Hiring Employees for Your Small Business: 5 Tips for a Competitive Environment

hiring manager interviewing candidate

Amid uncertainty and increased competition, small businesses are struggling to bring on (or bring back) employees. Kathy Schadewald is the founder and CEO of Deliver Workforce Solutions, a consulting firm that focuses on helping small businesses grow by teaching them how to effectively find, hire and retain quality employees. She’s also a member of Pursuit’s Consulting Corps and we turned to her for advice about hiring employees for your small business, especially in today’s competitive environment.

Here are her five top tips and insights.

1. Formalize your hiring process.

Creating a strategy to hire the right people is essential for your business’s long-term growth. Formalizing the hiring process is critical for the success of your business because it will help guide you through searching, hiring, and training.

Your hiring strategy should include:

  • Job descriptions for each role (both existing positions and those in the future), with clear responsibilities and goals. These should include consideration on how to optimize each role. For example, a sales role should be focused on revenue generation.
  • An honest analysis of your strengths and those of your existing staff. Find out each team member’s goals and interests to see if additional training can fill a skill gap for your business and lead to higher job satisfaction. If you still need to hire, find people who complement, not clone, your team’s existing strengths and skills.
  • A goal to achieve diversity. While we often gravitate toward people with similar values and experiences to our own, your team and your business will be much stronger and more successful when you have a diverse team with a range of backgrounds, experiences, skills, and perspectives.

If this feels like more than you can take on, consider hiring a consultant to work through this with you. Specialists in human resources know how to make the hiring process more efficient and how to develop targeted talent pipelines.

2. Calculate return on investment (ROI) before you begin recruiting.

Hiring and onboarding employees are daunting challenges and major expenses for small businesses in the best of times. In the current hiring environment there’s more competition for staff and talent. So, before you invest time, energy and money, make sure that hiring for your small business is the right investment by doing an ROI analysis, including a cash-flow projection.

You want to ensure that the roles will either contribute significantly to the bottom line, such as sales staff, or fill talent and skill gaps that you can’t cover in a cost-effective or reliable manner, like outsourcing.

After you do your ROI analysis, see if you can reorganize roles and processes to achieve your desired results before hiring. Are there responsibilities that can be redirected or reassigned so that time and talent are used in ways that are engaging for your staff and effective for your business? If so, then your team also benefits from learning new skills while also increasing confidence and loyalty.

An ROI analysis will help ensure that you’re filling the right role at the right time before you invest. And if you need guidance, ask your accountant to help you crunch the numbers or bring in a human-resources consultant for an analysis. This investment up front can save you tremendous expense, time, and headaches down the line.

3. Polish your “talent brand” to position your business as an attractive place to work.

Many small business owners excel at letting clients know how valued they are: You demonstrate it through your marketing and communications, your digital media, special offers and more. But are you doing the same kinds of things to promote your business as a great place to work?

Your “talent brand” is one of your most powerful tools to attract potential employees, especially when you’re competing against large, well-known companies. What does yours say? It’s essential to demonstrate that your business is a place that people want to work.

Polishing your talent brand isn’t hard to do, if you think about all the ways a prospective employee may research your business before applying:

  • Have a page on your business’s website that tells your vision and mission and let people know about why this is important to you
  • Let candidates know about the types of benefits you offer and the kind of work environment they can expect
  • Tell about the good work that your team does in your community – these things speak volumes to potential employees

If possible, include some client testimonials that reflect the work environment, service and/or quality that you offer, too – when a client says, “Shopping here is always such a fun and pleasurable experience!” that tells a potential employee a lot about the environment.

4. Attract quality candidates by offering benefits that are important to them.

A frequent concern of small business owners is that they don’t know how to retain staff and have high turnover. To help with this, look at what benefits you currently offer and see if you need to change them.

It’s important to talk to your current employees to find out what would mean the most to them, rather than assuming that you have to offer a particular set of benefits. Then, create a compensation plan with the right mix of benefits.

A recent issue that’s come to the forefront is workplace flexibility. If that’s an issue for current or potential employees, is there a way to work that out? For example, a brick-and-mortar store requires some onsite staff, but if an existing or new employee wants (or needs) to work from home, are there responsibilities that could be done remotely?

Another way that some retail venues and restaurants are retaining staff now is by limiting the days and hours that the establishments are open. How would that work for your business? For example, if Sundays are typically your slowest days but you’ve always been open, could closing those days make a world of difference to your employees? Here, too, you want to do a cost/benefit analysis to find out what makes sense.

Finally, there are other ways to provide benefits to your employees that aren’t expensive and have great benefits for your business. For example, providing employees with some paid flex time outside of PTO each year. Or you could adopt a cause or an organization, which can help improve employee morale and loyalty, and improve your reputation with your customers too.

5. Be creative about ways to find the right candidates.

If you have a lot of temporary work or projects that require some extra hands, you could hire freelancers. If you’re organized about the goals of the projects and the skills you need to achieve them, you’ll find the people you need. Just be sure your work with them meets state and federal labor regulations in regard to 1099 or W2 workers.

If the position requires particular skills or certifications, find out where employees are earning their certifications and build relationships with the organizations. This will make your business more competitive and visible when you need skilled or certified employees.

You can also use the major job boards to look for hiring for your small business. Bear in mind though that you will be competing with larger employers who might have more name recognition than your business.

Hiring friends or family can be a tricky situation, especially if things don’t go well. As long as you set clear expectations for the role and they have the skills and experience to achieve your business’s goals, then it’s alright to bring them on. However, this should be used to fill temporary gaps, not as a long-term solution.

Hiring employees for your small business takes money. Pursuit can help.

When your analysis shows that hiring is the right decision, Pursuit can help you take the next steps by getting the funding you need, including working capital to expand your team. Pursuit has more than 15 loan programs and every day, we help entrepreneurs grow their businesses and fulfill their dreams. Contact Pursuit today to learn how we can help you, too.

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