How to find and retain talent in a tight labor market? Flex your creative muscles

By James Cassel

In the past, when my colleagues lamented over their hiring difficulties, I asserted that there was plenty of talent available in the area — and regardless, South Florida would always be able to attract qualified employees. Having now experienced first-hand hiring challenges as our own firm grows, I believe I was wrong.

With unemployment around 4%, the talent pool appears to be running dry. The just-released 2018 Greater Miami Chamber of Commerce Executive Survey indicates that the top concern among area executives is finding and retaining qualified employees. Nationally, according to Aptitude Research Partners, three in four hiring decision-makers say that, “ finding quality candidates is their #1 challenge.” To grow, despite this difficulty, companies must aggressively recruit.

First, announce on a range of channels that you’re hiring. Post available positions on all top job sites, including Indeed, Monster, and LinkedIn. Consider supporting these efforts with digital advertising, a cost-efficient means of targeting the segment you’re after.

Other valuable channels for accessing talent include headhunters and your network. Speak to clients and vendors—particularly any that are downsizing—as well as employees, friends, and family. Contact organizations that could help you tap into the local workforce, like colleges, chambers of commerce, and business councils.

Having broadly disseminated your talent needs, contemplate candidates that aren’t currently in the workforce or don’t fit a traditional mold. Parents raising kids and other homebound caregivers ready to rejoin the workforce are often discounted due to lack of recent experience, which training can readily overcome. Offer workshops and mentoring to re-sharpen skills.

Also important are underemployed, semi-retired, and retired individuals who bring a wealth of knowledge and experience. On the other end of the age spectrum, internship programs can yield employment offers upon graduation, giving you a leg-up on the competition.

It’s also wise not to discount applicants lacking some credentials. Motivation and a good work ethic often surpass a degree, and many of the best employees don’t always look perfect on paper.

Capturing and retaining talent also requires offering compelling pay, benefits, equity or profit sharing, and perks. 2018 saw wage increases across companies and industries, including Walmart, American Airlines, and Comcast. Prioritize competitive salaries and reward existing employees with annual raises, which shouldn’t fall below the 3.1% national average. Equally important is vacation time, which can be a reward for tenure, increasing annually. Keep an eye on how your competitors are compensating, it’s very costly to lose good people to others who are willing to pay more.

Offer desirable perks, such as childcare or a gym membership, and implement a plan for out-of-the-box benefits, which may include assisting with the costs of certain medicines or treatments not typically covered by insurance plans. Helping to pay off student loans has also become a hot new benefit. Create a culture that is inclusive, supportive, enjoyable, and prioritizes giving back to the community and your employees won’t want to go anywhere else.

A general dearth in people for hire needn’t block your upward momentum, but it requires a paradigm shift in thinking. The challenge in finding and retaining good talent is to scrap preconceptions, think strategically, flex your creative muscles, and keep seeking. In the words of Zig Ziglar, “There is no elevator to success. You have to take the stairs.”

James S. Cassel is co-founder and chairman of Cassel Salpeter & Co., an investment-banking firm based in Miami.
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