4 Ways to hire top talent – even now
If you’ve tried to hire new employees recently, you may have been surprised at how challenging it is. Yet many employees are changing jobs. A survey by PricewaterhouseCoopers found that 65% of Americans are looking for a new job. How can small businesses compete for that talent? Here’s what you need to know.
Why it’s so hard to hire
The pandemic has changed our work lives in many ways. So many people lost their jobs, so employers are surprised to see how hard it is to find workers. There are two factors at work here.
- Many people are simply leaving the workforce. During this time, dubbed ‘The Great Resignation’ for the number of people quitting their jobs, many people close to retirement have decided to retire early. Others have left to start a business of their own. And others, who had to go to take care of family members during the pandemic, have decided not to return.
- Many workers feel their employers did not handle the pandemic well. They don’t necessarily feel safe at work, and they have found they like the flexibility of working from home. Employers who are requiring workers to come back to the office are meeting resistance.
Why so many people are willing to jump ship
It’s essential to understand why there are so many people looking to change jobs. One big reason is salary – and this is often the self-fulfilling prophecy of a tight labor market. Companies increase wages to attract talent, the existing employees become disgruntled as salaries around them rise, so they leave for greener pastures. It’s a vicious cycle.
So, what’s an employer to do?
Understand what employees really want. A hefty salary is nice, but if you take a job only for the money, you’ll only be happy on payday. Of course, there are other factors at work, but they might be different for each employee. Patricia Hunt Sinacole, CEO and founder of First Beacon Group, LLC, an HR consulting firm, recommends listening to your employees and the candidates with whom you’re talking. You might be surprised by what’s important to them.
“The candidates are the ones making the rules, candidates and employees,” she said. “Find out what they want, because (small business owners) are in a situation where they’re lucky enough not have to develop a huge 401k program with a match, for example. They have an advantage in a way, because it's not like they have to offer something to 500 employees.”
1. Offer flexibility
Small businesses also have an advantage because they can be more flexible. For example, you may not need every employee to work the same hours or be in the office all the time. “Maybe Tom wants to work at home on Thursdays. And Jane wants to leave on Mondays at 2:30. So that’s the flexible option each of them gets. And it doesn’t have to be secret. It can be an open dialog,” said Sinacole.
“It’s really hard to say to an employee after they may have been working remotely for over a year, you can't work from home anymore. It's like cracking an egg and saying, okay, let's put it back together. It's just not going to happen. And flexibility and remote work are two things that don't cost a lot of money either.”
Sinacole recommends continuing the dialog to make sure the employee remains happy. “Reassess in 30 days, and again in 60 days,” she said. “We’ve allowed you to work from home, allowed you to leave early to pick up the kids. Is this still working for you? Is it not working for you? Continuing to check in with them costs nothing.”
2. Pay market rate – or better
As a small business owner, you may pay more for a particular role because you may only have one person doing that role. So, for example, a company that employs one accounting clerk can pay them what they want, and there are no other accounting clerks to complain that they’re not getting an equivalent salary.
3. Communication is key
Once you’ve hired the perfect person, be sure to continue to check in with them and make sure they’re still happy. As their circumstances change, what they want out of their job may change also – you’ll want to be mindful of this and check in with them. Talking to your employees, and listening to what they have to say, is critical.
“What we’re hearing in exit interviews is that employees are a little bit burnt out, a little bit overwhelmed,” said Sinacole. “They might have a family illness situation or elderly parents, and people are still afraid of COVID-19. I think to attract and retain means you need to have a smaller mouth and bigger ears.”
“I think people want to be asked, “What's important to you?” and, “How can we make sure we retain you?” And we do have a lot of baby boomers. I've seen more retirements this year than I've seen in a long time. I think people are saying, “I'm 62 or 63 or 64, I think I can do what I do as an independent contractor and have a lot more flexibility. I think employers have to be really, really responsive and even proactive in engaging their employees.”
4. Look at the big picture
Sinacole advises small businesses not to nickel and dime their employees – to consider what they’re asking for in the broader context of their value to the company. “I get calls all the time from small businesses saying, ‘I don't want to give them a laptop and a new chair at home.’ But how much is that? And they'll say it's about $500. To replace them is going to be way more – to find someone, get them up and running, get them onboarded, get them engaged and get them to understand your business. Five hundred dollars is a drop in the bucket compared to having an open role that will take who knows how long to fill.”
Small businesses face similar hiring challenges to their larger counterparts, but they do have the advantage of being more nimble. They also have the advantage of being better able to keep tabs on what their employees want without going through the many layers of HR. Capitalizing on these advantages will help small businesses to compete in this tight labor market.