4 Hiring Challenges Facing Small Business Owners

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Hiring professional talent in today's market can be extremely difficult. Find out why it can be so tough for companies, while also learning how to deal with the stress of finding the right candidates.

For many small business owners, the last few years have been the best of times. As the economy has grown, their businesses have grown. New clients have appeared, and existing clients have increased orders. Growth is exciting.

As companies grow, however, they often need to hire new people for positions that did not previously exist. Suddenly, a function needs to be professionalized. Ten years ago a company could promote a warehouse worker to a shipping supervisor role, but after years of expansion, the business needs a supply chain manager to handle the more complex relationships that stem from a growing company. A decade ago, an office manager could double as a personnel manager at a 25-employee company. With 120 staff members today, that same firm needs at least a professional HR manager, if not a director.

Unless properly managed, these hiring projects could lead to the worst of times. For a business owner, hiring professional talent in today’s market can be problematic. Here are a few reasons why hiring can cause a headache for small businesses, and how to help your business stand out in the hiring process. 

It’s a tight market

With a 4 percent unemployment rate, there is a limited pool of unemployed job candidates. Your ideal hire might be working somewhere else and needs a reason to quit their job and work for you. When a promising talent is not looking for work, they need to be identified and attracted to your company.

Employers have built stronger cultures

Since the last recession, most companies, large and small, have improved their culture and business. In 2008, a candidate might have been eager to escape a horrible boss or bad culture. Thankfully, there are fewer of both now, but relying on another company to be worse than yours is a bad strategy.

The skills you want reside in larger firms

In the past, small companies could attract talent from larger firms by emphasizing work flexibility and a family atmosphere. Over the years, most large companies have invested a fortune in work-life balance alternatives, as well as other bells and whistles. Don’t expect a candidate to take a pay cut to work at a smaller firm just because you won’t make them use a vacation day for a child’s doctor visit. Realistically, is that worth $10,000 less in salary and a cut in a 401(k) match? 

Candidates have options

The traditional mindset is that a candidate applies for a job – basically asking an employer to consider them. In reality, the balance of power has now shifted. Employers ask the candidate to join them. Many small companies let their egos get in the way of this newfound practice. They think the candidate needs to show they want the job and make some type of sacrifice. This is a self-defeating philosophy, especially when a candidate is considering multiple employers. The choice is not between a candidate’s existing employer and your company. It is between the existing employer and any of two, three or five companies that will appear over the next few months. In a good economy, everyone grows. Other companies have grown and need the same skilled candidates as you.

The solution

The first thing you need to do is create a clear message for attracting talented candidates. If your team can’t answer the question, “Why should I quit my job and work for you?” then you need to revisit your message and, potentially, your team members. The answer can’t be “because we are nice people.” It needs to be a clearly defined message.

The second step is determining the type of person you want to hire. Attributes like experience level, current job and the type of company or industry someone is currently working in should all be analyzed and considered. Select and define the factors most important to your business. Identify your market, and then figure out a way to get that message to your market. Ads, recruitment firms and aggressive referral programs are all useful tools.

Lastly, have an employment process that is candidate friendly. Don’t make a candidate leave work in the middle of the day for a half-hour screening interview. Don’t have an interviewer who thinks it is their job to ask questions but not answer them. Engage with the candidate. If you don’t do that with them now, they will project that behavior onto themselves as a potential employee and stop the hiring process before it ever really gets started.