants desire:

1. Recognition

Do your employees really feel valued? Are you sure? “It’s not rocket science…people want to be recognized for doing a good job,” Estes smiles. “From the entry-level call center employee to upper management, people will work harder and be more engaged if their employer values their contributions and recognizes them,” Estes says. She goes on, “If you incentivize people to work for you because they want to, not just because they have to, the entire work environment changes. When employees feel valued, collaborations take place, people are more engaged and your employee becomes a team member who is invested in the product.”

As ever, the devil is in the details. Estes warns, “This concept needs to be apparent in all levels of management, as most employees are unhappy or leave their job not because of the leadership of the CEO, but because of the relationship with their direct manager.” You need a system to ensure recognition throughout the company.

2. Flexibility

The world continues to become more complicated and demanding, and in this environment, people value flexibility in the workplace. “71% of people that register as highly engaged and thriving employees say that they have flexibility in the workplace,” Estes says. She adds, “Flexibility can be categorized as where work is being done, the hours that are ‘work hours,’ and responsibilities in the work place. We see managers moving away from tracking hours and towards tracking achievement, and people feel more valued. Which we’ve already said is important!” In her experience, “When flexibility is introduced, morale, commitment, and willingness to work increase and stress decreases,” Estes says. If you need ideas for implementation, Estes suggests telecommuting as a place to start.

3. Culture

Culture is key, but it’s not easy. “Company culture is the brand - the personality of your company. It is the sum of many parts, including your mission, values, goals, and work environment,”Estes explains. It’s also a critical aspect of staying competitive to attract top talent. “Employees want to work for companies with a great culture that they can be a part of. Something that aligns with their values…We spend a significant part of our lives at our jobs, and the effort by companies to make it an engaging and meaningful place to be is on the rise,” she says.

Estes’ experience bears this out. She says, “Culture and values rank almost as high as salary when it comes to job satisfaction. What is your company culture? Is it clearly defined and something you are making an effort to maintain? Is it a priority?” It starts at the top. “As a leader in your organization, you set the culture - you establish the norms, and your example should trickle down throughout the company. Your company is a place that is made up of many different people. And if you are doing it right, the people you hire will enhance your company so that the whole will be greater than the sum of its parts,” Estes asserts.

4. Path for Growth and Continued Education

People are attracted to companies that show a clear path for advancement. “People are ok with coming in at an entry level, but what is the long-term career path? Is it clearly defined? Will they have an opportunity to advance? Is there a management structure in place that is clearly communicating the growth and goals of the company?” Estes asks. And it doesn’t stop there. “Along with paths for growth, competitive companies are offering skill training, continuing education, and enrichment to their employees to keep skills current in this constantly evolving world of technology that we live in. People appreciate the interest and investment in them,” Estes says.

Estes encourages companies to think outside the box for these options. She shares, “Another impactful action I see being implemented is many companies now offer mentorship programs. What an incredible way to learn, for the mentor and the mentee. People are looking for this and people care about it.” All else being equal, this kind of opportunity could put your company on top.

5. Giving Back

Estes alludes to the days of Upton Sinclair’s The Jungle, when the big companies of the Industrial Age thought of nothing beyond profit. “Well, times have changed,” Estes says, adding, “Many companies now commit to supporting charitable organizations as a part of their mission statement,”Estes says. “According to a 2016 study, 64% of Millennials take into consideration a company’s corporate social responsibility when deciding on where to work. People are now looking to their companies to provide them opportunities to make an impact, and they expect the companies to be making an impact too,” Estes explains.

The plans Estes has seen range from simple, with offering employees paid volunteer hours they can use to take part in a project of their choice, to more elaborate, with company-wide volunteer days. No matter the structure, Estes says it can be a critical component to attracting talent and building culture. “Have you thought about this in your company? It can be implemented on a large or small scale, and can range from donating a portion of your profits to charity to physically volunteering together,” she says. Community impact can make a hiring impact!

On Fridays, Kevin explores industry trends, professional development, best practices, and other leadership topics with CEOs from around the world.