by Shayne Thomas
16 Jul 2019
The Low Unemployment Rate Challenge for SMBs
4 tips for recruiting and retaining talent in a job seeker’s market
When the economy is in a tailspin, we complain. And today, with the economy in one of its strongest positions in recent history, we’re going to complain again. Why? Because as the economy ebbs and flows, so does the job market—and that poses different and unique challenges for both job seekers and small- and medium-sized businesses (SMBs) alike.
With the U.S. unemployment rate at all-time lows, the job market has become a job seeker’s proverbial oyster: there are more job openings around than there are qualified candidates to fill them. And this creates a nightmare for employee retention across the board. Then multiply that by about one hundred for SMBs. Many of these businesses, like your own, find themselves in the tough position of competing with bigger companies for the attention and loyalty of employees—this is further exacerbated by the fact that they can rarely offer the same kind of salaries, bonuses, benefits, and other tantalizing perks that quickly lure them to the big guys.
But that’s just part of the hurdle. SMBs have the additional challenge of fewer resources to dedicate to recruiting and retaining talent overall. (Those of you operating an HR team of one know this all too well!) This explains why one in five SMBs say that the difficulty of finding candidates to fill job openings has become a top problem facing their business today, with 60% of SMBs in an active hiring mode and another 54% finding few to no qualified candidates whatsoever. For SMBs, this has increased the time-to-hire by a whopping 40%.
So, now that you’ve reached your wit’s end, what can you do to reverse this trend? Check out these four tips to make the most of your recruiting and employee retention efforts, even when low unemployment rates and a job seeker’s market are making it harder to hire workers.
1. Avoid transactional recruiting
We know you’re swamped—and more work gets added to your to-do list every day—but that doesn’t mean you should get into the bad habit of making your recruitment efforts transactional. In other words, avoid getting into the rut where you identify a need, write a job post, publish it across a few platforms, and then just wait for the applications to pour in. Sound familiar? It should, because 74% of companies today treat recruiting as a single transaction. Unfortunately, it’s not going to do you much good in a really competitive job market.
In order to stand out from all the other recruiters out there, SMBs need to go above and beyond to create a compelling case as to why a job seeker might want to consider working from them. This includes clearly articulating your brand identity as well as all the reasons that make your company a truly great place to work. Remember, potential candidates may not have heard of your small business before, so you have to do the heavy lifting to help them see the value you offer. But it doesn’t stop there. Why wait for applications to fill your inbox when you could cherry pick the perfect candidates to fill those roles? Don’t wait. Instead, conduct an active search for ideal candidates who fit the exact profile you’re looking for and then ask if they’d consider a new opportunity. They may say “no.” They may say “yes.” You will never know unless you try. Though, making a potential candidate feel wanted typically goes a long way!
2. Give employees a sense of purpose
Recruiting talent is only one part of the equation; retaining talent is an even bigger challenge in a competitive job market. SMBs have a unique opportunity to create an experience and provide opportunities that set them apart from the big guys (in spite of their deep pockets). And it starts by giving employees a reason—might be say “purpose”—for wanting to come to work each day. This comes at a time when 75% of millennials would accept taking a pay cut if it meant working for a values-driven company, even though it’s safe to say that all employees today value the Three P’s of Employment: paycheck, prestige, and purpose. The only difference is that the “purpose” part of the equation tends to hold a bit more weight these days—and for good reason! So, waste no time in identifying the unique purpose you offer to employees and be sure to communicate it every step of the way: from the very start of the recruitment process and throughout an employee’s time your company. Remember when President Kennedy visited NASA and accidentally took a wrong turn into a janitor’s closet, he asked the janitor what he did for the organization. The janitor’s reply was simple: “Oh, Mr. President, I’m putting a man on the moon.” That, my friends, is the embodiment of purpose.
3. Mold your ideal employees
People don’t just come to work to do their jobs. They come to get better at what they do, learn new skills, and eventually work their way up the totem pole. Learning shouldn’t end the moment you’re handed a diploma. It’s a lifelong adventure—and the workplace is a great place to keep your brain firing on all cylinders. Unfortunately, studies have shown that graduates lack the necessary technical or soft skills to excel in today’s job market, with a surprisingly low 35% of employers saying that graduates ready for the challenges facing them today. That means, as an SMB looking to attract top talent, you may have to retool your approach to recruiting ever so slightly: stop searching for that diamond in the rough and, instead, fill job openings with candidates who you can mold, through proper learning and development, into the rockstar employee you were searching for in the first place. Just because someone doesn’t have all the skills as of day one doesn’t mean they can’t learn them over time. Invest in your employees, and there’s a good chance they’ll invest more of their time into your business.
4. Have the right tools in place
We’ve said this before, and we’ll say it again: learning and development don’t just happen. You have to have the right systems and tools in place to enable it. This is even more critical if you determine that potential-based recruitment is the only way you can fill your open jobs. So, be sure to invest in a solid learning management system (LMS) and fill it with course offerings that can help those employees learn the skills they need to succeed at your company. But don’t just force this onto new hires; make learning a shared experience company-wide by getting managers involved in the fun, too. Everyone, even the most senior employees, can learn a little something new. So seize this opportunity to create a culture of learning that ensures every employee is equipped with the right skills to make the biggest impact possible. You might even notice that it does wonders for employee retention, too!
This still doesn’t mean that the job of recruiting and retaining talent in the face of low unemployment rates won’t be tough. It just means you have to take on a more creative approach to how you hire workers. If you’re still stumped, Cornerstone can help. We’ve got the right tools to help your SMB stay competitive in a job seeker’s market. Learn more today!