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Can Your Small Business Compete to Win and Keep Top Talent?

October 12, 2023

As we enter the second half of 2023, small business owners and leaders are being faced with challenges across multiple fronts including economic uncertainty and talent shortages. In a 2023 survey of 500 HR professionals conducted by isolved, a people-first platform that offers streamlined HR tools, a few key themes appeared.

The most urgent issues concerning small businesses today are hiring top talent and keeping good people, building efficiency and optimizing staffing and navigating a possible economic downturn.

This is not a new issue, as small businesses have faced challenges attracting and retaining skilled employees, especially as they are competing with larger corporations that can offer more attractive compensation packages and benefits.

However, there are several strategies they can adopt to attract and retain the best employees.

Small businesses should emphasize a positive and inclusive company culture that aligns with the values of potential employees. According to Pew Research Center, in 2016 millennials became the largest generation in the U.S. workforce. Moreover, with Generation Z entering the workforce and many older workers delaying retirement, employers must adapt to the needs of different generations. Many individuals, especially millennials and Gen Z, prioritize working for organizations that have a strong sense of purpose and contribute positively to society.

With corporate social responsibility on the upswing, more and more companies are taking responsibility for the environmental and social effects of their business operations — and they aren’t doing it blindly. They are responding to the call from Americans who expect their employers to support nonprofit causes. Employees who actively give back to their communities tend to experience a more profound level of commitment and attachment to their work plus stronger relationships with their peers and colleagues. They feel a sense of pride when they contribute to the causes they care about and are grateful to their employer for encouraging their involvement.

As Glassdoor reported in 2017, “Three-quarters (75 percent) of U.S. workers expect their employer to support groups and individuals in need in their respective communities, either through donations and/or volunteer efforts.” Studies show that companies with volunteer programs see an improvement in their public image along with increased employee loyalty.

Another tool at the disposal of small business owners is benefits. While small businesses might not be able to match the salaries offered by large corporations, they can still provide competitive compensation packages that include other benefits such as flexible working hours, remote work options, healthcare benefits, retirement plans and performance-based incentives. Consider offering unique perks that are low or no cost, such as a relaxed dress code, team-building activities or a pet- friendly workplace. Acknowledge and appreciate the contributions of employees regularly. Recognition programs and rewards, such as bonuses or employee of the month awards, can boost morale and motivate employees to excel.

Another critical strategy that small businesses need to embrace is learning and development. According to the LinkedIn 2018 Workplace Learning Report, a staggering 94 percent of employees would stay with a company that supported their career development. Create clear paths for career development within the organization. Offer training programs, workshops, mentorship and opportunities for employees to expand their skill sets and take on new challenges. Highlight opportunities for professional growth and advancement within the company. Small businesses can often provide employees with more significant responsibilities, exposure to diverse projects and opportunities to learn new skills.

By implementing these strategies, small businesses can create a compelling work environment that not only attracts top talent but also helps retain their valuable employees for the long term. Remember that a strong focus on employee satisfaction and well-being can have a positive impact on productivity and overall business success.

By Sonya Ahola, originally published in SBAM’s September/October 2023 issue of Focus magazine


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