It’s still an employee’s market with more positions open than people actively seeking work. While you’re listening to your members complain about staffing issues and the inability to fill positions, and you invest your time and energy in the future workforce in your area through workforce development programs, you may be wondering how to implement your own advice and find good employees.
Perhaps you’re thinking, “If big members with much larger pockets can’t find good employees, how will the chamber ever succeed in the challenge of attracting top talent, especially when we can’t match the high salaries offered by large corporations?”
We’re here to tell you that the chamber can be competitive but you’re not going to do it by throwing more money at a potential employee. That’s a contest you can’t win. It’s akin to a grocery store loss leader. It brings people in the door but it won’t keep them coming back. Plus, the strategy behind a supermarket loss leader is that you lose money on one product in the hopes you’ll make money on others. This concept doesn’t pay out in employment.
Your chamber of commerce can still stand out and be a sought-after employer by tapping into creative solutions that go beyond monetary compensation.
Let’s explore how chambers can be competitive in the job market by finding and enticing skilled individuals to join our teams.
Short-term vs. Long-term Solutions
First, it’s important to address that it’s easy to attract employees in the short term. Okay, maybe not easy but not as difficult as hiring good employees for the long-term. You can promise all sorts of things, provide incentives, and hire someone who fits for now. It’s the same idea as a romantic relationship. It’s easy to find someone to go out on a date with but building a life with someone takes a bit more effort.
As an employer, you need to decide whether you are looking for Mr./Ms. Right or Mr./Ms. Right Now. There is no right or wrong to this question–just a right for you. Hiring for the short term means you can get someone in easier/quicker and they can start working right away, helping to relieve your task burden right away. The longer you take to find someone, the more stressed you will be doing the work of (at least) two people. Holding out for the perfect employee who will stay for 25 years is not realistic.
The median tenure for workers in the U.S. is 4.1 years for all ages and ranges from 2.8 to 9.8 years depending on their age. Source: U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics
Some chambers may avoid hiring a qualified candidate because they assume they won’t be with them long. They just know one of their members will snatch them away.
And they’re likely right.
But do you really want to hire someone who no one wants? Of course not. So switch your mentality and think of who can help you right now. If your member does snatch them away, you can be satisfied with the fact that you have taught the employee some good skills and you’re helping a member business thrive. You should also maintain a good working relationship with that member because you are now connected to their talent pool and you’ve had a working relationship with that former employee.
Standing Out without Paying Out
This is not to say your chamber shouldn’t pay a healthy wage. But it’s realistic to believe no matter what you pay, you will likely never be the top-paying employer in your area. You need to find ways above salary to become an employer of choice.
1. Fostering a Vibrant Workplace Culture
Offering a welcoming and inclusive work environment can be a significant draw for potential employees. Foster a vibrant workplace culture that emphasizes teamwork, collaboration, and personal growth. Organize team-building activities, workshops, and mentorship programs (a big selling point to job candidates just entering the workforce) to showcase that your chamber is not just a place to work, but also a place to learn and grow as a professional.
2. Flexible Work Arrangements
Flexibility in work hours or the option to work remotely has become a highly valued benefit for job seekers with up to 94% of people saying they would benefit according to a survey by Deloitte. By offering flexible work arrangements, your chamber can attract talent from a broader geographical area and accommodate diverse lifestyles, giving you access to a more extensive pool of potential candidates.
While this may not be possible for all chambers, consider other ways to give employees a break from the office such as allowing them to work from a member coffee house once a week or provide some flexibility on hours if they’re stopping by a future member’s place of business.
3. Professional Development Opportunities
Invest in your employees’ growth by providing access to professional development opportunities. This can include subsidizing relevant courses, certifications, or attending conferences. Demonstrating a commitment to employee growth will make your chamber a more attractive option for ambitious professionals. If you can’t afford those types of outside programs, let them attend the chamber Leadership program or head up events on topics they are passionate about.
4. Unique Perks and Benefits
While you may not compete on salary alone, you can stand out by offering unique perks and benefits. Consider things you might be able to offer through a member business such as a gym membership, wellness program, or financial planning assistance. It may be possible to arrange an in-kind donation for it. Non-monetary benefits can enhance the overall employee experience and foster loyalty and job satisfaction.
