As businesses are on the cusp of reopening in Washington State, one issue that some small businesses are being challenged with is hiring.
While unemployment rates are continuing to fall, businesses like restaurants and retail are still struggling to find workers, which can be attributed to multiple factors.
With numerous local businesses in the area reporting a huge disparity in the number of job openings they have versus the number of applications they are receiving, small businesses are looking for various ways to ensure they are attractive to potential employees.
To find how to address these challenges, we need to understand what is causing people to hesitate re-entering the workforce and create some hiring strategies.
Why People Are Hesitant to Jump Back Into the Workforce
On the surface, most people would assume that the key driver for not being able to fill the current job openings is simply financial. Between the additional unemployment benefits and weekly payments from the Federal Government, for some people, they’re actually taking home more money than when they work.
While that may be true for some, it isn’t the only reason small businesses are having trouble filling open jobs.
Childcare has been an ongoing concern throughout the pandemic, with many parents finding themselves unable to work. In some areas, schools stayed closed while businesses reopened, which meant parents had nobody to watch their children during the workday. In other cases, families who relied on grandparents or other people to do their childcare weren’t able to use their regular caregivers due to concerns about COVID-19 spread and having too many people in their family bubble.
Some workers have been hesitant to work due to concerns about catching COVID-19, due to their own health issues — especially if they are immunocompromised. For the safety of themselves and their families, they’ve chosen to stay out of the workforce temporarily, decreasing the overall pool of available workers.
Additionally, some workers are struggling with finding jobs that suit their specific skill set. Others have lost their jobs and are simply waiting to see if it comes back and are hesitant to retrain in the meantime. In some cases, the break from being in the workforce has given people the time to consider their employment goals, and they aren’t willing to jump right back in until they decide about what they want for the future.
So how do small businesses overcome these challenges and find the workers they need?
Here are five hiring strategies for you to consider as you work on staffing up for the Washington State reopening.
#1. Consider Your Total Compensation Package
Total compensation is about far more than just how much you pay your employee per hour. Not only are potential employees looking for a living wage, but they also expect other benefits that can increase their compensation.
While offering a formal health insurance plan may not be possible for some small businesses, there are other things focused on health and wellness that you can offer. Whether it’s a health savings account, covering the cost of a gym membership, or providing resources for mental health assistance, even simple things can make a huge difference.
Schedule flexibility is another option you can consider offering employees. For those who are still challenged with childcare issues, what kind of work hours could you offer them? Could they work evenings only once they have someone home to watch the children? Could they do weekends only? Can they work split shifts (a few hours in the morning and a few in the evening)?
Time off is another big part of compensation, so consider what your policy is and how you might be able to enhance it. Do your employees get paid time off? Can they take time off easily when they need it?
Obviously every small business is unique and what works for one may not work for another, but in order to attract the employees you need, you should think about what you can do to make working for your business a viable option.
#2. Broadly Share Your COVID Safety Plans
Staying safe has been a top issue through the pandemic, and just because the state is reopening it doesn’t automatically mean employees will stop being concerned. Vaccination rates are rising, but COVID-19 transmission is ongoing, so those considering re-entering the workforce — especially those with health issues — will want to feel confident their employer is on top of protocols.
Consider what your current action plan is. Is it widely shared anywhere? Do you have a communication plan to keep everyone doing business with you up-to-date?
Most importantly, do potential employees considering applying know what your business is doing to ensure everyone’s safety?
While this hiring strategy may not apply in the future, COVID is still top of mind for many people right now. Whatever you can do to offer transparency and reassurance may help open the door to more people being willing to work for your business.
#3. Offer Opportunities For Growth
One misconception that some people have about small businesses is that there’s no opportunity for career growth, and this simply isn’t accurate. While some people are hired in entry-level positions that doesn’t mean they can’t move into other roles.
Some people in the workforce are hesitant to take a job currently if they perceive there are no chances to “move up the ladder”, so consider what the structure of your small business is like and how you can highlight that these opportunities exist.
Is “opportunity for growth” included as part of your job postings? And if it is, are you able to share a bit more about what that could look like?
Let’s say you run a restaurant and are in need of a hostess. Is there potential for them to eventually become a server? A shift supervisor? Another role in the restaurant that would be a step up from where they are starting?
A good exercise to get you set up for using this as a hiring strategy is to look back at the history of your business. Do you have any examples you can share with people about promoting from within? Any success stories of past employees starting in one role and moving into a higher position?
Your goal here is to be able to demonstrate to potential employees that those opportunities exist for the right people.
#4. Offer Comprehensive Job Training
As mentioned earlier in this article, one thing holding some people back from trying to find a new job is concern over skills. They’re struggling to find jobs that suit their current skill set, and are challenged finding roles that are willing to provide extensive training.
Job training is an investment in your business. While your initial costs may be higher while you allow time for someone to train and get up to speed, over the long term these investments can pay off greatly.
Employees who are well trained are more productive, which is great for both your business and your customers. And of course, the more effective your employees are, the better experience they can offer your customers. As a small business owner, you know customer experience is paramount to your success, so well-trained employees are really a must.
People want to feel like they’re good at their job, so offering them the opportunity to add new skills and practice accordingly makes them not only feel highly competent, but also valued by your business.
#5. Target People Who are #readytowork
Job sites like Indeed are a great place to start when looking for new employees. While posting on job openings on these sites can be a more passive activity — with you posting the listing and then waiting for people to reply — Indeed has added a new feature to make it easier than ever to find people.
Indeed Resume now offers those posting resumes the opportunity to add the #readytowork tag to their profile, indicating to potential employers that they’re available immediately. You can search the resume bank for #readytowork candidates that are a good match for the role you’re looking to fill, and then reach out to them directly.
Don’t Forget to Check Up On Your Brand Reputation
On a final note, while you’re looking at what hiring strategies are right for your small business, don’t forget to take some time to examine your brand reputation.
Job seekers are doing just as much research on your business as you are on them, and if your reputation has any marks against it, it may hurt you. Take some time to look for any online reviews and see what people are saying about how you do business, and make sure you address any unresolved issues when possible.
Not every one of these hiring strategies may be right for your business, so consider each one and how it may work for you. Then, you’ll be positioned to start attracting the employees you need to make your reopening the best it can be.