The Surprising Challenge Small Business Owners Are Facing Today Skip to main content

The Surprising Challenge Small Business Owners Are Facing Today


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A healthy economy means many small businesses are thriving -- but they're also having a hard time hanging onto employees. A good 24% of small businesses lost at least one employee in 2018, while 11% of small businesses lost 10% of their workforce, according to Bank of America. Not only that, but 58% of businesses had trouble finding qualified candidates for open roles, and 25% said it took more time to fill open positions in 2018 than it did in 2017.
And there lies the problem with a strong job market: When employment is plentiful, workers have more options to choose from, so getting them to join or stay with your team becomes more challenging for companies across the board, but particularly for small businesses with limited resources. If that's the difficulty your business is grappling with, here are three tips for attracting and retaining talent.
1. Focus on growth opportunities
If yours is a smaller operation, the salaries you offer current and prospective employees might pale in comparison with the numbers put forth by larger companies with much more substantial resources at their disposal. On the other hand, it's easy for an employee to get lost in the crowd when they're one of several thousand, so if you're looking to make your business seem like a desirable place to work, talk up the growth opportunities your employees can enjoy.
Map out career paths with your current team so that your workers see that there's an opportunity to advance quickly, and sell that same concept to potential hires you interview. Nobody wants a job that will end up going nowhere, so if you pitch your business as a place where people can grow, it'll entice them to stay on or join your team.
2. Be flexible
Most working Americans today are unhappy with their work-life balance, so if you help your workers improve it, they're more likely to stay (or, in the case of new hires, come on board). That's why it pays to be flexible with your staff, and there are several ways you can go about it.

For starters, allow employees to work from home if their jobs allow for it (meaning there's no reason they need to be physically present at the office). Second, be willing to let employees set their own hours -- within reason -- to accommodate their personal needs. For example, if you have a handful of workers with a terrible commute, allowing them to work nontraditional hours might help them avoid the headaches of rush-hour traffic. Finally, consider implementing an unlimited-time-off policy so that workers don't feel stressed about taking vacation or feel compelled to come to work sick. All of these things will give your employees more control over their time, thereby lending to the improved work-life balance they most likely crave.

3. Maintain a desirable company culture
A larger company might manage to offer more money and better benefits, but if working there means dealing with a stuffy corporate environment in which laughter is frowned upon, that's hardly an appealing prospect. That's why it pays to maintain a company culture that makes your business a fun, engaging place to work. Encourage creativity and collaboration, and maintain a physical environment that's comfortable to work in (think casual dress and couches in lieu of stiff-backed chairs in meeting rooms). The more your employees enjoy coming to work, the more likely they'll be to stay loyal, and the better the impression you'll give prospective hires.
If your business has been seeing an uptick in worker turnover, it's time to get more strategic about retention. At the same time, invest some effort in attracting talent so that your business doesn't struggle to get the support it needs to thrive.
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