Guest column

How Houston small businesses can stand out when competing for in-demand talent

A Houston HR expert shares three tips for hiring top talent in a competitive market. Photo via Getty Images

As the economic recovery gears up, small business owners increasingly need to hire and retain the best talent available in their industry. The challenge for small- and medium-sized business owners is how to compete with large corporations that offer competitive compensation and benefits packages. The key is appealing to top-notch talent in a historically deep candidate pool -- and company culture can help small businesses stand out.

It has been proven that when small business owners concentrate on culture, identify what motivates employees and enjoy getting the job done, top-notch talent will follow.

Below are a few ideas for how small businesses can complete for top-notch talent:

Shape a winning company culture

Company culture means more than state-of-the-art facilities and amenities like free snacks. Company culture is an experience that will become part of the employee identity. Culture embodies many aspects of the organization including opportunities for advancement, company leadership and values. These details and more can shape a company's culture.

Small business owners also should try to look beyond the job description to identify like-minded individuals who align with the company's values. Employees who are strongly aligned with the company's mission can foster a positive workplace and a team that is happy, engaged, productive and committed. Top performers will be much more inclined to join the team and stay for longer tenures when given an opportunity to develop and advance in an uplifting environment.

Get attention with uncommon benefits

Agility is a tremendous advantage that small businesses have over their larger counterparts in the competition for top talent. Benefits unique to small businesses include accessible senior leadership and quick timelines for advancement. These and other advantages to small businesses can tip talent in their favor in lieu of the potential competition's higher salary.

Today, more traditional benefits have progressed to include mental, physical and emotional health and wellbeing. Small businesses can consider creating or updating an Employee Assistance Program (EAP). Through an EAP, employers can offer unique benefits such as online therapy sessions or meditation apps. Additional offerings can include telemedicine services, expanded sick-leave, financial wellness programs or childcare assistance. Even more generous programs include online fitness subscriptions, free food delivery, streaming services memberships or reimbursement for remote-work expenses such as home office supplies.

Look for skills from other industries

As the post-pandemic economic landscape continues to evolve, talent acquisition is evolving with it. If recruiting for a new position, small business owners may find highly qualified individuals who may be seeking a career change or looking to tap into a new industry. It is important for small business owners to be open to experience across industries, which can bring new depth to a team.

Competing for top-notch talent is one of the many challenges for small businesses. By evaluating company culture and how it impacts employees at their core, small business owners will be on par to compete with large corporations for the ideal candidate. And once on board, quality employees will want to stay.

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Jill Chapman is a senior performance consultant with Insperity, a leading provider of human resources and business performance solutions.

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Building Houston

 
 

SeekerPitch exists to update the job hiring process in a way that benefits both the job seekers and recruiters. Photo via Getty Images

Companies across the country have been requiring resumes and cover letters from their new hire hopefuls since the World War II era, and it's about time that changed. A startup founded in Houston has risen to the occasion.

Houstonian Samantha Hepler had the idea for SeekerPitch when she was looking for her next move. She felt like she had developed a formidable career in digital transformation and had worked with big name clients from Chevron to Gucci. However, she couldn't even get an interview for a role she felt she would be a shoe-in for.

"I knew if I could just get through the door, a company would see the value in me," Hepler tells InnovationMap. "I wasn't being seen, and I wasn't being heard. I didn't know a way to do that."

And she wasn't alone in this frustration. Hepler says she discovered she was one of the 76 percent of job candidates who get filtered out based on former job titles and keywords. At the same time, Hepler says she discovered that 80 percent of companies reported difficulty finding talent.

Samantha Hepler had the idea for SeekerPitch based on her own ill-fated job hunt experience. Photo courtesy of SeekerPitch

"I was just a symptom of a larger problem companies were facing," Hepler says. "Companies were using algorithms to dilute their talent pool, and then the hires they were making weren't quality because they were looking for people based on what they've done. They weren't looking at people for what they could do."

SeekerPitch, which is in the current cohort of gBETA Houston, allows job seekers to create an account and tell their story — not just their job history. The platform prioritizes video content and quick interviews so that potential hires can get face-to-face with hiring managers.

"We empower companies to hear the candidates' stories," Hepler says. "We're bringing candidates streaming to computer screens. We are the Netflix of recruiting."

Hepler gives an example of a first-generation college graduate who's got "administrative assistant" and "hostess" on her resume — but who has accomplished so much more than that. She put herself through school with no debt and in three years instead of four. SeekerPitch allows for these types of life accomplishments and soft skills into the recruiting process.

SeekerPitch profiles allow job seekers to tell their story — not just their past job experience. Photo courtesy of SeekerPitch

Over the past few years, a trend in hiring has been in equity and diversity, and Hepler says that people have been trying to address this with blurring out people's names and photos.

"Our belief is that connection is the antidote to bias," Hepler says, mentioning a hypothetical job candidate who worked at Walmart because they couldn't afford to take multiple unpaid internships. "They can't come alive on a resume and they won't stand a chance next to another person."

SeekerPitch is always free for job seekers, and, through the end of the year, it's also free for companies posting job positions. Beginning in January 2022, it will cost $10 per day to list a job opening. Also next year — Hepler says she'll be opening a round of pre-seed funding in order to grow her team. So far, the company has been bootstrapped, thanks to re-appropriated funding from Hepler's canceled wedding. (She opted for a cheaper ceremony instead.)

Right now, SeekerPitch sees an opportunity to support growing startups that need to make key hires — and quickly. The company has an ongoing pilot partnership with a Houston startup that is looking to hiring over a dozen positions in a month.

"As a startup, your key hires are going to make or break your company — but you have to hire quickly," Hepler says. "That's the ultimate challenge for startups. ... But if you don't hire well it can cost your company a lot of money or be the demise of your company. It's people who make a company great."

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