This week the WSJ confirmed that Smaller Businesses are suffering from slow job growth – Headcount rose just under 1% in April compared with 2018. Note small businesses are defined here as employing < 20 people that’s 89% of US firms – 5.3 million enterprises out of 5.9million or 17% of the workforce representing 20 million people. That trails the 3.5% increase at businesses with 500 to 999 employees and the 1.8% gain at the largest companies. So it’s pretty tight for all companies.

So the question remains: as a leadership team are you doing all the right things to find and retain talent?

But before we look at recruitment strategies let’s plug the hole in the bucket – how we do we stop people leaving?

Let’s be clear why people come to work. Daniel Pink’s book Drive brilliantly highlighted the research on the topic. Three big reasons. Autonomy, Mastery, and Purpose. My translation of what that means for each and every vacancy?


  1. Define the clear performance profile expected from the job.
  2. Be clear on the resources available to perform it.
  3. Ensure the candidate owns the job, be crystal clear on accountability.


  1. Build self-managing metrics around the job. What gets measured gets done.
  2. Praise openly improved performance.
  3. Encourage curiosity to understand why the candidate is failing or succeeding.
  4. Ensure the owner of the job reports on the significant metrics on a regular basis. Mastery comes from not just doing but writing about it.
  5. Ensure direct reports to the job are mentored. Teaching a job builds a deeper understanding than doing.


  1. The performance profile of every job should align with the business results the company promises to deliver.
  2. Refresh roles to ensure they are aligned to the objectives of the company e.g. it should be myopically clear to the sales professional why her sales scripts connect with the core purpose of the company. Or if you like, the company’s messaging, value propositions, key promises to customers should be deeply understood by the sales team.
  3. Educate all staff on your company’s compelling story, turning it into an evangelistic message. Passion is infectious to prospective candidates as well as long term holders of positions. But you need to link the story to each job. Put the job in context.

Now my top tips to change the odds in your favor:

Top 15 Recruitment Tips

  1. Change the content of your web site and the platform (if necessary) to tell a simpler story. Ensure you define the market you are going to be #1 in! Bring out your values in that messaging. Candidates love a cause, a purpose. Really talented curious people want to know they are joining a company that makes a difference.
  2. Create a powerful Recruitment Page on your web site and make it easy to submit resumes 24/7.
  3. Tell the story of the founder. Why did or she create this business. Humanize the company.
  4. Choose one or more recruitment agencies wisely and build a personal relationship with the partner in charge of your account. Distribute a strong FAQ (frequently asked questions) document for each vacancy. This will cover common issues by explaining your markets, the competition, your key attributes that allow you to consistently produce great results for your customers, the size of the business, key customers, growth stats, awards. But also for each vacancy explain the importance of the role and how it came about.
  5. For all vacancies build a one-page Performance Profile, which articulates the performance levels across all duties covered by the role.
  6. Build a presence for your company on LinkedIn and advertise vacancies to spread the word.
  7. Ensure all senior managers attend networking events in your area regularly to constantly vet the talent in your area. Especially the ones not looking for a job.
  8. Always be building a bench of great people that you keep in touch with whether you have a vacancy or not. You will always have opportunities in the future to bring them in. Keep them in the loop regarding your progress and all your successes.
  9. Formalize your internal training as detailed here and turn it into a mini-curriculum. Give it a brand internally, e.g. Pixar University. This is a powerful selling tool for prospective candidates. It shows you care about personal development.
  10. Build a strong referral program around staff, advisors, family, and friends to encourage your network to bring talent to your attention.
  11. Grab opportunities to speak at local business events, chamber of commerce, entrepreneurial gatherings. Get your brand out there associated with world-class thinking.
  12. Deploy state of the art technology to control your recruitment process.
  13. Attract similar passionate people to you, by publicizing your culture, Google, Pixar, Apple and smaller private companies such as MathWorks come to mind.
  14. Demonstrate in interviews that you encourage the execution of projects by the use of multi-disciplinary teams cutting through old fashioned silo departments. Prospective candidates see attractive training and job experience as higher priorities than marginally better salaries.
  15. Create innovative, clear and precise long-term incentive plans. In private companies, subject to tax advice, it is possible to create really smart capital instruments that return lower rewards if someone leaves but offer attractive returns on achievement of strategic goals. Public companies should look beyond share options to offer a more direct and granular reward for second-tier management.

A CEO has three main priorities. Strategy, Profit and Talent. “We are kept from our goal, not by obstacles but by a clear path to a lesser goal” Robert Brault.

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Good luck.