In April, the unemployment rate dropped to 3.6%, the lowest level in almost 50 years, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. This is a stellar feat for the country’s economy and workers, but it makes hiring difficult. Even as an established company with competitive salaries and benefits, it’s hard to find great people who are the right fit for our business.
For small businesses with lean teams, this struggle is tenfold. Finding the right people – with a passion for the work and a commitment to business growth – can be increasingly difficult. The worker shortage impacts all industries. In a survey my company released last year, 49% of small business owners said that finding and hiring quality employees was a top concern.
But as the labor market evolves, so do talent options for small-business owners. Here are key hiring considerations and a few alternative means of finding the right support for your business needs:
Incentivize referrals and retention.
No one knows and supports your company culture like current employees. And few recruiting efforts are as convincing and effective as word of mouth. If the support you’re looking for really needs to be a full-time role, consider building out your internal referral program by offering current employees, customers or partners a flat-rate, monetary incentive for referring any talent that you then go on to hire. Data from SilkRoad, a strategic onboarding and workforce consulting firm, shows that more than 30% of all hires in 2016 came from employee referrals. So when you incentivize referrals, stagger the payout (i.e., pay 50% of the sum after the candidate completes three months and the remaining 50% on their one-year anniversary). In my experience, this can even help with your employee retention.
In a further effort to retain current employees, you can also consider offering more flexible work arrangements and increasing wages, if you’re able.
Consider professional service providers.
For certain projects, it may make sense to consider retaining a professional service provider. For example, if you need a design resource to help with an advertising campaign for your small business, it may make sense to supplement your team with a professional designer. But why stop at one? Crowdsource programs allow you to crowdsource creativity and select from multiple advertising concepts while only having to pay for one. To ensure you aren’t sacrificing quality for quantity — getting many designs doesn’t mean you know which is best or which file types you might need — pair freelance resources for maximum efficacy. It may be better to retain a professional designer for an hour to go through the crowdsourced ad options, and provide their feedback on a project-by-project basis.
Audit your processes, and upskill existing people.
If you’re struggling to find a great sales manager (according to LinkedIn, sales roles are among the highest-priority positions to fill) but there are great entry-level sales candidates, pool some of the administrative and simpler responsibilities shared among your current sales managers, and expand their role. This approach enables the sales managers to take on a broader role and helps quality junior candidates gain more experience.
Look for interns or nontraditional support.
If the job you’re looking to fill doesn’t warrant a full-time hire, in addition to professional service providers, consider nontraditional talent, such as interns. For example, less experienced interns might struggle in some areas, but they might also be able to help with ideas for reaching a different customer base. Or as digital natives, they could be adept at troubleshooting office technologies.
Although we found that almost half of small-business owners named finding and hiring top talent as a major concern, there’s no one-size-fits-all approach. Business owners must consider their immediate and long-term talent needs, the skill sets and interests of their current staff, and their appetite for onboarding a new hire.
While big businesses rely on increased pay and creative benefits to attract and retain talent, small business owners can be more creative and only hire the talent they truly need. By very clearly identifying the business talent needed, owners can consider alternative solutions that balance the business need with costs and other risks. All told, the need for new talent is usually a sign of growth. So while filling the talent vacuum might be difficult in the immediate term, it’s hopefully indicative of progress and a cause for celebration.
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