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Four ways to make sure your small business can hire and keep the best talent


By Stephania Varalli

Co-CEO, Women of Influence



Hiring exceptional talent can be one of the toughest tasks as a small business owner. When you only have a few employees — and 54% of private employers in Canada have less than five — there is no room for underperformers. So how do you ensure you are building the best team?

Here’s an excellent first step: hire from 100%, rather than 50%, of the talent pool.

If my title of Co-CEO of Women of Influence didn’t tip you off already, you may be wondering at this point, is this is an article about gender diversity in the workplace? Yes, but the title isn’t meant to be misleading — you’ll have a better chance of finding superstars if you’re recruiting from a broader range of talent, and study after study after study has shown the benefits of having women on your team.

So how do you ensure you can attract and retain women? Here are four tactics that a small business can consider:  


Hire outside of your circle

If you are only using your personal network to find talent, the talent you find is likely going to be a lot like you. There’s nothing wrong with you, of course — but your company already benefits from your background and experience. Cast as wide a net as possible. Commit to interviewing women (we often let our unconscious bias stop the process at the resume stage). And don’t let “she’s not a fit” — when it really means “she’s not like me” — be the reason you pass on a female candidate.


Be fair in how you reward employees

You might not be worrying about a gender wage gap in a company with a handful of employees — often each person has a unique job description, that merits its own compensation (if that’s not the case, the equal pay for equal work rule should absolutely apply). But salary is just one way in which employees are rewarded. Consider how you socialize with employees (both informally and with organized group activities) — a female employee shouldn’t have to ‘act like one of the guys” just to benefit from time with you.


Adopt a flexible work schedule

It sometimes seems that the negative myths about flexible work arrangements are more widely known than the proven benefits. From a compressed week to a remote office, there are many variations that might be a fit with your business. They are relatively easy to adopt (both from a policy and execution standpoint), and greatly aid in both recruitment and retention.


Never tolerate sexist behaviour

Women have the right to a safe work environment. It should go without saying that sexual harassment can’t be allowed on any level, but what often flies under the radar are the lesser offences. Sexual comments shouldn’t be dismissed as “locker room talk,” and singling someone out because of their gender, even if it’s “all in good fun,” shouldn’t be tolerated —  that fun is most definitely one-sided. Set the example yourself, and make no exceptions for unacceptable behaviour.