Opinion: Recruiting – Build your brand and they will come

For companies that aren’t the size of Google or Amazon, it can be challenging to attract top talent in today’s job market. With unemployment at historic lows yet hiring on a slowdown, a lot of small businesses are experiencing empty seats that are getting harder and harder to fill with quality talent.

It’s costly to their bottom line, especially if these small companies are operating within a big industry, like tech, manufacturing and logistics. Effective talent recruiting strategies become essential to staying competitive.

So what’s an employer with a small business to do? Below are three ways to move the recruiting needle in your favor, even if you are a small fish in a big pond.

  1. Invest time and energy into your employer brand.

“You can’t sell it if you can’t tell it.” That’s according to former GE Chief Marketing Officer and author Beth Comstock. The advice translates well into today’s best recruiting practices. If you own a small business, you need to tell your company’s story in a compelling way in order to ‘sell’ the position you’re looking to fill. Building your employer brand this way helps develop and promote your organization as an employer of choice.

While many smaller companies are clear about their brand to their clients and consumers, many have not given enough thought to the image and reputation projected to their current and future employees. This is unfortunate, because employer branding impacts recruiting strategies more than most people might think.

Be more creative with your employer brand outreach, too. According to Forbes , companies are relying more and more on social media outlets for branding and YouTube for videos that show why they are great places to work. Social media also gives people a means to like and share job postings and positive workplace news.

  1. Your current employees are some of your best brand ambassadors.

Your current employees can serve as a very effective extension of your recruiting program, especially when the market for talent is this competitive. Bring team members to recruiting events, share their professional profiles online and offer incentives for candidate referrals. Candidates love hearing directly from their would-be peers as to what it’s really like to work at your company. And employee referrals are more likely to result in a strong culture fit, which can mean higher retention and productivity rates in your workplace. Who doesn’t like that?

Senior leadership can also be a part of the recruiting process. When senior leadership takes the time to meet prospective candidates that is an impactful message. It signals that those who run the company are invested in its workforce. What’s more, executives tend to be some of the best sales people at the company. Use that to your advantage.

  1. Cut through some of the ‘recruiting noise’ out there.

There are a lot of other businesses out there competing for the same best-of-the-best candidates that you are. Large and small organizations are trying all kinds of attention-seeking means to grab people’s attention.

To cut through this “recruiting noise,” you need to be creative too, just remember to keep it authentic. If they can’t tell right away that a rosy picture isn’t reality, candidates will once they get hired and settle in to your company environment. Don’t risk ruining the reputation you took time to build on social media and in other platforms by not delivering on the desirable, positive workplace you advertised.

Attracting and retaining talent requires a comprehensive employment strategy that runs 12 months a year, not just when you need to hire someone to fill an empty seat. Taking time to build a smart, structured plan and brand will help your small business compete in a big industry for the very best candidates.

Richard Lively is a partner and vice president of Bethlehem HR Consulting Services at RAI Resources, with Margo Trott Collins.

Three of the Biggest Family Business Conundrums, and How to Overcome Them

Family-owned businesses are part of our nation’s DNA and a testament to our entrepreneurial spirit. Take a look around the Lehigh Valley and you’ll see this spirit alive and well in the multitude of family businesses that thrive here.

Almost one in five of the 28.8 million small businesses in America are family-owned, according to SCORE, the nation’s largest network of volunteer, expert business mentors. These companies help drive our economy: they employ 60% of the country’s workforce and generate 64% of America’s GDP. The human resources challenges these organizations face can have a huge impact on stakeholders across the board.

I’ve worked with many family-owned companies of all sizes across the U.S. and the globe. Here are some of the biggest problems I see them face:

Lack of structure, policies and procedures

Family co-workers know each other well. To avoid letting familiarity override common-sense business practices, clear policies and procedures are essential. These help reduce and alleviate confusion and conflicts. Additionally, roles and responsibilities should be clearly established between family members. This can save a lot of time, energy and money—not to mention hard feelings—between relatives. Be sure to consistently follow the rules you establish, and resist changing them on a whim. These actions can be an employee morale, productivity and retention killer.

Recruiting ineffectively from the outside

Family-owned businesses are often able to attract and retain key talent because of the reputation they have built for themselves as great places. They are often associated with strong values and positive, friendly work environments. Still, hiring can bring some unique challenges.

When you search for outside candidates, make sure all owners are on the same page about it. Be sure to have a clear and detailed job description, and set proper compensation and benefit levels. You should also remember to keep reasonable expectations for candidates and new hires.

Succession planning

Succession planning is an important part of long-term strategizing, and yet it is all too often left minimally addressed. Some eye-opening reporting by SCORE showed:

  • 47 percent of family business owners planning to retire within five years do not have a successor.
  • Only 30 percent of family-owned businesses survive from the first generation to the second.
  • Just 12 percent survive from the second to the third generation.

It is important to decide in advance what happens to your company when you retire, or if you unexpectedly step down. Is the next generation ready to take over? Do they want to? You should talk to them about all this, then plan accordingly.

If the business is staying in the family, make sure that the next owners are well prepared with knowledge of day-to-day management and the critical financial aspects of ownership. When several family members will be left the business together, things get more complex. A succession-planning consultant can provide assistance and an objective opinion. An estate-planning attorney can help with any regulations or estate taxes that may impact the next generation.

Lotte Bacho is vice president of administration at Kitchen Magic, and one of the founders’ three daughters. She and four other family members run the kitchen refacing and remodeling company, with operations in six states and headquarters in Nazareth, Pennsylvania.

“The challenges we face are no different than any other company—recruiting, retention, training and benefits. Where we are different is that our HR functions must include dealing with quite a few family members,” she says. “It is most important to us all that the family remain strong and respect one another. We address that with a very clear set of core values, as well as differing but complimenting roles and responsibilities. To handle challenges and questions as we continue to usher in the third generation, we are establishing a strong family-business governance plan.”

As this year marks 40 years in business, Bacho feels quite blessed with how far they have come, as a business and a family.

Richard Lively is a partner and vice president of Bethlehem HR Consulting Services at RAI Resources, with Margo Trott Collins.