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How to Become a Destination Employer in WNY’s Growing Economy

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Buffalo Billion. HarborCenter. Buffalo Niagara Medical Campus. RiverBend and Solar City. 43North. Larkinville. I could go on listing initiatives, projects, development, and company expansions all representative of the same – the economic resurgence of Western New York and the boosting of our regional psyche.  

Buffalo is on the rise, and Buffalonians near and far are celebrating with a heightened sense of crescendo Buffalove.  Ultimately, what does this mean for companies competing for talent in our economy?  

This increased demand for skilled professionals without a corresponding uptick in supply is causing the marketplace for talented people to tighten.  What can your company do to ensure it meets the challenge of finding (and keeping) great people without breaking the bank?

Below are four ways to ensure your company positions itself to become a destination employer in WNY's growing economy. 

#1 Wow Candidates During the Interview Process 

The interview process is really your first chance to show candidates how great your company is.  Like it or not, interviewees will draw analogies between your interview process and the quality of your company.  Most companies take a passive, highly skeptical, inquisition-style approach to interviewing.  Clearly interviews are your chance to figure out if your candidate can do the job well and fit with your team. However, the fact is interviews are often your only chance to sell the candidate and this opportunity often gets missed.  Wouldn’t you rather have the opportunity to pass on a candidate that was sold on you, then to finally realize you’ve found a great person only to have them accept an offer with a competitor because your company didn’t wow them?

#2 Build a Kick-Ass Culture

Culture isn’t just about cool chairs, free coffee, and dress down Fridays.  It’s about empowering people to align their personal goals and aspirations with those of the company.  Great culture can exist in the absence of huge facilities and perks budgets.  You want your employees to treat your customers like gold?  Treat the people that work for and with you like gold and they’ll be a lot more likely to extend the same courtesy to your customers!  Building a meaningful connection between your employees and the vision and mission of your company costs little and, if done right, the upside is huge.  

#3 Anticipate Top Performers’ Needs

Does your company routinely try to lure top performers away from leaving for other firms with aggressive offers? If so, basically the message sinking into your other top people is you let the outside market set value for your people, instead of paying them more closely aligned with the value they create while they work for you.  Pay is just one component; don’t wait for your top people to come to you with a vision for their development.  Engage them, ask questions, seek opportunities to mentor and develop.  This builds trust and increases the likelihood of getting their best every day without the fear they might walk out the door.

#4 Create a Vibrant Alumni Network of Promoters

Average job tenure is dropping among Millennials, with the overwhelming majority anticipating job changes every three years or sooner.  Even if you wow candidates during interviews, build that kick-ass culture, and anticipate what your top people want, the fact is people will still leave.  And that’s ok!  Let people know up front that your company wants to train, develop, and enhance the skills of everyone working there.  And follow through.  If you’re lucky enough to get 3-5 years of someone’s very best value-adding effort and you’ve reciprocated, when that person leaves, they'll go out into the community as a Net Promoter of your business. This stuff matters when waging the war for talented professionals.

So What?

With more than $8.5 billion in combined public and private sector investments in Buffalo over the past few years and scheduled over the next five, employers will be facing an uphill battle for talented people.  Luring new hires with higher compensation to WNY only goes so far and sometimes can be emblematic of deeper underlying recruiting and retention problems.  Focus on giving your employees an exceptional employment experience, and your company will remain ahead of the curve and differentiated in a growing marketplace, better positioned to compete in our growing Buffalo economy. 

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