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Attracting top talent in a competitive job market


If you’re managing a company during the Great Resignation and beyond, then you’re undoubtedly feeling the pressure to come up with ways of attracting top talent to your company.

According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) Job Openings and Labor Turnover (JOLT) report from March 2022, there are more than 11 million job openings in the U.S., but only just over 6 million candidates looking for work. In other words, there are more job openings than people available to fill them—a yawning supply-demand gap of about 5 million.

What’s going on?

During the pandemic, many workers dropped out of the workforce entirely and still have not returned in large enough numbers – particularly women, in what has become known as the SHEcession.

There is also a lot of churn within the labor market owed to post-pandemic turnover. Many people are reassessing their priorities and goals, leading to record-high resignations. Some employees are leaving jobs to:

  • Obtain improved titles, higher salaries and better benefits
  • Achieve stronger alignment with their personal needs and preferences (for example, they want continued or enhanced flexibility)
  • Change careers entirely and start over fresh

These conditions have shifted the power dynamic in favor of employees. Companies must do more to gain the attention of job candidates – especially top-tier hires – and convince employees to stay for the long term.

Nine ways your company can attract top talent

1. Promote your employer brand (mission, vision and values)

Start by looking at, and possibly refreshing, your company’s mission and vision – that is, what your organization does, why it exists and what it stands for.

With this comes your company’s core values – the behaviors and character traits that your people exhibit as you work to fulfill your company’s mission and vision. Your values are the foundation of your organization and the guideposts that keep you on track.

Together, your mission, vision and values make up your employer brand.

Now more than ever, there’s value in promoting your brand heavily. Try to display consistent messaging on your company’s website, social media and job descriptions.

Why? Today’s workers want:

  • A role that is meaningful at a personal and company level
  • To be part of a company that has a purpose to benefit the larger community
  • Their personal values to align with their company’s values (because they often view their company as an extension of their identity)

To be competitive, you must recognize and address these desires. Furthermore, it will be instrumental in attracting employees who are the best fit for your organization and most likely to embody your values.

2. Focus on your workplace culture

Your workplace culture is the shared understandings of your work environment and what bonds your team together. It’s the day-to-day experience of working at your company.

In determining what your culture is and whether it’s positive, ask yourself questions such as:

  • How do people treat and speak to each other?
  • How do people collaborate in the course of completing work?
  • What is the dominant leadership style?
  • Are organizational values actively practiced each day, from the top down?
  • What is the level of engagement and motivation among employees?
  • How do you motivate, reward and recognize your team?

Make it a priority to understand the culture you have, and continually evaluate how you can maintain or elevate it.

A good workplace culture is one of those intangible qualities that makes or breaks a job for an employee. It either pulls workers to stay put or pushes them to run for the nearest exit at the next opportunity. A good culture is highly sought after and, though it should be straightforward to establish and maintain, does require active effort to nurture. However, it can be quickly damaged and, as a result, can impact word of mouth, reputation and retention.

Examples of good culture qualities that people commonly seek out include:

Should your company be fortunate enough to already enjoy a positive workplace culture that aligns with the desires and expectations of today’s workforce, promote it heavily on your website, social media and in job descriptions. It will be one of your strongest attributes to advertise – it’s unique to your company and not easily replicated elsewhere.

3. Regularly evaluate your benefits offerings

Many companies provide a basic benefits package that may offer employees access to things like:

To compete for top talent, make your benefits package as solid and comprehensive as possible. Regularly evaluate the details of your benefits package, and compare it to what your competitors and industry peers provide. If it’s financially viable for your company, make changes to enhance the attractiveness of your company. For example:

  • Can your company match employee contributions to retirement plans?
  • Can you increase the amount of PTO you provide? This is a widely discussed issue, especially with employee burnout becoming a prevalent topic during the pandemic.

Additionally, consider what other special perks you can offer that are unique to your company.

This is all especially important if you hope to lure passive job candidates away from their current companies.

Highlight your benefits offerings both in job descriptions and in the employment or career section of your website. In order for it to be an effective recruiting tool, people must first know about your company’s excellent benefits.

4. Embrace flexibility

Both the COVID-19 pandemic and the increasing dominance of Millennials and Generation Z in the workforce have impacted the extent to which today’s workforce desires flexibility. In fact, flexibility is consistently cited as one of the primary job attributes people crave going forward.

This is the future of the workplace: not necessarily 100% remote, but certainly not 100% on-site either. When working on attracting top talent, consider that employees want the autonomy to choose a remote or, at minimum, hybrid model of working. They want to choose their location and have more autonomy over their schedule. Remote work is here to stay to varying degrees, depending on the organization. Companies that resist this paradigm may get left behind.

If remote or hybrid operations suit the type of business you have and your available roles, consider how to introduce more flexibility into your business if you have not already.

