How to Attract Top Talent to Your Company Without Breaking the Bank

Incentives and creative leadership are keys to retaining best of the best

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Many small business owners find themselves at a loss when faced with the dilemma of attracting exceptional talent on a tight budget. Undercapitalized and understaffed, the talent-money paradox can seem insurmountable: Putting the right people in the right positions is essential to successfully moving your business agenda forward, but what if it’s not affordable?

This is one of the most difficult—and most important—challenges that business owners must navigate. But it’s possible. And in this economy, there’s no question that there is talent out there. How do you attract it? Below are several tips to help you find a way—perhaps a different way than you might have traditionally chosen:

Pinpoint talent in out-of-the-box ways: Try hiring a retired CEO or CFO for a few days a week. Some retirees are willing, even excited, to commit to a few days of work. Or consider hiring a top consultant to work ten hours vs. paying for a full week of less-skilled work from “Jim.” Another nontraditional route to consider is finding a fiery intern with enough energy, determination and drive to make up for it. If this is something you’re considering, the next tip is especially for you:

Increase your expectations, and be clear about them when interviewing: Commit today to only hire the kind of talent that knocks it out of the ballpark. You’re looking for a home run here—nothing less. Your expectations must be made clear in the interview process. Take your time with it—stretch it out. Do your due diligence. Consider hiring an outside party to review and interview for you.

Offer soft or tailored incentives: A small business doesn’t have to offer a one-size-fits-all solution to meet the needs of each person who walks through the door, with their varying familial, cultural and social needs. Fortunately, today’s technologies make remote work situations possible and even preferable. And beyond flex time are a plethora of creative incentives to offer: health insurance, childcare, a meditation room, breastfeeding/pumping space, a long lunch break for those who need to check on young children, gym memberships, a rejuvenating office environment, gas cards, inspirational guest speakers, anything.

Get creative with your current talent: Review your talent pool and consider the strengths and weaknesses of each individual. Can you offer an employee incentives, besides money, for an increase or change in their responsibilities? Can you shift someone into a position that’s more suitable to his or her skill set, experience, or temperament?

The other option is to provide someone who has that “spark” with training and grooming to move them upward. Send them to workshops and meetings, offer more responsibility, expect more—even help them get that degree. Get creative and have fun with this.

Take your leadership to the next level: It’s up to you, as a leader, to lead. That means finding the talent and learning to inspire, motivate and delegate—and let go. Attracting and maintaining the right people is absolutely, undeniably, essential in running a successful business and taking it to the next level—an obvious but often minimized truth. It requires strategic thinking, an open mind, and sound leadership. And that’s where you come in.  Happy Hiring!

Marjorie Perry is president and CEO of Newark, N.J.-based MZM Construction & Management Co. She has earned numerous honors, including being named one of the Top 25 Entrepreneurs in New Jersey and the SBA’s New Jersey Businessperson of the Year. She is also a member of the New Jersey Economic Development Authority. Under Perry’s leadership, MZM Construction has had 19 years of profitable performance, working on projects including the New Jersey Performing Arts Center and Meadowlands Giants & Jets Sports Arena.

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