The 7 secrets of attracting and keeping top talent

By James S. Cassel

james-cassel-headshot-150x150While it is great that unemployment is trending toward full employment, it is not so great that finding new and qualified employees will become even more challenging. In markets like South Florida where access to talent is already limited, this will only make a difficult situation worse.

As the presidential candidates continue to talk about creating millions of new jobs, a glaring unanswered question remains: from where will the qualified talent come to fill these jobs?

The latest data from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics show the U.S. unemployment rate at 4.9 percent in February, unchanged from the January rate and steadily remaining at its lowest level since April 2008. By definition, full employment is when unemployment is at 3 percent for persons 20 years of age and older and 4 percent for persons 16 years of age and older.

Creating new jobs with higher income opportunities will motivate people to move from one job to another, leaving vacant job positions in their wake and a void of skilled talent to fill them. As it is, under the current administration, companies are having a difficult time finding qualified talent for current vacancies. How do you find the right people to fill open positions?

While there is no purple pill, the key is to keep an open mind and embrace innovative tactics. Following is some general guidance based on our experience working with middle-market businesses through all types of economic and employment cycles:

1. Hire and train young people. One of the main concerns with hiring young folks is they will leave after you have trained them. To avoid this, provide the necessary growth opportunity along with compensation, benefits and work environment that will help motivate them to stay loyal and help you build your organization. Make them feel like part of the family. This may require moving beyond your comfort zone to accommodate employees’ preferences. Depending on your industry, this may include letting employees have flexible schedules, wear casual attire, or even throw darts or play video games in the office. Develop a pipeline and a bench.

2. Strategically recruit employees from competitors or other companies. Use various online sites (Indeed, CareerBuilder, LinkedIn, etc.) to post positions and search for candidates. Post them on your own website, too, as part of a robust “Careers” page that positions your company as an employer of choice interested in quality talent. Stay abreast of the latest and growing number of sites used for specific industries such as tech and healthcare. You might also consider traditional employment or search firms such as Steven Douglas Associates or CAREERXCHANGE, both of which are local and specialize in certain job types and levels.

3. Lure back people who have left the workforce. Consider people who are underemployed, working part-time, and who would prefer to work full-time. Also, consider folks older than 50 who have strong experience and may have many years of work left in them.

4. Offer flexible solutions to attract people and enable them to work for you. For example, there are companies dedicated to finding part-time or home- based employment for stay-at-home caregivers with excellent educational backgrounds and experience who could be strong assets to organizations.

5. Rely on referrals. Reach out to your base of employees and offer a bounty for those who refer new hires. Consult with key clients and industry partners, as well.

6. Use marketing and social media to promote your company as a good place to work. Pursue “best place to work” awards. This visibility is very positive and a great way to attract potential hires and retain great talent.

7. Consider nontraditional arrangements like job-splitting, which can be successful if done right. Here is how it works: Two people get together and split a job, and rather than getting 50 plus 50, you may get 60 plus 60 because both people end up having to overlap to communicate.

Whatever steps you decide to take, it will be important to implement a solid plan so that you can operate from an offensive rather than a defensive position. Consult experts who can help you identify the right strategies and tactics to meet your unique needs. It is sad to have your company’s growth limited by a lack of available talent. Developing the right plan now can help ensure that you take the right steps and position your business for maximum success.

James Cassel is co-founder and chairman of Cassel Salpeter & Co., LLC, an investment-banking firm with headquarters in Miami that works with middle-market companies. He may be reached via email at or via LinkedIn at His website

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