Small businesses are hiring again. Evidence shows that the hiring freeze among small businesses is starting to thaw as more owners take on additional employees. Paychex Inc., which manages payroll accounting for companies that employ fewer than 100 workers, recently said checks per client increased by 2.8 percent from a year ago, which was the company’s biggest gain since the start of the recession.
Independent businesses may find themselves at a disadvantage, however, once large corporations catch up and resume luring candidates with hefty salaries. Instead of trying to beat large employers at their own game, small companies can stand out by offering innovative benefits and perks that suit their workers’ individual needs.
Here are several ways small companies can attract top talent.
Instead of insisting that workers commute to the office, allow them to work from home whenever their presence isn’t needed. Offer flexible hours. Allow employees who are early birds to start work early. Let the night owls and employees who have children to drop off in the morning come in later.
Emphasize your location
Is your office accessible through various forms of public transportation? Are you located near a gym, schools or even ski slopes? Don’t hesitate to play up the benefits surrounding your office. If you’re thinking of moving, pick an area that provides an easy commute. If most of your employees live in the suburbs, for example, choose a space in a suburban office park closer to their homes.
Offer gym discounts and other perks
Even if your company can’t afford its own gym or daycare center, many employees would still appreciate receiving discounts or partial reimbursements for the facilities of their choice.
Provide extra vacation days
Compared to other countries, most U.S. companies are notorious for skimping on vacation and sick days. Buck the trend by offering extra days off beyond the one to two weeks new hires typically receive.
Encourage job sharing
Offer opportunities for talented part-time workers, such as stay-at-home parents and experienced older workers. Pair up part-time workers who can share the workload according to their schedules, and you will bring invaluable experience to your company.
Give employees a stake in the company
It’s not for every business, but profit-sharing programs can be a strong incentive for candidates to decide to work for you instead of someone else. Google is a good example of how well employees can do when a startup gives its employees stock options in the company.
Emphasize the variety of responsibilities
For young employees, the opportunity to gain a lot of experience and advance quickly can be particularly enticing. Many small businesses require employees to handle multiple duties, which can be a good match for young workers who want to develop a wide range of skills and make a meaningful contribution to the company.
Explain what makes your company unique
When you’re recruiting, let candidates know what makes your company exciting. Is your business rapidly growing with different challenges every day? Is there room for staff members to help shape the company or take it in new directions? It is difficult to find this type of environment at a large corporation, so play up what makes your business different.
Finally, promote your job openings through less traditional venues, rather than the usual corporate job sites. Place an ad on Craigslist or alert your Facebook network that you are looking for employees. Offer rewards for employee referrals. Candidates who are referred usually have a more accurate picture of the company than those who come in through ads. Also, employees often recommend people whom they already know will be a good match for the position.