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Tips to attract top talent in a tough time

By Traci DeLore


Lindsay McCutchen, president and CEO of Career Start, offers advice for businesses looking to hire top talent in the wake of the Great Resignation. (PHOTO CREDIT: CAREER START)

Whether you call it the Great Resignation or something else, there is no denying there has been a fundamental shift in the workforce and the work environment since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic.

“It’s undeniable,” says Lindsay McCutchen, president and CEO of Career Start, a Rochester–based, private, full-service employment firm. Career Start also has an office at 224 Harrison St. in Syracuse and another in Buffalo.

While it didn’t happen overnight, and started to some degree before the pandemic, the end result has been high turnover in a number of industries as well as a void left by people who opted to retire and leave the workforce.

According to MarketWatch, nearly 57 million Americans left jobs between January 2021 and February 2022, 25 percent higher than a similar time span before the COVID crisis.

During the same period, nearly 89 million people were hired, and there are still a record number of job openings — almost two jobs for every unemployed person in the country, according to MarketWatch.

So where does that leave employers now?

“Everybody’s trying to find a way to procure top talent,” McCutchen says.

Exactly how does a business find that new talent in an environment that has changed so much with people expecting the flexibility to work from home, or a title, compensation, or perks that in the past came with time put in on the job?

McCutchen has some answers.

Companies that are adding culture and putting employees first have an edge, she says. “Those are the ones winning the war on talent.”

Culture, as defined by Ohio data and human resources company ERC, is the “character and personality” of an organization. It is what makes a business unique and is comprised of its values, traditions, beliefs, behaviors, and more.

A positive workplace culture can help a business attract talent, makes employees more engaged, and boost overall workplace happiness, satisfaction, and performance. Everything from leadership to workplace practices impact the culture of an employer. 

Things such as creating policies based on what other companies do, hiring employees that aren’t a good fit, tolerating poor management styles, lacking a clear mission, and even lackluster work environments can all contribute to poor workplace culture, according to ERC.

“As an employer, you have to be innovative and figure out what’s your hook,” McCutchen notes. Once you’ve got a good culture in place, figure out what else your company has going on that makes it a place where people want to work.

That positive environment isn’t all about pay either, McCutchen notes. “So maybe you don’t have the best pay, but you have the most flexibility,” she says.

That might mean that employees can work from home part of the time, she says. For businesses that require on-site employees — think hospitality businesses like restaurants, which continue to struggle to fill empty spots — a pathway to management training can be an attractive idea.

Businesses also need to get creative in how they search for employees. With ever-expanding remote working options, people are not limited to looking for work where they live, McCutchen notes. That means employers should be doing more than posting jobs in the local paper or job site.

First, she says, employers should know the demographic they are trying to reach. That will help determine the most-effective places to post job openings.

Second, “use your people who already work there,” McCutchen says. Getting your employees to promote job openings to their peers is a great way to find potential new employees.

Businesses can take that a step further even and use their customers, vendors, and other partners to promote job openings, she says.

Employers also might want to consider working together with other businesses to help each other. “I think there’s opportunity and room for business industries to have alliances with each other,” McCutchen says.

A group of manufacturers looking to fill similar positions could work together on a large hiring event that’s more likely to bring in a larger pool of applicants than one business advertising a job on its own, she notes.

“You’re stronger together,” says McCutchen.

She suggests employers pick one area to start in, whether its improved wages or more job flexibility, and build from there.

“Every business should now be taking inventory of themselves and what is your value proposition,” McCutchen says.       

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