hiring as a small business
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The labor market is so tight right now that companies are doing everything they can to attract and, more importantly, retain employees. We hear nearly every day from small business owners in various industries like food service, retail, and professional service that can’t recruit to meet demand. And if they do, that employee often uses the job as a stepping stone for a year, and then they’re on to the next gig.

This is a valuable reminder to get your ducks in a row, put together the employee handbook that you’ve been putting off, and clearly define your company values. Because when you’re running a small business competing with corporate-backed businesses offering better health insurance, retirement, and other incentives, you have to get creative in order to attract and retain employees.

How can small business owners stand out compared to bigger companies with more impressive compensation packages?

I know I don’t have all the answers, so I asked my favorite Human Resources expert, who also happens to be my wife.

Laura is the Director of Human Resources at a DUOS. During the pandemic, she attained her Master’s in Human Resources Management. In her role, she is focused on motivation and retention. She believes people are the foundation of any business and a critical path to organizational success. Here is what she has to say.

Laura’s answer:

No matter the size of an organization – every employer also needs to know their employee value proposition. Things like:

  • What are the perks and benefits of working there?
  • Does the mission connect to purpose-driven intrinsic motivations?
  • What are the culture and team dynamics?

Often things like employees seeking more autonomy are overlooked, which is something smaller organizational structures can offer, and big organizations struggle with.

Yes, compensation and take-home pay are important, and more established companies typically have deeper pockets and fund benefits like 401ks, but if you only focus on compensation, you are missing key variables in the equation.

That’s true; the team culture and dynamics are important. Every company needs to function as a great team to maintain healthy employee relationships, which ultimately increases the bottom line. It’s a misnomer that you have to be a big business for this. There are more than enough people to go around; all you need to do is create a place where people feel that they belong and are empowered. People just want to be recognized and rewarded; well-being and appreciation are both fundamental. And that’s why your company’s culture is incredibly important.

How do you highlight the perks, benefits, mission, and culture in your job posting to attract the right candidates?

Laura’s answer:

In today’s world, candidates will look at the company website and LinkedIn page to get a feeling for the company. Use this opportunity to share blogs about your employees and success stories and highlight your company values. Using human stories and profiling your team is more impactful than fact sheets for the purpose-driven workforce. I’ve found that candidates often look at individual employee LinkedIn profiles, so be cognizant of the multitude of touchstones a perspective hire researches. Don’t just wait until the interview process to share these things; you should post them publicly for the world to see so that more people who align with those values and beliefs. Which ultimately increases your talent pool exponentially. 

And don’t forget about those business and personal Instagram and Facebook pages, too. By opening up Google, potential candidates can tell a lot about a business, its culture, ownership, and customers.

How do you create offerings that will attract and retain employees?

Laura’s answer:

Think outside the box. While it’s important to know what your competition offers, focus more on giving the candidates what they’re looking for. For example, maybe you can offer a half-day every Friday in the summer. Or during the winter if that’s your downtime. Maybe a day off earned every time a certain goal is hit or incentives tied to OKRs. 

During monthly meetings about the business, encourage employees to contribute ideas. Applaud them for participating in the business decisions and taking ownership of their work. Consider how your parental leave policy supports your team and represents your company values. These decisions demonstrate investment in creating an inclusive workspace for employees to grow and flourish.

And when you start to interview employees, ask them what they want from this job. Ask about their ideal workday and what they are seeking career-wise. It’s important to allow them to be candid with you. You’ll find that people want more out of a job than just a paycheck.

It sounds like there is no secret sauce to hiring. Because even if you can afford to offer above-market compensation to attract top-level candidates, money alone doesn’t always lead to engagement and job satisfaction. Culture and job fit is a critical piece of the hiring puzzle that can be overlooked.

Laura’s answer

That’s right; when you’re hiring, you have to remember it is not simply hiring a person who can do the job – it’s about determining if the candidate will thrive in the position. 

One last tip I have is to pay close attention to soft skills. The skills that don’t typically appear on a resume. When asking those open-ended “Tell me about a time you worked well with a co-worker” questions, assess the candidate’s soft skills:

  • Communication
  • Leadership
  • Motivation
  • Confidence
  • Decision-making
  • Flexibility
  • Initiative
  • Time Management
  • Organization
  • Innovation
  • Accountability
  • Teamwork

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