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Use Flexibility to Attract Talent from Big Companies

April 2015

Eric Brown, SPHR, SCP

President ATD Kentuckiana

On April 16, I presented “Hire ‘A’ Players on a ‘C’ Budget” to several hundred human resource professionals at the Michigan HR Day in Lansing, Michigan. A participant asked, “How can I attract top talent when our large competitors have better compensation packages and brand recognition than we do?” This is an important problem for leadership teams of small- and mid-size companies to solve. Our company is a regional staffing firm with 185 employees, so we deal with this issue just as many of you do. When we attract employees from our largest competitors, they cite two reasons as most persuasive in their decisions:

  • Supportive culture. Although we have stretch sales and performance goals, our culture is not a “what-have-you-done-for-me-lately”, internally competitive environment. Many of our top recruits were high performers in large companies, but did not like the stress of proving themselves month in and month out to avoid demotion or termination. We believe in supporting our employees through good times and bad. When employees fail, we take responsibility for our part in that failure.              
  • Flexible work environment. Employees may take longer lunches; come in late to take care of personal appointments; or modify their permanent schedules to accommodate child care needs.

Flexibility is a competitive advantage smaller companies have the power to create in their industries. Research suggests the following two work schedule flexibility strategies may be your keys to attracting talent away from the big players:

Encourage employees to work from home.
The benefits are at least five-fold:  
1)      Increased production
2)      Reduced sick time
3)      Increased retention
4)      Lower office space costs
5)      Decreased distractions from an office environment

According to a research project led by Nicholas Bloom, travel agents at Ctrip who worked from home completed 13.5% more calls than their in-office counterparts. Ctrip also realized a $1,900 savings per telecommuter on furniture and office space. Repetitive and individual jobs lend themselves more easily to a work-from-home situation than collaborative, team-oriented jobs (Bloom, 2014).

Promote flexible work schedules. The Center for Talent Innovation has coined the term “flex around the edges” to describe allowing employees control over parts of their schedules. For example, controlling when to take breaks; work overtime hours; or adjust daily schedules to accommodate personal appointments. Although job sharing, part-time schedules, and sabbaticals are strong employee magnets, these arrangements may put too much strain on your workflow (Hewlett, 2014).

Communicate expectations clearly with employees and establish performance measurements to monitor the success of your schedule changes. Test your strategies for a limited time, before committing to long-term changes. Working from home will not work for every job, so be wise in your selection of flexible schedule options. If performance falls and corrective action does not get a person on track, flexible schedules may not be feasible for that position or project. Use common sense and sound judgment to determine which positions should be done remotely on a full- or part-time basis. Celebrate and build upon your successes attracting world-class talent to your companies.


Bloom, N. (2014, January). To Raise Productivity, Let More Employees Work from Home. Retrieved from Harvard Business Review: https://hbr.org/2014/01/to-raise-productivity-let-more-employees-work-from-home

Hewlett, S. A. (2014, June 20). Flextime Is Declining, But "Flex Around the Edges" Is Up. Retrieved from Harvard Business Review: https://hbr.org/2015/01/a-working-from-home-experiment-shows-high-performers-like-it-better

ATD Kentuckiana | 3044 Bardstown Road, #1275 | Louisville, KY 40205


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