Layoffs are mounting and Main Street still can’t hire anyone

Encinitas, Calif., May 9, 2022 IN-N-OUT fast food restaurant displays a “Now Hiring” sign in the window.

Mike Blake | Reuters

When it comes to wages, small business owners generally don’t play in the same league as large companies.

This becomes even more difficult in a tight labor market, with rising wages and more states and municipalities placing wage ranges that make small businesses less attractive from a wage perspective.

The stakes are especially high given that even small businesses are still in hiring mode with the economy slowing and finding workers is not easy. According to an October survey by workforce planning company Homebase, 86 percent of small business owners said they plan to hire one or more employees in the next year or two. Meanwhile, the National Federation of Independent Business, a major small business trade group, reported last week that confidence on Main Street fell for the tenth consecutive month, although there was little change in the need to hire more workers.

“Owners continue to be pessimistic about future sales growth and business conditions, but still want to hire new workers,” NFIB chief economist Bill Dunkelberg said in his latest monthly survey. “Inflation, supply chain disruptions and labor shortages continue to limit the ability of many small businesses to meet demand for their products and services.”

A separate NFIB job report found that among hiring managers, 90% reported having few or no qualified applicants for these positions.

Here are five ways small businesses can level the playing field to attract top talent.

Emphasize more than the salary in the window

Jim Marks, director of retirement plans at Edelman Financial Services, recently walked by a store that advertised “competitive benefits” in the window, highlighting benefits such as the company’s retirement plan, medical benefits and offering student loan assistance. “I’m glad to see that. They obviously want to get good talent in the door and they’ve been emphasizing that,” he said.

Case in point: Small businesses need to make sure candidates know the benefits of working with them beyond the likely higher starting salary.

Benefits should be highlighted in job descriptions and discussed in every interview, onboarding and training, says Kayla Lebovitz, CEO and founder of Bundle Benefits, a completely remote company that focuses on wellness, professional development and team building. “If it’s just mentioned in the job description but not brought up during job interviews, [a candidate] they will think it’s not real.”

Involve current employees in the hiring process

Lebovits finds it effective to invite employees who actively use the company’s various advantages to participate in the interview process. This way, candidates get a real-life feel for how the company’s home equipment scholarship and co-op membership subsidy work.

“They’re not a huge price tag, but employees use them,” Lebovits said.

Having an up-front dialogue about benefits and learning what is important to candidates is critical because it sets the tone for the future. “It communicates that the candidate is important to the organization,” said Victoria Hodgkins, CEO of PeopleKeep, a benefits management software company. “In this work environment, candidates want to know that, and it gives them a chance to ask questions and learn more.”

Learn employee usage patterns, trust popular preferences

Small businesses generally can’t offer the full set of benefits that larger companies can, but they can offer a number of highly desirable benefits that employees use regularly. “Identify what people actually use, and those are the things you should promote because those are the things people value the most,” Lebovits said.

In particular, pension, health and welfare benefits can go a long way in improving the financial capabilities of employees. While most workers believe these benefits are important, there’s a significant gap between the percentage who say they’re important and the percentage employers offer them, according to an October survey by the Transamerica Center for Retirement Research. “This is an opportunity for employers to increase the competitiveness of their compensation and benefits packages, while also achieving greater long-term financial security for their employees,” the study said.

Health benefits in general are also in high demand. According to a recent survey by TalentLMS, a learning management system powered by Epignosis, and financial wellness companies, 68% of employees say they are more likely to stay at their current job longer if their employer offers financial wellness benefits. Check and enrich. The survey also shows that 61% of employees are more likely to stay in their current job if they are offered financial health training and resources.

Maternity leave is another important benefit to consider. A recent survey by disability insurance provider Breeze found that most workers prefer their employers to offer paid parental leave over vision insurance, employer-paid fitness or mental health benefits, employer-paid social events or student loan repayment benefits. The survey looked at 1,000 active working adults between the ages of 22 and 40.

Avoid the all benefits are equal approach

It is important to offer a range of benefits that can appeal to different people.

For example, don’t just offer yoga or meditation programs or gym benefits; Offer multiple ways for employees to fill in, Lebovits said. “People see themselves very differently.”

While the Breeze study found that parental leave is more popular than vision insurance among workers 40 and younger, that may change once they reach “reading glasses” age.

There can be significant differences in the types of benefits available to employees based on gender, age, and type of work environment.

A May survey of more than 900 small business workers by PeopleKeep found that 70% of women rated mental health benefits as “very or extremely” important, compared to 49% of men. Women are also more likely than men to value flexible work schedules (84%-70%), paid family leave (73%-61%) and professional development (64%-57%), while men place more importance on paying for internet and phone bills. . according to the survey, from women (40%-32%).

Turn existing employees into referral sources

If your current employees are happy, they will be more likely to recommend an open position with the company to others. That means making sure existing employees are excited about the benefits you’re offering—and to achieve that, you need to make sure employees feel engaged.

Sixty-two percent of respondents to a recent Edelman Financial survey said they were “always underrepresented” in their company’s messaging about benefits. This sentiment differs even more among women, with 68% saying they don’t always participate – significantly higher than their male counterparts (58%).

According to the survey, 93% of workers who did not always feel represented said they would benefit more from financial health support if it was tailored to their specific background and family circumstances.

Finally, small businesses need to understand what attracts job seekers in the first place and leverage those strengths in all of their communications with candidates. According to Homebase, 70 percent of small businesses cited a sense of community, followed by flexibility in the workplace (69%), close relationships with co-workers (66%) and closer relationships with managers (53%).

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