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In a booming economy with the lowest unemployment figures in years, businesses of all sizes must devise innovative ways to attract and retain the best and brightest employees

career-development and retention consultant in Danbury, Connecticut.

Financial rewards are always appreciated but try finding different and creative ways to acknowledge your employees’ hard work. Says Urell, “If somebody needs to go to a [child’s] soccer game, or maybe if you have a core of work hours and some people like to work later and some people like to work earlier, let them. When you talk to veteran employees, the reason they give is, ‘I know I’ll never get this flexibility elsewhere.'”

Employers must learn to be family-sensitive, says Rae Pearson, president of Alpha Rae Personnel Inc., an executive staffing and human resources consulting firm in Fort Wayne, Indiana. Pearson often allows her workers to telecommute or bring their kids to the office. “I think it’s important to look at the work environment as a place where the family can come,” she says. “What does the employee do if it’s a national holiday and the day care facility is closed? Can she bring her child on the job?”

Given the scarcity of, and competition for, skilled workers, where do you find top-notch employees these days? You can start by offering referral bonuses to your existing staff. (See “The Price is Right,” Powerplay, December 1999.) You can attend job fairs or consult association databases, placement agencies and even your local unemployment office. Hiring college interns and giving them a trial run before other organiza
tions latch onto them is another alternative.

Since the Internet gives you instant access to the global marketplace, your company’s Website can be a great vehicle for advertising job openings. The disadvantage is that you’re likely to be overwhelmed by résumés which don’t meet the qualifications. “Another downside is that sometimes the very person for the job isn’t looking,” Branch notes. “They’re not out there floating resumes; they’re not checking the job boards. They’re happy doing what they’re doing. Those are the people that you really want, most of the time.”

One of the most effective recruitment tools is a positive company image. Remember that philanthropy and community involvement go a long way toward enticing the brightest and best. Build a reputation as a successful, fair-minded organization that encourages workers to grow both personally and professionally.

Charlie Johnson, president of Active Transportation, a $300 million truck transport service company in Louisville, Kentucky, believes that the No. 1 thing employees are looking for is job stability. “They’re concerned about the welfare of the company,” says Johnson, the owner of one of the largest black-owned businesses in America (Active Transportation ranked No. 4 on the 2000 BE Industrial/Service 100 list). “A lot of people have been gun-shy because of downsizing over the past 10 or 15 years. They like to know that a company is stable and profitable and well-managed. Twenty years ago, people weren’t worried about those things because usually when you signed on with a job, you signed on for life unless you seriously messed up. You’ve got to have a good, stable company when the job market is tight and

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