Five Secrets for Finding and Keeping Top-Notch Talent

April 24, 2017
Actionable strategies to help you find—and keep—the best employees without spending a fortune Build a community A sense of purpose The "secret sauce"

Do you have employees that constantly need to be coddled, cajoled, and accommodated? Are their “needs” and wants changing constantly? Do you feel like you cannot afford to pay what it takes to get—and keep—the most talented employees?  You are about to discover five actionable strategies to help you find—and keep—the best employees without spending the GDP of a small country in payroll. Fear not, none of these five strategies are about base salary, benefits, or bribing.

Think more effectively and less expensively. Imagine your company as a sole provider, the sole source of something special that your employees are looking for, desperately, and cannot find anywhere else.

Secret No. 1:  Build a community, not a workforce
Chances are you are not hiring people for their first job. Some of your hires may be coming from a job they hate, a job that paid the bills and provided noting more. You should invite prospective employees to join a community, not to sign up for another less-than-fantastic job.

When you create a community of people with shared values that care about each other, the tendency to steal, to quit, come in late, complain, whine, or contribute other unproductive or nonconstructive behavior will decrease exponentially.

Consider this typical “employee/employer workflow”: Step 1 … Comply with these various rules.  Step 2 … There is no step two.

Now, consider this “new and improved community deal”:
•  Step 1—Build an appealing community;
•  Step 2—Invite talented people into that community;
•  Step 3—Encourage the efforts of those likely to be good community members, and then live (and work) happily ever after.

Secret No. 2:  Provide a sense of purpose
Once you’ve built a community, your team will feel a sense of belonging. Enhance that feeling by also giving them a sense of purpose and your organization will become extremely “sticky” to the top talent in your industry. People desperately want to be a part of something bigger than themselves, something in which they can believe.

Your employees and potential new hires desperately want to belong to something bigger than themselves. By providing that for them, you create the circumstances under which the top talent will come to your business, seeking opportunities.

Don’t fool yourself with the old dodge, “Sure that works for other organizations, but our business is different.” It’s nonsense. Whether you own an industrial business, a service organization, or any other business that doesn’t feel like you are changing the world, the only reason you are in business is that you provide some value to the people you serve.

If your mind is categorically closed to the idea that your business changes lives, adopt a cause. Become active in your industry or community, support a charity‚ do something as a team that creates value and gives everyone a reason to feel excited about getting to work every day.

Secret No. 3:  Offer experiences over expenses
As a child, did you have some particular experience that you still recall with fond memories? A trip that you will never forget? A vacation where everything went wrong, and yet you and your family still talk about it? Salary and benefits are commodities; the sense of purpose shared by a community is not.

A study by Harris Group found that 72% of millennials prefer to spend more money on experiences than on material things. Shared experiences build bonds, families, communities, and companies. Don’t just hope these experiences happen for your community, create them. Have monthly events that will foster shared experiences and plant the seeds of fond memories. Parties or outings, anything of that type will help create experiences for your employees, which will build that community.

Don’t keep the fun to yourself. Invite employees’ families, customers and prospects, prospective employees, even vendors. Efforts like this create an environment in which your team is happy and proud, and which they will find difficult to leave.

Secret No. 4:  Appreciation
This will be your secret weapon. Not only can appreciation be delivered at an especially affordable price (i.e., zero dollars), it can be the most valuable. Even better, showing appreciation can be fun.

Once you have built a community that the members are proud to be a part of, working toward a worthy goal and sharing experiences that form communal bonds, your employees will respond to recognition from you and the community. When you have events give awards. Not just the typical performance-based awards, but awards for anything you find worthy of commemorating.

Small details like this make big differences in employees’ lives and their contribution to your organization. Few things are more rewarding than seeing awards given and pictures taken of you handing an employee an award will often be proudly displayed for years. Use your imagination and share your appreciation for your people. You will be surprised that you are the one that gets the most benefit.

Secret No. 5:  Seal the deal with core values
Establishing and sharing Core Values will be the “secret sauce” for you to attract the top-level talent you hope for, without breaking the bank. These values will not be an old school string of meaningless words on a plaque in your reception area. Identify three to four critical beliefs that your organization, your community shares, each one summed up in a word or two. These will be the guiding principles that form and extend your company’s individual quality.

Shared Core Values are the rules your company lives by. They define the organization. They are a golden thread that runs throughout your community. They will be expressed in employee hiring ads, on your website, in your interviewing process and employee reviews, and restated whenever you introduce your organization to new customers, vendors, and partners.

Core Values is the final secret that brings together the first four secrets, and gives them power. It is impossible to get people to act outside of their accepted beliefs for an extended period of time. It is far easier (and more enjoyable) to help people live out your mutually shared beliefs and values for the benefit of a shared, larger purpose.

Mike Campion is a speaker, entrepreneur, and author of “I’m a Freaking Genius, Why Is This Business So Hard?” He is a small-business expert who has built several multi-million dollar enterprises, and the host of the “Conversations with a Genius” podcast. For more information visit