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It’s All Good News!

October 24, 2020

By Sheri Welsh, originally featured in our FOCUS Magazine

Last year, talent acquisition issues were at the top of the list of what keeps small business owners up at night. Today, a few more pressing items have edged that issue out of the way. Talent-related concerns probably still remain in your top three, but what you’re most concerned about has changed.

Let’s look at some of the trends impacting talent acquisition and retention (spoiler alert: it’s good news!) and what they mean for your small business:

The Work from Home/Remote Workforce is Here to Stay

Over the last several months, we’ve proved we can work productively from home. Some companies have even made bold decisions to close their offices and work remotely from here on out. Other business models necessitate a blend that requires some employees to be on site. Needless to say, we have more successfully tested options in how and where we perform our work than ever before.

What this means for you: Once you establish that a job can be done remotely, your pool of potential candidates to fill that job greatly expands (they could live and work almost anywhere!). This will make filling those positions much easier. But choose which roles go remote with caution. There is often a cost associated with the loss of collaboration, innovation and culture reinforcement that happens when workers go remote.

Employee Turnover is Low

Quit rates, the Bureau of Labor Statistics measurement of voluntary separations from employers, have dropped over 40 percent since last year. This means many workers are hunkering down, choosing to keep the job they have in what seems like risky times. They don’t really believe the grass might be greener somewhere else.

What this means for you: You’re not likely to lose your top performers right now, and you’ll be able to maintain stability in your teams, leading to better productivity. But don’t take this for granted. There is evidence that suggests unhappy employees are still in your ranks—they’ve just gone dark. Continue to over-communicate with your team on everything from business conditions to performance evaluations, allowing you a chance to uncover concerns that can be addressed before you receive a resignation letter.

Employee Engagement is High

A recent Gallup survey showed that employee engagement (defined as workers who are highly involved in, enthusiastic and committed to their work) is at a 20-year high! Actively engaged workers reported lower stress levels even as the survey showed a decline in overall individual wellbeing, leading to the conclusion that engaging work may serve as a buffer to make our employees’ lives better. And we know that highly engaged employees produce more positive outcomes, treat customers better and are likely to stay long term.

What this means for you: Even if you’ve had layoffs, the team you have today is most likely pretty committed to your cause. They’re not likely to leave anytime soon, and the work they’re doing right now is probably having a significant impact on your bottom line. Nurture and reinforce your appreciation for them and the great job they’re doing in big AND small ways—make sure they know you care about them.

Good People are Still Hard to Find

Yep—that’s right. For many small businesses (including restaurants, manufacturers, etc.) who employ entry level and unskilled workers, the talent pool has just about dried up. And if you hire highly-skilled workers in your business (engineers, CPAs) the thousands of Michiganders on unemployment don’t fill the bill for what you need. The more things change the more they stay the same. Ugh.

What this means for you: It’s time to turn your attention back to working on creative strategies to fill your open positions. Revisit employee referral programs, recruiting previous employees, offering flexible work arrangements, outsourcing and developing true candidate pipelines as options to help you get the talent you need. Always. Be. Recruiting.

Opportunities Abound for Small Business Owners to Hire Top Talent

As of this writing, there are over one million Michiganders on unemployment. Many of them are experienced, trained and even well-educated workers who just need a chance to reinvent themselves. Successful small business owners are the masters of reinvention. The size of our operations often requires us to hire people who can do a little bit of this and little bit of that; candidates with a broad skill set combined with a good work ethic.

We don’t always need candidates with experience in our industry—we can train them to do business our way. The good news is that there are many career changers and victims of business closures who simply need a chance to show you what they can do.

What this means for you: Give some of them a chance. Talk to your team, friends, neighbors. Everybody knows somebody right now who needs a shot to join a great company. Check out www.mitalent.org. Consider what it could mean for your business to hire an experienced candidate with a wealth of knowledge who can get up to speed quickly, bringing with them a fresh new perspective and gratitude (which quickly turns into loyalty) for being given a second chance.

It’s been a bumpy ride the last several months, but you’re reading this right now because you’re tough and you’re resilient. You’re a survivor. You’ve pivoted and shifted your small business in new and unexpected ways in response to what lies before you.

When we look at current talent acquisition and retention trends, there’s a lot working in your favor right now. The real question is: What will you do with these opportunities to strengthen your most value asset—your people?


Sheri Welsh is the President & CEO of Welsh & Associates, a full-service executive search and talent acquisition firm in Kalamazoo. Sheri holds a BS in Business Administration from Central Michigan University and is a SHRM Senior Certified Professional (SHRM-SCP), Certified Personnel Consultant (CPC) and Certified Employee Retention Specialist (CERS). She serves on the SBAM Board of Directors.

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