Finding and Keeping Good Employees In This Tight Labor Market

by Marcianne Kuethen
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If you’re a small or mid-sized business (SBM), recent data shows that your greatest concern is finding and keeping good employees in this tight labor market. Hiring and staffing challenges are difficult for any size business to manage. As a smaller business with fewer resources, you may feel you’re in an uphill battle to find and keep qualified workers.

The Business Journals just released survey data from more than 1,000 small or mid-sized businesses. In answer to the question, “What are the issues that you’re most concerned about?” the top answer was finding and keeping good employees. Other stated concerns were attracting new customers, maintaining an existing customer base, possible tax changes that could hurt business, and the safety and security of their firm’s technology, email and documents hosted online.

The National Federation of Independent Businesses (NFIB) shares similar sentiments. On the one hand, small businesses experienced an exciting, record-breaking May:

  • Compensation increases hit a 45-year high at a record net 35 percent.
  • Positive earnings trends reached a survey high at a net 3 percent.
  • Positive sales trends are at the highest level since 1995.
  • Expansion plans are the most robust in survey history.

But they also expressed concerns such as taxes and regulations, and—their number one concern—the difficulty of finding qualified employees. Of the 58 percent who reported hiring or trying to hire, 83 percent reported few or no qualified workers.

How can you, a small or mid-sized business, attack the problem of finding and keeping good employees in this tight labor market? As a recruitment firm, Amtec has helped organizations build high-performing teams for nearly 60 years. Having weathered various economies, we’ve got some insight into the subject of staffing. Here are a few tips with links to articles you can read to glean more in-depth tactics:

1. Define and establish your company culture. Until you do this initial work, you won’t know what kind of person you want to attract who will fit in well with your existing team and culture. Be sure to include a way to make employees feel appreciated, recognized, and valued. Also consider what makes your company uniquely attractive, and offer company perks that keep employees coming back for more.

2. Establish and follow a solid hiring process. A well-established hiring process encompasses everything from defining your open position, sourcing and screening candidates, and conducting behavioral interviews, to making the offer, negotiating compensation and benefits, and setting your new employee up for success with a performance acceleration tool. You may choose to use an experienced staffing agency if you are short on time, experience, or HR resources.

3. Compensate fairly and transparently. In a candidate-driven market, in-demand employees know their value, which is what makes finding and keeping good employees in this tight labor market so challenging! To attract top talent, you’ll need to compensate accordingly and keep the grass on your side of the fence very green. Also, aim for transparent pay discussions—research shows that you’ll increase employees’ loyalty, engagement, and trust.

4. Be approachable, encouraging, and strategic. Increasingly, your workers want to be heard and made to feel that their contributions matter. Loyalty must be earned. As Millennials increasingly fill the workforce, they’re looking for mentors, meaningful work, work-life balance, charitable participation, and opportunities to grow their skills. Consider replacing disconnected yearly performance reviews with short monthly assessment and strategy sessions to keep your finger on your employees’ pulse.

Finding and keeping good employees in this tight labor market is not easy for smaller organizations. But with an attractive company culture, a solid hiring process, fair market wages, and intentional management, you can draw in and retain employees to build your high-performing team.

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