Attract amazing talent on (almost) any budget with these 4 ideas

You’ve reached the point where you know you need employees to keep your business running smoothly and growing upward. But there’s a problem.

You don’t have the money to pay for the level of talent you need.

Take a step back. You supplemented a small budget with innovation when planning and launching your business. And when marketing your products and brand. All of which brought your company to where it is now.

It worked. And that same creative thinking can also help you secure bright, hardworking, motivated employees. Once again, you’ll have to think outside of your budget box.

The best minds value challenges over money

Guess what? Smaller salaries won’t always deter the best-of-the-best, according to a study conducted by two renowned psychologists. Although most won’t turn their nose up to a large sum, the brightest minds will accept a smaller paycheck if they’re given stimulating challenges and a sense they’re helping build something amazing.

As a small business, you’re in a prime position to offer exactly that. Unlike larger companies with deeper pockets, small businesses often need employees to provide feedback, push themselves and take on tasks that aren’t necessarily in their wheelhouse.

Capitalize on this when recruiting. Make it clear in job descriptions and to potential candidates that you’re offering a challenge and the autonomy to meet those challenges. Explain your future plans for the company and how those plans will open up new opportunities for them to grow.

Then, make sure you hold true to the picture you painted after you bring that talent on board. Otherwise, you risk losing them.

Make up for less cash with more time off and flexibility

As an entrepreneur, you intimately know how out of reach a healthy work-life balance often seems. Your pool of talent feels the same way. Offering more paid vacation and flexibility entices people to choose your business over more lucrative offers. In fact, a study conducted by Fractl of 2,000 people found that the only thing that sways employees to accept less pay more than extra time off and flexibility is better health insurance.

You can approach vacation time in multiple ways: Give out bonus paid time off (PTO) when employees complete a huge project or go above and beyond; let people take an afternoon off on occasion without dipping into PTO; or, go big and allow for unlimited vacation time like Netflix.

To create a flexible work environment, don’t be a stickler on start and end times or even showing up to the office (when possible). Encourage and support working from home. Let morning people come in early so they can leave early; let night owls show up a bit late and stay later. And, be lenient when people are dealing with sick kids or want to take a longer lunch occasionally. This doesn’t mean you need to be lax with total hours worked—just give employees some options. Most won’t take advantage of it.

Figure out what you can comfortably offer for vacation time and flexibility, and then use those benefits as leverage when recruiting.

Load up on perks

While you might not be able to pay the going rate for a full-time video editor, you can entice people to come on board—and keep them around—by including some perks along with the job. All for significantly less than paying everyone higher salaries.

  • Incorporate foosball tables, nerf guns, a basketball hoop and other “toys” in the office so employees can take 15 minutes to blow off some steam.
  • Create a break room (or break corner, if you lack space) and keep it stocked with snacks and drinks.
  • Order lunch for everyone a few times a month; or, lay out a spread of bagels, fruit and coffee during weekly team briefings.
  • Reimburse employees for some or all of their monthly gym memberships, public transportation costs or even day care. Quick tip: You might be able to negotiate a deal for a discount with other businesses in return for a deal on one of your services.

Build a work culture that makes people want to join the team

Meaningful, challenging work, ample time off, thoughtful perks and flexibility certainly attract talent. But, creating a work environment where employees feel respected, energized and encouraged is essential to securing and keeping creative, hardworking people.

So: Listen to input; learn to joke around while still remaining in control; host employee appreciation days and events; and, celebrate personal milestones in employees’ lives.

The way you interact with your team directly and indirectly becomes part of your brand image. Treat them well and make work fun, and word will spread that you’re offering a fantastic atmosphere and supportive environment.

Sure, you might not be able to technically pay people what they’re worth—but money isn’t everything. With a little outside-the-box thinking, you’ll be able to attract qualified, passionate people.


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