No one would argue that the world isn’t tumultuous right now, especially for small businesses.
Not only are many dealing with recoveries after the economic shutdowns and the current state of affairs, but a massive talent shortage is hitting the entire market. Even large organizations are struggling to find talent, top-tier or otherwise.
The National Federation of Independent Business reported that 42% of business owners had job openings that could not be filled, which is a record high.
It’s no wonder that business owners are frustrated with unfilled job openings. It’s tough to run and grow a business when hiring the right people is challenging.
And if you’re just now starting a business or recently started one, you must find competitive advantages when hiring. Otherwise, you’ll struggle to get your new business off the ground.
A strong hiring strategy is even more critical if you’re looking for financing or investors for your business. Lenders and investors will look closely at your business plan and your strategy for hiring and building your team.
So, how can small businesses and startups hope to hire the right people? What can you do to make your business more attractive than the competition?
1. Promote work flexibility
Every business or operation can’t have remote workers. That’s probably true of most small businesses, with local shops or a smaller reach. However, schedules, personal time, and long work hours have always been a problem across many industries, especially retail, and it’s not just that people are fed up. Still, they can’t handle it anymore — both physically and mentally.
Introducing flexibility into your processes will ensure employees are more satisfied, help them feel valued, and show that you care about their health and well-being. Yes, this is incredibly difficult to do when you’re already short-staffed, but working everyone to the bone is never a good idea.
Some examples include adjusted work arrival or departure times, shorter workweeks, and opportunities to work remotely — not necessarily from home but away from the store itself. There are pros and cons to flex working arrangements, but ultimately your employees will appreciate it, which will attract new talent.
Flexibility will also help strengthen your business brand. After all, a key part of your brand strategy should be to turn employees into advocates for your brand. By creating a flexible work environment, you’ll create happier employees. And happier employees are more likely to show enthusiasm when interacting with customers and prospects.
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2. Offer competitive wages
Many major companies are increasing wages to attract new talent and retain existing workers, including Amazon, McDonald’s, Walmart, Costco, etc.
Yes, those are larger organizations with bigger budgets. But competitive wages and pay are one of the best weapons in any business owner’s arsenal. If you can offer salaries comparable to businesses in your geographic area, you’ll attract more talent. And if you’re hiring remote workers, you must be competitive since people have more choices when working remotely.
It’s straightforward and more of an obvious approach, but it works, and that’s what matters.
Another thing to consider is introducing benefits or incentives for employees, even those working part-time. Signing bonuses, loyalty rewards, and the chance to earn additional income are also great ideas.
3. Secure employee rights
One of the more challenging aspects of remote work policies is enforcing employee rights, such as break time, and time off, and ensuring people step away from business processes — like email. That’s because remote work essentially shifts the responsibility to the employees, and it’s easy to get caught up in your work and forget these essential perks. It’s also the fastest way to experience burnout and ruin productivity.
While the same scenario probably doesn’t play out for your small business unless you have remote workers, it does show it’s vital to honor employee rights.
Make sure, no matter how busy your shop or business is, that people are taking their breaks, and lunches, and getting time to wind down. You don’t want your best workers staying late every day and every shift because, eventually, that will wear them down and even cause them to walk away.
4. Be understanding and supportive
About 75% of people who willingly leave their jobs don’t quit the job; they quit their bosses.
That could be you, or it could be another supervisor on the job.
Whatever the case, it highlights the need to create an understanding and supportive environment for your employees. That is imperative in today’s landscape, with all the rising stress, economic problems, the pandemic, and the heap of issues the world faces today.
That doesn’t mean you must allow employees to be insubordinate without consequences. It just means taking an interest in their personal and work lives and ensuring you provide as much support as possible. During a family crisis, reassure them it’s okay to take time off and that they won’t be fired.
Many businesses are already doing this kind of thing. Mike Draper, from a small clothing and design shop called Raygun, overhauled his PTO (paid time off) strategies to accommodate workers so they can deal with personal issues without the fear of being let go. “We provide an environment where people don’t find themselves in that situation. Work doesn’t have to be intractable.”
As a small business owner with a huge vested interest in your brand, it’s easy to get tunnel vision and look for people who match your existing team, your interests, or fit within a particular ideal criterion.
Instead, focus on creating a diverse, equitable workspace and always give potential candidates the benefit of the doubt. Maybe that person you didn’t think would be a good fit, for one reason or another, actually will be?
Of course, you shouldn’t ignore background checks, but eliminating some of your natural bias can bring a whole new world of opportunity to your business.
6. Consider outsourcing
The gig economy is strong and here to stay, especially with our low-contact requirements because of the pandemic and significant health concerns.
As a small business, you can embrace these outsourced and crowd-driven programs, especially for local deliveries, custom graphics design, and other services. For example, you don’t need in-house designers to help you create a company logo, website, or brochures. You can save tens of thousands of dollars and outsource that work to experts.
Instead of hiring and managing your crews, perhaps consider using third-party providers.
Also, consider tapping into contractors and freelancers. Of course, this may or may not be possible for local-only operations, but the opportunity is always out there.
The truth is that no one is sure when the labor shortage is going away. But one thing is certain: the world has been irrevocably changed. Many things are happening even beyond the pandemic affecting all industries, including new technologies, the gig economy, consumer or worker sentiment, and much more.
Everyone is dealing with the shortage in the best ways they can. You must get creative to snag the right talent for your small business.
And remember not to neglect your existing workers. Retaining good talent is just as important as hiring new people.
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