As Andrew Yang sees it, there aren’t enough young people engaged in job-creating enterprises in our communities. The founder of Venture for America and author of Smart People Should Build Things noticed a troubling trend several years ago. The smartest students, he saw, consistently ended up in cities such as New York, Boston, and San Francisco working finance and consulting jobs that offer the prestige, career path, and salary they believe define success.
So how can smaller businesses—those without the recruiting budget of a Goldman Sachs and perhaps in lower-cost markets such as Detroit, New Orleans, and Las Vegas—attract and retain top talent? Straight from the pages of Smart People Should Build Things and Venture for America’s practice, here are a couple tricks your business can try today.
Hire people more carefully
To compete against big firms, explains Yang, you’d have to start months in advance to snatch students as they graduate (not to mention the competitive offers you’d need to make, wage-wise). And by the time graduates arrive at your business, your needs may have changed.
Instead, when you are looking to fill a role, look for people that can learn. Ideally, you’ll look for people who can do the job they’re hired for, but also evolve that role as your organization grows and needs change. Yang notes that smart people are considered smart because they’re good at learning. And if they can learn how to do a job really well, chances are they can learn how to do other jobs really well, too.
“It’s in firms’ own best interests to more carefully hire people who will stick around,” writes Yang. “First, turnover is costly. Second, your culture is stronger if people join you because of a genuine alignment with what you do.” Putting in extra time to find a committed hire, someone who is more likely to fit in culturally, goes a long way toward long-term success. Plus, having strong hires attracts other talented, hardworking people, says Yang.
Most people have a misguided impression of what defines entrepreneurship writes Yang. They think “entrepreneurship is about creativity. Entrepreneurs can move mountains individually. Entrepreneurs are born different,” According to Yang, “none of these is correct.” Instead he says entrepreneurship is a process. It’s about organizations building, and that comes down to its people. If your employees feel like they can do inspired work within your organization, and you give them the resources to do so, it can help boost job satisfaction—and innovative business growth.
Employees crave the opportunity to thrive—so it’s up to your business to give them an environment in which they can do so.
Crafting a corporate cultureYang encourages supporting risk takers and giving employees the leeway to pursue ideas. Employees crave the opportunity to thrive—so it’s up to your business to give them an environment in which they can do so. Allow room for mistakes to be made as long as there’s learning from them and you and your employees are moving forward.
Once you have great employees, you can retain them by making your business a place they want to build a career. While at Manhattan GMAT, Yang did this by having regular staff outings to celebrate record months or paying for lunch as long as employees ate with someone different each week.
These events “probably shaved our profit margins by a percent or two each year,” acknowledges Yang. “But I figured that if these expenses kept turnover low and morale high, they would pay off many times over in high performance and consistent growth.”
Our young people desperately want the chance to participate in and lead our nation’s economic and cultural revival. It only remains for us to present the opportunity.
Just as Yang has recognized that change isn’t going to happen overnight, your business may not immediately grow by leaps and bounds. But making these changes can make a difference as the incremental gains and small victories add up. “Our young people desperately want the chance to participate in and lead our nation’s economic and cultural revival,” sums up Yang. “It only remains for us to present the opportunity.”
This post is part of our ongoing coverage of Microsoft Research and its Visiting Speaker Series. Microsoft Research supports its mission to educate and foster innovation and growth through inviting authors and speakers that inspire big ideas, spark new ways of doing things, or help people see things from a new perspective.