Small businesses across the country have been struggling to hire staff after quarantine conditions last year induced layoffs and furloughs in almost every industry. Even if you were able to keep all your people on staff you may find that many are suddenly quitting to pursue different career options. Economists and pundits predicted that once the federal unemployment benefits supplements ended in July, employees would return to work in droves, but that assurance hasn’t materialized. Since hiring for small businesses in a small community can be difficult at the best of times, we’ve put together some tips to help you find—and keep—the help you need.

1)    Hire the Right Candidate

Most small businesses know it’s time to hire when they suddenly can’t keep up with demand. When you’re already overwhelmed with the everyday tasks its takes to keep your business afloat, dedicating time and/or money to recruiting can seem impossible. Many small businesses in this situation fall into the trap of rushing the hiring process to simply get a warm body through the door as soon as possible.

Hiring too quickly often leads to employees that don’t suit your business, and the result is high turnover. Employee turnover not only means you have to tackle the arduous task of recruiting again, it can also give your business a bad reputation to potential candidates. Nothing is a greater warning flag to great employees than a small business that can’t hold on to its people.

2)    Do Your Research—Inside and Outside Your Business

Truly understanding your small business’s needs—both for putting out fires today and helping you tackle the new ones that emerge as you grow—is essential to staying out of the hiring loop. Hiring a candidate who can grow with your small business, dealing with daily issues easily, and taking on more responsibilities as you grow is the ideal situation. But that takes foresight and investment.

When we say that you need to do the research outside your business, we mean that you need to understand what it takes to keep salaries competitive in your market. With fast food chains offering $15 per hour across the country, it’s likely that the wages you offered pre-pandemic will no longer meet the mark. You’ll need to reexamine what you can afford to pay people, and how your business needs to change to meet the new salary standards.

3)    Get Creative with Perks

Just because you can’t top the going hourly rates for area food chains or major retailers doesn’t mean your small business can’t compete for quality candidates. Can you offer benefits to you employees? If a that’s not an option, then consider some lifestyle-oriented perks that have increased in value for employees since the start of the pandemic, like:

Flexible Schedules and Remote Work: If your small business is in an office setting, offering a flexible schedule can provide your employees with freedom, and you with better work. Remote work does require some discipline on the employee’s part, but project supervision in offices hasn’t required directly observing your employees at work for a long time, if it ever did. At least some remote work is becoming the norm, and if your IT and computer networks aren’t ready for it, that signals to employees that you might not be ready for long-term growth.

Unlimited Time Off: Paid time off is usually the top perk among employees, and the United States has shockingly low PTO rates compared to the rest of the developed world. Employees typically aren’t used to taking more than 2 weeks off per year, and many don’t feel they can take even that when times are busy. Unlimited PTO sounds scary, but it’s a back pocket freedom for employees that most companies find rarely affects their bottom line.

Be Pet-friendly: Do you own an office or rent a space that allows animals? Why not allow employees to bring their pets to work? As long as it isn’t a health concern (i.e. you work in the food industry), pets can even be an appeal to customers. The bookstore cat is ubiquitous. Why not the accounting office parakeet or the barber shop dog too?

Set a Casual Dress Code: We all know the pandemic made dressing for work seem like a significant trial we never knew we were suffering. Much like salaries, dress code standards have changed rapidly since the onset of the pandemic. If you have an office dress code or an employee uniform, examine carefully exactly what the benefits of those policies are to your business, and whether it’s time to let them go for the sake of good employees.

4)    Sell the Small Business Lifestyle

Major corporations have gotten a bad rap during the pandemic, and more people want to support local business both with their custom and their work. Surveys show that more than half of employees prioritize work culture over salary, and it makes sense. At 40-plus hours a week, work takes up the most substantial portion of our lives, and the pandemic has shown people that escaping a bad culture can substantially improve their entire outlook.

Be clear with candidates what you value as a company. Get to know them and break down the traditional barriers between work life and homelife—they probably never really existed. By establishing a positive environment with good workmates, your small business can give potential employees something they want more than money.

5)    Use Social Media and Job Board Sites to Recruit

Every business in town seems to be putting ‘Now Hiring’ signs up. But with the shift to remote work, grocery, and takeout delivery, and explosion of online shopping, people aren’t getting out and about even if the pandemic has subsided in their area—and in East Tennessee that’s a big if. Quality candidates simply aren’t out on the street anymore; they’re online. It’s now become imperative to use social media and job boards to hire.

Luckily, digital recruiting is a cost-effective strategy that offers many benefits to small business owners. You can search for and engage with candidates for free or at very low costs through LinkedIn and Twitter, or use your own Facebook and Instagram channels to make your Hiring Now announcements. LinkedIn can also be a valuable job board site, as can Indeed, especially if you can afford the ad investments or subscriptions.

Jefferson County Chamber of Commerce Can Help

Hiring is never an easy pursuit. When it comes to hiring for a small business in a smaller community like Jefferson County—in the midst of a pandemic—recruiting may seem an unsurmountable task. But recruiting for you small business doesn’t have to be a lengthy and painstaking process. Networking with area businesses, like members of the Jefferson County Chamber of Commerce can make it easier, as can the strategies we outlined above.

If you have a business in Jefferson County and learning more business growth and hiring strategies is your goal, the Jefferson County Chamber of Commerce is here to help. Become a member of the Jefferson County Chamber of Commerce today to start taking advantage of all the workshops, networking, and other benefits we have to offer. To find out more about how to join or to learn about how we can be a difference-maker for your small business, contact us online or by calling 865-397-9642.

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