By Megan Totka

Working for a local small business can have a lot of benefits for many employees, from increased flexibility to a more relaxed company culture. However, with the competitive salaries and extensive benefits packages of larger corporations, small businesses may struggle to find and keep top talent. Here are five tips to attract (and retain) talented candidates for your small business, and to help keep them productive.

Focus your candidate search. In order to save time and money, many small business posts openings to sites like Monster or Craigslist. While this is an effective way of reaching a large audience, you may find yourself quickly overwhelmed with applications and unable to devote enough time to finding truly talented candidates. Instead of casting a wide net, focus your candidate search by using social media platforms like LinkedIn and Facebook, employee referrals, and local chapters and organizations relevant to the position.

Engage with your applicants. Once you have their attention, show your candidates why they should work for you. Have an active social media presence that accurately captures your company’s mission and culture. Respond to their questions. Post FAQs that relate to what it’s like to work for you. Create “day in the life” videos of your star employees to give candidates a good idea of who they’ll be working with. Implement a thorough onboarding program. Strategies like these can create a compelling image of your small business and encourage talented professionals to apply.

Don’t cut corners with salary or benefits. Of course, pay is a very important factor when it comes to employee retention. You should always start with salaries at or above the market average for the position and offer competitive annual raises. Additionally, cover all of the traditional bases with benefits packages, and include a few creative perks that may help bring in talent. For instance, you may offer flex time when possible, gym memberships, or incentive programs.

Nurture their future. When an employee chooses to stay with a business long term, it’s often because they feel that their long-term personal and career goals are being met. To ensure this is the case with your staff, offer professional development opportunities, whether that’s a small budget for each employee or on-site trainings and workshops. As they develop new skills and improve their professional experience, they’ll be more committed and more enriched by your small business.

Leave room for their personal lives. In corporate environments, it can be difficult for employees to strike a work/life balance. This is where small businesses have the advantage. You have the freedom to be flexible with your staff, and give them a healthier, more balanced life. For employees with children, for instance, you may allow them to choose their workday hours or offer maternal and paternal leave. While you may not know what’s going on in your employee’s personal life, it can mean the world to them if you’re open and responsive to their needs.

Finding and keeping talented employees is a challenging prospect for small businesses, particularly with large corporations as competition. With these five tips, you can enhance your hiring process, weed out negative influences, and ensure that your employees are in it for the long haul.

Megan Totka is the Chief Editor for ChamberofCommerce.com. ChamberofCommerce.com helps small businesses grow their business on the web and facilitates connectivity between local businesses and more than 7,000 Chambers of Commerce worldwide. She specializes on the topic of small business tips and resources and business news. Megan has several years of experience on the topics of small business marketing, copywriting, SEO, online conversions and social media. Megan spends much of her time establishing new relationships for ChamberofCommerce.com, publishing weekly newsletters educating small business on the importance of web presence, and contributing to a number of publications on the web. Megan can be reached at megan@chamberofcommerce.com@MeganTotka