Trained employees are difficult to find—but there are ways to build a strong team.
The unemployment rate remains at historically low levels, numbers not seen in almost 20 years. As a result, many small business owners have job openings they are currently not able to fill. According to NFIB’s July 2018 Jobs Report, 88 percent of owners hiring or trying to hire reported few or no qualified applicants for the positions they were trying to fill.
As the labor pool tightens and more baby boomers retire, employers have to look to younger generations. With less focus placed on manufacturing and vocational occupations than in the past, there is a gap between what people are trained for current workforce needs.
“Small business owners are pushing ahead with an expansive agenda, trying to figure out how to produce more with a restricted supply of labor,” says Holly Wade, Dir. of Research and Policy Analysis for the NFIB Research Center.
So how can small businesses find and retain the talent they need to keep growing?
Colin Petersen of J – I.T. Outsource uses a three-step process: Start young, grow talent, and make it fun.
“If you get ’em young by recruiting top high school performers, grow your own talent by apprenticing/mentoring the ones that want to stay beyond their initial internships, and make your environment fun to work in, you’re going to get some great talent that will level up your business and keep you young in the process,” Petersen says. “It requires patience, but it is highly worth it.”
Many small businesses also partner with local community colleges—both in helping to develop educational programs and curriculum to align with relevant skill sets, and also in providing internships and jobs to students.
“It behooves small business owners to partner with community colleges and prescribe the training and educational programs that would yield the workforce they desire,” says Shakira M. Brown, Business Consultant and CEO of SMB Strategic Media LLC.
A partnership can start small. Business owners might consider hosting workshops and learning events for local high schools, community colleges, and trade schools. In this way they can help train and prepare students while also making connections with potential future employees.
“By hosting free code camps and encouraging students to attend open houses at our company headquarters, we’re able to educate staff and students on relevant technological skills,” says Bret Bonnet, Co-Founder of Quality Logo Products. “This way, when they graduate, they are ready to work immediately and hopefully, some of them will consider Quality Logo Products as their first destination after college.”
Nate Masterson, CMO for Maple Holistics focuses on transferable skills rather than a specific skill set when hiring.
“A worker who has completed the same task over and over may do that one thing really well, but is not an asset to a small business,” he says. “A worker who has proven adaptability and a willingness to learn is an investment with much greater potential growth to the business."