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Talent Challenges Can Be a Big Problem for Small Businesses

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Employers of all sizes continue to face attraction and retention challenges. Unfortunately, small businesses often don’t have the excess resources to invest in attraction and retention efforts in today’s labor market, making it difficult to compete with larger organizations.

Economic pressures continue to make it challenging for small businesses to hold on to their best talent and appeal to other top-tier workers. Furthermore, rising health-care costs are stressing employees and employers alike. Aside from expense concerns, employers are also experiencing a growing skill gap as many workers join organizations without all the desired skills.

Consider the following talent strategies:

  • Offer health insurance and tailored benefits. Health insurance is valued highly by workers. Simply offering health insurance can give small businesses a competitive edge against those that don’t. Health insurance is just one component to consider as part of a benefits package; small businesses should tailor their benefits offerings to meet the specific demands of current and prospective employees. The best benefits vary for each organization, but they can be used to attract and retain employees. See this month’s HR Connection article for some other suggestions!
  • Embrace digital and generative artificial intelligence (AI) tools. Small businesses often have limited resources for recruiting, hiring and onboarding practices, so it’s important to be as efficient as possible. Leveraging cost-effective applicant tracking systems and digital tools can help small businesses improve these practices. Generative AI can also help workers spend less time on tedious tasks, such as manual data entry.
  • Expand recruitment reach. If an employer isn’t receiving the number of quality candidates they desire, it’s worth strategizing to grow their talent pool. Expanding an organization’s online presence is a good start. This may include creating and maintaining multiple online profiles, posting content regularly and informing prospective workers of job opportunities.

HOW CAN WE FILL VACANCIES CREATIVELY WHEN EXTERNAL RECRUITING IS NOT SUCCESSFUL?

Look at your existing employees. Small businesses should consider how they can bridge skills gaps in-house. Some strategies may include providing career pathing plans, creating mentorship programs, offering microlearning workshops to focus on specific skills, or paying for employees to attain certifications or further their education outside the workplace.

WHAT OTHER LOW/NO COST OPTIONS ARE AVAILABLE TO HELP RECRUIT OR RETAIN THE CURRENT WORKFORCE?

Offer a flexible work environment. Many of today’s employees worked remotely during the COVID-19 pandemic and would prefer to work from home. Flexible work arrangements, such as work-from-home arrangements and hybrid or flexible schedules (including flex time or days), can help small businesses maintain a competitive edge over employers who don’t offer such flexibility.

Create a strong workplace culture. Small businesses should aim to foster a desirable workplace. A healthy company culture can help retain employees and, in turn, create an environment that’s attractive to applicants.

Like many organizations, small businesses face several challenges with attracting and retaining the employees they need. Fortunately, small businesses can leverage these strategies to help them compete in today’s talent market.

Kim Figurski

HR consultant and trainer at the Manufacturer & Business Association. Contact her at 814/833-3200, 800/815- 2660 or kfigurski@mbausa.org.