5. Embrace Technological Advancements
Leverage technology to streamline workflows and increase productivity. Invest in modern software and tools that can make your employees’ jobs easier and more efficient. Embracing technology also appeals to younger job seekers who appreciate forward-thinking employers. The Beavercreek Chamber’s multimedia studio is available to members, but also signals the chamber’s grasp of technology in communications.
6. Networking and Relationship Building
Highlight the networking opportunities available to employees within the chamber. Showcase how they can build valuable relationships with local business leaders, community members, elected officials, and potential clients. For many, the chance to expand their professional network can be just as enticing as a higher salary. If they have a side hustle, this could be even more valuable to them.
7. Showcase Impactful Projects and Initiatives
Highlight the meaningful work your chamber does within the community. Highlight the outcomes, not so much the job description. Show potential employees the positive impact they can make by being a part of your team. When people feel their work is making a difference, it can be a powerful motivator, even in the face of lower monetary compensation.
8. Play on the Shortcomings of Other Employers
Do any of the satisfaction levels in the Pew Research chart below surprise you? Knowing where other employers fall short, may be a good start for where you can focus your job pitch. For instance, only a little over half of respondents are extremely or very satisfied with their commute. Working locally could be a big selling point for potential hires.
9. Ditch the Old Job Description
It’s time to rewrite your job description. If you want to catch a job seeker’s eye, you need to be creative and unique. Talk about benefits over job duties. What’s in it for them? What will they gain from the position? Think about how you sell membership. Hopefully, it’s not just through a list of things the chamber offers. Ideally, you consider who your target member is and you present benefits accordingly based on what they will receive that will further their business and professional development. “Sell” your open position in the same way. What is in it for the ideal employee?
When writing an ad, talk about the type of person who is a good fit and what’s in it for them. For example, The preeminent business organization in <city name> has a rare opening for someone with a passion for business and helping develop the next successful startups. If you love watching Shark Tank and get excited hearing about people following their dreams of business ownership, we have an exciting opportunity for you to help others. There are few jobs in our area that impact the community in the way this one does. This is a special opportunity and we’re looking for someone who wants to have a hand in the economic development of our town.
Don’t get hung up on adding requirements like typing speed to a job description. No one gets excited about that. Although, funny enough in this digital age, only 20% of people are “fluent” touch typers.
Now that you know how to position the chamber in a more beneficial light, you also have an unfair advantage over other employers–better access to the hidden job market. However, while you have access to it, it’s not good form to pull employees from your members so here are a few additional ways that you can access that market without causing problems.
Tapping into the Hidden Job Market to Find Good Employees
Utilize these strategies to reach potential employees before others do.
Institute an Employee Referral Program
Encourage your current (valued) employees and (hardworking) board members to refer potential candidates from their networks. Offer incentives like bonuses or extra time off for successful referrals.
Create an Engaging Social Media Presence
Build a strong social media presence to showcase your chamber’s culture, initiatives, and employee testimonials. Engage with your audience, including potential job seekers, and use social media platforms to broadcast job openings.
Partner with Local Educational Institutions
Forge relationships with universities and colleges to connect with students and recent graduates. Offer internships or mentorship programs to nurture future talent and foster a sense of community involvement. Talk to business programs at your community college to help them learn more about the opportunities in the chamber industry. Chamber work is an ideal introduction to what it takes to own a business. This can be a lucrative recruiting angle because last year alone 43% of people wanted to start their own business in a survey compiled by Digital.com.
Leverage Community Events
If anyone understands the importance of leveraging events, it’s the chamber. Don’t be afraid to participate in local job fairs, networking events, and industry conferences to connect with potential candidates who are actively seeking opportunities. If members grow concerned that your attendance is potentially poaching their prospects, remind them that they are looking for a very specific type of help in an industry. You’re looking for someone who can work with all of them.
With these strategies and a little creativity, your chamber of commerce can become an attractive and competitive employer, even without the resources of larger corporations. Remember, it’s not just about the paycheck (okay, some of it is about the paycheck); but there are also many people out there looking for ways to be a part of something greater, who want a supportive and fulfilling work environment. The chamber can provide that for these good employees (who could become great employees).