Entrepreneurs call me and say "It's hard to find good people!" This has been going on for 20 years. No matter what's happening in the economy, the complaint is always "Where are the good people?"

Entrepreneurs have a huge hiring advantage that most of them don't use. They aren't competing with big employers, but they say "I can't pay the salaries big companies pay. We don't have the rich benefits plans." They lose sight of the massive hiring advantages they DO have, to focus on the ones they don't.

Even big companies don't have the benefits programs they had historically. We tell our job-seeking clients that if they tempt fate by taking a job for the benefits, the universe will respond by slashing those benefit plans within six months at the outside. It's never, ever a good idea to take a job for the benefits, which stay in place or disappear at the whim of someone you'll never meet.

It makes no sense for employers to provide their team members' health care in the first place. If you trudged through HR school in the form of 10 million workshops and seminars during the 1980s and 90s like I did, you'd know that employers only started covering their employees' health care as a way to recruit and keep people when their assembly lines needed the labor after WWII. No other industrialized country has employers paying for health care.

As an HR leader for decades, it always creeped me out to have to have people's medical files in my office and to have to intervene when our insurance company was stonewalling on an employee's claim. That uncomfortable work/life intervention is not an appropriate thing for an HR person to have to do or for a working person to have to request of their HR colleague.

Medical details are private, and I look forward to the day when employment and healthcare have zip-all to do with one another. That being said, full-time workers in the U.S. are used to getting healthcare benefits, so if you want to compete with other employers (large and small) you either have to provide decent coverage or pay a bonus that compensates for the lack of health benefits.

That's okay. You can surmount that obstacle without much trouble for the right person, the one who'll move your results way past whatever goals you've set. The right person will be charged up about and turned on by something in your business itself, not the health plan.

The person you want on your team isn't comparing you to big companies, anyway. They want to make their mark somewhere. They like what you're doing. Your opportunity is a million times more appealing than a job at the equivalent pay grade in a multinational cube farm.

If you're trying to close new hires and running into the sales objection "But MegaSoft down the road offered me an extra six thousand dollars" you're not fishing in the right talent pool. The people you want on your team are going to like the small-company perks you can offer, like these:

  • Flexible work hours and location
  • Little to no dress code
  • Latitude to get the job done in the best way, not according to a policy
  • Freedom to collaborate with you and others on their job description and priorities
  • Visibility into the organization's strategy, opportunities and challenges
  • Access to the top dog in the organization--that's you!

You're going to write a job description that doesn't sound like the typical zombie list of requirements, straight out of the Godzilla playbook. You're going to write a friendly, conversational job ad and share it with your employees, vendors and customers to start. Share it with  your network.

Instead of an application portal, the last thing you'd ever want to copy from our corporate brethren and sistren, ask interested job-seekers to write to you directly with a pithy 250-word statement about why your small-company opportunity appeals to them. You're going to snag the best people for your growing organization by keeping your hiring process as human as the conversation we're having right now.

Published on: Jul 24, 2014