As U.S. census data revealed this week that more than 170,000 small businesses closed during the recession-hit period between 2008 and 2009, the performance of independent firms in the current economy has been drawn into sharp focus. The outlook is not positive, however, as June's Small Business Optimism Index took a steep monthly fall from 94.4% to just 91.4%, which means that it has plummeted to its lowest level since October 2011.

SEE: Starting A Small Business

This overwhelming pessimism is reflected in the portents for small business recruitment and job creation, as the fact remains that the majority of owners do not plan to make significant additions to their payroll during the coming financial quarter. This must change if small businesses and the economy are to develop simultaneous growth, and there is an increasing demand on independent companies to think creatively when it comes to expanding and hiring recognized industry talent.

Create a Comprehensive Benefits Package for Your Staff
Attempting to attract talent to your small business often forms part of a vicious cycle, as the best employees are not only usually employed but also retained by a market-leading firm on a vast annual salary. The fact that you may not be able to compete with this basic level of remuneration should not discourage you from looking to hire, however, as it has been proven that a competitive benefits package is equally alluring in the contemporary employment market.

This has come because of significant and global economic change, which has encouraged employees to prioritize long-term job security and reducing their overall cost of living ahead of any basic salary requirements. FatWallet, a U.S. online discount resource, has capitalized on this trend, and by offering a substantial benefits package that includes comprehensive healthcare coverage, a dental policy, disability insurance and even the option of free lunches for staff, they have given their representatives a sense of belonging and enabled them to make practical financial savings while at work.

Let Your Staff Share Commercial Success

Modern employees are far more demanding than in previous generations, and this philosophy has evolved, while concepts such as crowdsourcing have simultaneously empowered consumers across the globe. As an increasingly inquisitive and aware breed, employees in 2012 are more likely to take a genuine interest in the organizations that they work for, which means that empowering them as a key part of your business success is more rewarding than the offer of a fixed and inflated salary.

While affording your staff responsibility is an integral stage of this process, the ultimate reward must come in the form of a generous bonus structure. Whether in the guise of cash or company equity, your employee bonuses must be in line with the financial success that has been achieved by the business as a whole, so that everyone involved with the firm can feel as though they have participated in a genuinely worthwhile project.

SEE: Employee Benefits: How To Know What To Choose

Develop a Positive Company Culture to Attract and Retain Staff
In the field of recruitment, it is often overlooked that when you attract talent from a rival firm, they in turn lose a valued and coveted staff member. If you are looking at innovative ways to expand and recruit new team members, then it is also prudent to ensure that you are not losing more skilled operatives than you are gaining. This may sound blindingly obvious, but a high turnover of staff suggests serious internal issues that will hinder your chances of hiring genuinely high-caliber job candidates.

Your ability to retain industry talent is as crucial as recruiting it in the first place, so it is important to cultivate a positive working culture that reflects your brand in a genuinely favorable light. The processes of improving employee benefits, facilitating personal development and creating a rewarding bonus structure should all form part of an overall vision, which will forge the reputation of your business as either a popular place to work or one to be avoided at all costs.

The Bottom Line
As these points prove, attempting to recruit leading industry talent is not all about offering candidates an inflated annual salary. In fact, evolution within the consumer and employment markets has created a far more thoughtful demographic of workers in the U.S., who tend to value job security, innovative benefits packages and empowerment far higher than the size of their fixed yearly wage. This may come as some relief to struggling small businesses, as through the application of creative thinking they can offset the impact of their minimal financial resources.

SEE: The Cost Of Hiring A New Employee

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