by Hanna Burmeister, Michigan SBDC Marketing Manager
Originally published to the Grand Rapids Business Journal’s Small Business & Startups Blog

A recent study found that 82 percent of small business owners are planning for growth in 2017. However, small businesses often report that attracting the right talent can be a major challenge in achieving their growth goals.

As our economy continues to strengthen, small businesses face increased competition as they search for qualified employees.

Whether you are hiring your first employee or are a second-stage company preparing for significant growth, having the right people on your team is essential for success. In order to make your business stand out and attract the right talent, Michigan SBDC Business Growth Consultant Kathy Miller has identified the top trends in hiring:

Perks and benefits

While salary is typically thought of as the primary factor in attracting talent, today’s job seekers place a large emphasis on perks and benefits. Nationally, salaries are not increasing much, so employees are looking to benefit offerings to drive their decision making. This trend is also influenced by a greater desire for work-life balance and is something that is attractive to all generations. The perks and benefits that your business offers are a key driver in employee retention and engagement, positively contributing to the culture of your workplace. Examples of perks or benefits include commission, bonuses, health and retirement benefits, flexible work hours, education and professional development support, company culture, employee recognition and events.


A “boomerang” is an employee that leaves and re-joins a given company one or more times during their career. For a long time, boomerangs were thought of as disloyal, but there is no longer a negative connotation for this behavior. Businesses are finding that hiring back their boomerang employees is a great way to engage with high-quality employees who are already familiar with the culture and mission of the organization. Miller commented that there are many reasons why a person may choose to leave and then return to a position, but the popularity of this trend is truly a reflection of the “gig economy” where employees hold multiple positions concurrently or in sequence. This type of employment is most often attributed to millennials, but is attractive to multiple generations. Embracing employees who boomerang requires flexibility and creativity from the employer, but ultimately contributes to a strong workforce.

Social media

Social media continues to be one of the primary ways for businesses to brand their company, their culture and attract talent. If you’re not utilizing social media to communicate your competitive advantage, workplace perks and employment opportunities, you’re missing out on a huge audience. In fact, 79 percent of job seekers use social media in their jobs search (and that figure increases to 86 percent for millennials)! Additionally, 45 percent of job seekers use their mobile devices to search for jobs at least once a day, which means that your website, your job postings and the application process should be mobile friendly. LinkedIn continues to be the top social media platform for professionals, but companies also use Twitter, Facebook and Instagram to brand themselves and reach potential employees. Around 47 percent of hiring managers say social media is the most effective employer branding tool, so take the time to look at your online presence through the eyes of a potential employee and not just potential customers. Additionally, encourage your existing employees to share company content like job postings on their personal pages to reach a larger audience.

Referral programs

Currently, 63 percent of companies have a formal employee referral program. “One of the best compliments you can receive from your employees is for them to encourage their own friends to work there,” Miller comments. By encouraging your employees to refer qualified candidates, businesses are able to greatly reduce the time and cost of recruiting or hiring a new employee. Strong referral programs also improve the quality and retention of new hires and increase engagement as employees actively share the company brand with their personal networks. Employee referral programs are a great way to reinforce company culture, but Miller reminds businesses to make a conscious effort to establish a diverse workforce. “Don’t go so far that you hire people exactly like you. Having a diverse workforce ultimately strengthens your business.”


With the widespread access to Wi-Fi and online collaboration tools, workplace flexibility has never been easier. Seventy-four percent of employees say they put a large value on work-life balance and implementing a flexible work environment is a great way to appeal to those individuals. Around 54 percent of job seekers choose part-time or flex hours for family reasons, and 47 percent want to reduce the time and cost of commuting. This means that they would be more likely to choose a job that offered them a flexible work style. Could your business leverage technology to offer employees “work-from-home” days or flex hours? If your business is able to create a flexible workplace, you could see reduced building costs, higher employee productivity and better recruitment and employee retention.

Employment branding, or how you market yourself to employees, is just as important as how you market your product. Intentionally promoting your company as the employer of choice to a desired target group and then living up to those expectations is the best way to attract the talent your business needs to grow successfully. By implementing some of the trends and considerations outlined above, your business can ensure it stays competitive in the ever-evolving job market.

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