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    4 Strategies for Finding and Keeping Talent for Your Small Business

    Posted by Sylvia Lagerquist, CPA

    4 Strategies for Finding and Keeping Talent for Your Small Business

    Small business owners face many challenges as they grow their companies, from operations and finance to marketing and sales. One of the greatest challenges to scaling a small business, however, is talent.

    A small business has two imperatives in order to achieve scalable growth. The first is to find and secure a strong bench of professional staff capable of supervising and executing in each of the key areas of the business. And the second is to be able to use a solid platform of training, procedures and processes to allow that team of professionals to operate the business successfully, even when the founder/owner is not present.

    There are a few reasons why building a team capable of achieving this goal is such a difficult mountain for many entrepreneurs to climb. For some, it may be due to the fact that the founder runs the business intuitively, and is not even sure how to describe his or her decisions and processes to someone else because they are almost second nature.

    For others, the challenge to building this team is lack of time and money set aside for training and the development of workable procedures. And for still others, it’s personal — they have become too attached to the work of the company, and are not comfortable watching someone else perform ‘their’ work to satisfaction, even though achieving this is, ultimately, in the owner’s best interests.

    Putting all of these issues aside, there is another major reason that the battle for talent is uniquely challenging for a small business owner. And that its simply that the cost of sourcing, acquiring and keeping high-quality personnel is very high, and the time and money available to make this possible in a small business is very low. When you’re competing against major corporations, government agencies, venture-funded startups and other cash-flush competitors, finding and keeping talent can be an overwhelming challenge for a small business owner.

    Here are four strategies you can use to find and keep the talent you need to grow:

    1. Try before you buy.

    Using a temporary agency or staffing firm to help you recruit and secure talent can be a critical strategy for small businesses who have to secure high-quality personnel. The dilemma for small business owners is that, typically, each hire is high-profile and high-risk. If a hire turns out to go south, you don’t have any ‘wiggle room’ to overcome the setbacks that may develop.

    Using a firm gives you access to a wider pool of candidates, and allows you to bring a person in and develop a sense of how well they fit (and how well your business fits for them), before either party agrees to move forward. It also gives you a stronger pipeline for replacing a person if someone doesn’t work out, because the agency or firm will already be prepped about your needs and has already sourced potential employees.

    2. Strategically source alternative candidates.

    In addition to working with a staffing agency or temp firm, consider targeting candidates who would be attracted to a small business or who could work with your company in a flexible manner. For example, there is a growing focus on career development for women who return to the workforce after having a family, as demonstrated by services like Apres Group, a new community intended to be a “LinkedIn for women who have taken a career break”.

    If you operate in a region that is home to a military installation, consider recruiting the civilian spouses who often arrive in an area looking for work. There are even specialized staffing companies, such as FlexProfessionals, that focus on providing highly educated fractional talent to small businesses. This can be particularly helpful if you need a highly educated or deeply experienced person, but may not be able to afford that talent on a full-time basis.

    3. Build your talent pipeline.

    In addition to finding immediate talent and recruiting high-end professionals, you also need to build your grassroots team and strengthen your entry-level bench. There is no better way to do this than to get involved with your local colleges and universities. One under-tapped resource to consider is community colleges, who are eager to see their students transition successfully either to four-year institutions, or to viable career pathways in the workplace.

    Remember also that most community college degrees are focused on giving students two years of highly technical or focused education — often the equivalent of what a four-year student would learn in the second two years when they focus on their major. A student with an associate’s degree in drafting may be just as capable of doing the job for your business as a candidate with a four-year degree in engineering design — and at a lower cost. In addition, candidates who enter the workforce while still desiring to further their education give you the opportunity to create loyalty as they achieve their goals in partnership with their employer.

    4. Use the PEO model to provide first-class benefits.

    If you haven’t heard of PEOs before, you should take the time to become informed. A PEO is a Professional Employer Organization, and essentially what they do is provide you with an outsourced human resources department, payroll manager and benefits package all in one. They do this by becoming the legal employer of you and your employees, under contract. You remain responsible for hiring, managing and firing — but they provide access to corporate-level benefits, discounted services and wrap-around resources to help keep you compliant and operating smoothly.

    There is a cost to the PEO model, and it comes with additional benefits – and risks – worth considering (for details, see our article “Should You Consider a PEO for Your Small Business?”. However, in many cases they allow you to compete for talent regionally and nationally in ways that you just couldn’t do on your own.

    The four strategies can provide your small business with a solid foundation for talent development and success. No matter what you elect, talent strategy is demanding and requires constant attention. But it’s worth the effort, because your talent is the future of your business.

    Use these strategies to get started on the path to finding and keeping the right talent to build your business today.

    Image Credit: smann (Flickr @ Creative Commons)

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