5. Commit to diversity, equity and inclusion (DE&I)

A diverse and inclusive workplace is incredibly important to the Millennial and Generation Z workers that are growing in prominence and ascending the ranks of companies. Like flexibility, diversity is a commonly cited factor of great importance to them in fielding job offers.

DE&I offers a range of benefits to businesses:

  • Increased morale, engagement and productivity resulting from feelings of inclusion and contentment
  • Broadened perspectives that generate new ideas, leading to competitive advantages
  • Less groupthink
  • Improved understanding of different customers and markets, which can enable quicker expansion into new areas
  • Reduced risk of discrimination and harassment issues

For these reasons, DE&I is associated with boosts in revenue.

Today’s workforce wants more than lip service or a checkmark on a box – they want to know specifically what their companies are doing to increase diversity, especially diversity in leadership. They also want to learn of concrete achievements toward these goals. To start with:

  • Establish and promote a DE&I policy.
  • Showcase ongoing DE&I initiatives and successes on your company’s website and on all marketing and recruiting materials, as well as in job descriptions.

6. Incentivize employee ambassadors

Positive employee word of mouth, favorable employee reviews and employee referrals have always been highly successful recruiting tools for attracting top talent. Assuming that your employees are happy, your current workforce is your ready-to-go army of brand ambassadors and secondary recruiters.

Here are a few employee ambassador opportunities to start with:

  • Let employees know that you appreciate their feedback and referrals, and let them act as they see fit.
  • Make sure that employees are well versed in the company mission, vision, values and what makes your company culture special.
  • In adherence with your company’s social media policy and while protecting sensitive information, allow them to advocate for your company on social media. For example, they can talk about:
    • How exciting and impactful their work is
    • Their personal achievements
    • The good things that your company does for the community, such as company-sponsored volunteer activities
  • Make your employee referral plan more robust. You could offer a referral bonus or some other type of award for referring a new employee who remains with the company for at least 90 days.

7. Monitor your brand presence and reputation online

Unfortunately, not everyone will have something positive to say. It’s entirely possible that you will find your company on the receiving end of a negative review online. How you respond to the situation is critical.

Know that job candidates are doing their research and paying attention to what employees and customers say about you online. Prospective employees have access to a vast amount of information before they ever pursue a job with your company.

Brand reputation best practices:

  • Proactively monitor news, social media posts and reviews about your company.
  • In a timely and professional manner, defend your company against negative posts or reviews.
  • If possible, dedicate a specific employee to the task of responding to reviews as a company spokesperson.
  • Demonstrate your company’s willingness to listen to feedback, be respectful and adapt as necessary to counteract negative perceptions.

The last thing you want is to let negativity remain in public view, unaddressed. Job candidates may assume your company doesn’t care or, worse, that the accusation is true.

Additionally, you should protect your brand presence and ensure professionalism. Make sure that:

  • Your website and other external-facing materials show a consistent and desirable brand voice and image.
  • Your website is functional and loads efficiently.
  • Your company materials address all the major messages that today’s job candidates and employees care about, such as benefits, flexibility and DE&I.

8. Deploy a smart recruiting strategy for each open position

You can’t have a cut-and-paste, one-size-fits-all recruiting strategy for attracting top talent. People want to feel sought after and valued, and you certainly don’t want to turn someone off your company by wasting their time.

Craft a custom plan of action, especially to target choosy job candidates and those who are highly skilled in their field. You want the first impression of your company to be that recruiters have done their homework.

Other best practices:

  • Write compelling job descriptions. Lengthy job descriptions with too much technical detail about responsibilities and long demands for qualifications won’t drum up much interest in your company. Instead, focus on the overall purpose and value of the role.
  • Keep an open mind. Although foundational skills are important, consider which skills can be trained versus which skills are required at the outset. Because you are competing for talent, you may have to examine candidates you may not have considered in the past.
  • Avoid common recruiting mistakes and instead:
    • Ensure a smooth recruiting process marked by efficient processes and good, timely communication.
    • Be ready to make quick decisions. Nothing turns off a candidate more than waiting to hear about next steps. Feedback and next steps should be given to the candidate in under 48 hours.
    • Prepare for competing offers. The average candidate is receiving two to three job offers during their search. Come prepared to negotiate, knowing the candidate is the one with the decision power.
    • Be prepared for the interview.
    • Be ready to discuss development opportunities related to each open position. Top talent will certainly want to know how they can advance through your organization, as well as the process and timeline for promotions, and what you can offer in terms of training and development.

Summing it all up

Despite a labor market tilted in favor of employees and job candidates, there are many strategies for attracting top talent right now. The current environment is an opportunity for your organization to promote its most positive attributes and realign priorities with what today’s workforce wants in their employer, so you can ultimately become well positioned to thrive in the current landscape.

Want to become an even more competitive recruiter and employer? Download our free magazine: The Insperity guide to attracting, recruiting and hiring top talent.