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"If you pay peanuts, you get monkeys!" - 3 Ways To Recruit Past A Low-Salary Obstacle

The “War for Talent” has meant that many in-demand individuals are being wooed out of your business for a bigger salary and better employment terms. The bottomless pockets of giant firms means that their competitive advantage is far greater than yours, where you are restricted by a tight budget.

Low Salary Job Offer

Start-ups, small and medium sized firms and Public Services are just some of those restricted by salary-related obstacles when it comes to hiring the best talent, and in fairness, outstanding talent can make or break these companies more than any other!

Where I’m from in Ireland, we have had many public sector companies break their salary-rate caps in order to secure the employment of “top tier” talent. Their reasons are quoted as “We have to attract the best talent with a similar salary”, and of course the old adage, “If you pay peanuts, you get monkeys”.

But when your firm simply cannot go above a certain salary threshold (ie, the money ain’t in the bank, son!) how can you still recruit the best talent on the market?

Employer Branding Tactics to Recruit Great Talent on a Low Salary

1. Outline and sell your Employee Perks (and maybe add some new ones!)

You can only sell what you have – maybe it’s the fact that you all sit as a team together, at adjustable desks, and all have Macs. Maybe it’s that you all work remotely, or have freedom of device. Find what it is that your current employees love about their perks and work environment, and sell that.

There are loads of ideas for inexpensive perks that you can implement for your team, helping to boost employee productivity and also helping attract people when salary is below what your competitors are asking. For example:salary

  • Flexitime – late starts or early finishes
  • Family days for when kids are on half-days from school or are ill
  • Work-From-Home Days
  • Pizza Fridays or Cinema Nights
  • Fresh fruit in your office – we do this at Social Talent, and we’re so much healthier because of it!
  • A knockout coffee machine and a would-be barista amongst the team
  • Group gym membership – this is often much cheaper when there’s loads of you, and many will charge you by the month which may be a more affordable option. Plus, exercise has the added benefit of improving both the productivity and health of your team, reducing costs.

When your existing employees love the perks of their work, they tell their friends and recommend and refer other talented individuals to apply for jobs. And when you are referred in, salary considerations are way down the scale.

2. Make a Song and Dance About Comps & Bens

salaryTax-efficient benefits as part of an employee’s compensation package are a great way to bulk up someone’s take-home salary and reduce your own payroll costs, like health insurance, public transport supplements, educational support, paid mobile phone and meals at work.

When the cost of being at work and getting to work are negated, the take-home salary of your employees will look much bigger. Similarly, if you encourage employees to return to education or invest in training, having a supportive work policy for exams and study leave can make a huge difference.

The benefits of training cannot be underrated – your employees will become more knowledgeable, become better at what they do, and will increase their productivity. The return on investment for training can be seen clearly in your revenue figures, as productive employees make a massive impact on the product quality, sales and marketing of your firm. I’ve seen many companies who have monthly lunch-and-learn’s, where the whole team will have a learning lunch seminar to train in a specific subject or learn best practice from an industry expert. Any form of training where an employee will improve in themselves will make your existing employees better, and would-be employees seriously consider your offer.

3. Autonomy, Mastery & Purpose

This is probably your biggest selling asset – where your employees have a mission and a clear understanding of their incredibly important role in the success of a company. Similarly, you have mapped out the different career paths in which an employee may take based on their interests, performance and training, and this will of course help them to think more long-term about their salary.

salaryAny time I talk to recruiters who are looking for ideas to pitch a role to a prospective candidate, I talk to them about Autonomy, Mastery and Purpose. Psychologist Edward Deci ran experiments in the 1970’s demonstrating how motivation and money are matched. In his experiments, people who were receiving payment to solve a puzzle showed considerably less interest in their task once they had been paid, compared to an unpaid group who continued to work longer and with more interest in solving the puzzle.

This intrinsic motivation to succeed is within all of us. We all want to get better at what we do, and we prefer to do work that has a purpose over thankless work. It is up to you to clearly advertise the purpose of the work (For example, “You will have direct input into the finished product, and will influence the direction of the team based on your market research and expertise…”), and play on your candidate’s natural inclination to succeed.

Autonomy, Mastery and Purpose are explored in more detail by Daniel Pink in his book Drive. This video is an excerpt of his TED talk based on the same research. (Skip to 5:05 – actually don’t, just watch the whole thing!)

When you don’t have the cash to stump up, you have to get more creative in your candidate attraction methods. Would you add any others? What do you do to recruit great talent on a lower-than-expected salary? Leave your thoughts in the comments 🙂

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