Business results continue to surprise and impress most analysts. Industries that were written off for dead and companies that, until a few months ago, were into layoffs are now hiring again. While nobody is forecasting a labor shortage in 2010, it’s important to keep in mind that the best talent always gets picked up first.

But many of the best individuals feel like they got trashed by big organization layoffs. I hear comments all the time that reflect this feeling: “I am never going back to a big place. They lack soul, and do not care about their people.” Those people may be just the ones you need to hire, yet they want to go into a small company offering more personal care and interest.

How can you be competitive while keeping an eye on the cost factors?

I asked my network of recruiters and HR executives what it would take to ensure an organization –regardless of location or sector — could attract the best employee candidates. Taking all their ideas and recommendations, I pulled together a list of my five favorite tips that go beyond the traditional stuff (like money, office space, bonuses, etc. , all of which I presume you are doing).

Compare these with your organization’s “offer.” Do you need to spice it up a bit to be the first choice of the best candidates?

1. Small. It’s the new big — Many talented people were treated in a way they felt was disrespectful when it came to downsizing. I hear a lot of them saying “never again.” These individuals have a deep scar on their psyches and don’t want to work anyplace where they’ll feel like faceless “numbers.” How do you react to this shift of alignment? Take your lead from the small entities out there that offer more freedom, less hierarchy, and better individual performance recognition.

In the new environment, old policies and procedures need to be reconsidered, perhaps trashed. Small companies treat people like they’re important.

2. Company image — Do you know how your company is regarded by the average Joe or Jane? Especially for those under 40 years old, choices often boil down to the reputation of the organization. In addition to internal policies, your company’s image includes your customer reputation, the way you’re viewed in terms of environmental impact, and the quality of your product or service.

What if it’s bad? Take some proactive steps to emphasize whatever success story you can highlight publicly. Example: Sprint Communications turned around its reputation for bad customer care and now gets high marks for showing it’s trying.

3. Family focus — There’s a big belief that all companies care about is one thing — profit. You and I know that’s not true, but it’s possible that your organization hasn’t done much to show that its values go beyond the next quarter’s results.

For not a lot of money, you can add new policies and offer benefits like emergency home childcare, which is huge for those concerned about their family.

Example: Colgate-Palmolive with employees in 80 countries (some of which no doubt have never worried too much about labor “laws”) offers this everywhere.

4. Creative vacation approach — For employees of any age, this can a big deal. It really doesn’t impact your company’s bottom line significantly to enhance the vacation package. Some organizations provide the opportunity to visit other countries where they can have assistance from local offices; others allow an individual to buy or sell vacation days. Do you allow your talent to bank vacation days when it’s important to keep them focused on tasks today?

Many large organizations still “force” vacations on employees regardless of what they are working on. This is counterproductive at the very least.

5. Mortgage assistance — In many companies, executives get assistance in the form of discounted loans when buying a home or refinancing. Why not open this up to your entire employee base? Cost you say? Maybe not.

HR leaders I’ve spoken to say that this issue is a high priority today and that when it comes down to it, the impact financially can be less than offering a bigger bonus opportunity, which they say isn’t a strong enticement beyond certain levels.

The Bottom Line: In today’s highly competitive environment, you want to attract and retain those who recognize the importance of flexibility, speed, and innovation. Rebuilding your workforce using the same approaches as before will only provide the same results you had before October 2008.

Here’s to your future.


Leadership Coach