The Shifting Hiring Landscape and Its Impact on Small Business

As we slowly move toward a new “normal” it’s interesting to take a look at how hiring trends are impacting small businesses. After all, there were over 30 million small businesses in the United States, comprising 99.9% of businesses in 2019, according to the Small Business Administration.

What’s the current scenario? According to LinkedIn’s April 2021 Workforce Report, across all industries nationally hiring in the U.S. was 15.2% higher than in March 2020. Looking to Northeast Ohio, LinkedIn reported that for Cleveland-Akron, hiring was 15.1% higher in March 2021 than in March 2020, echoing the national trend. So things are picking up.

At this point, more than a year into COVID and with vaccines widely available, should we expect those numbers to be higher? Admittedly, the U.S. entered the pandemic in the midst of a talent shortage. In February 2020 69% of employers reported struggling to fill positions as compared to just 14% in 2010 – showing an increase of more than triple over the last decade, according to a ManpowerGroup survey.

Unfortunately, small businesses are likely feeling a disproportionate brunt of this talent shortage when it comes to hiring. According to NFIB’s monthly jobs report, small business job openings hit record levels in March.

Yet half of small businesses in the U.S. (51%) are likely to hire new employees in 2021, according to a new survey from The Manifest. The majority of small businesses expect revenue growth in 2021, and as such, plan to hire new employees.

With a record number of openings in a midst of a talent shortage, how can small businesses stay competitive in this shifting landscape? Here are a number of tactics small businesses should keep in mind.

  • Virtual recruiting – Becoming comfortable and adept with virtual recruiting is important for employers and prospective employees alike. For hiring managers, be sure that the instructions are very clear and that your questions are very well thought out. Don’t neglect to talk about your company culture. When an online interview is the first step, applicants won’t have the benefit of seeing the office and other employees to form an impression. The online experience you create gives the applicant his or her primary impression of the company. Make it a good one.
  • Prioritize your culture – As mentioned above, it’s important to paint of picture of your culture in the initial interview. This helps the applicant to determine if it feels like a good fit. Even beyond the initial interview, be sure your culture is reflected in all “touches” of the hiring process. This includes in the job postings and in all communication with candidates.
  • Don’t skimp on job descriptions – Oftentimes businesses tend to recycle the same old job descriptions without revisiting the content the next time they’re needed. Take a look at your job posting with fresh eyes. Is it compelling? Is it detailed enough? Does your culture shine through?
  • Remote work – remote work isn’t a fit for all businesses, but it’s most assuredly on the rise. A survey from Enterprise Technology Research predicts that permanent remote workers are expected to double in 2021. If your business is able to offer remote work opportunities, it is an attractive option for many applicants. It can be a tougher call for small businesses, however. For more small business-specific considerations, read our blog, “Remote Workers: Yay or Nay for Small Businesses?”
  • Address safety in the workplace – Social distancing and enhanced sanitation measures are here to stay. Be sure potential employees know what measures you have in place to ensure their safety while in the workplace.
  • Encourage employee referrals – Good employees often beget good employees. Encourage your current staff to be ambassadors for the company and to spread the word about job openings. Incentivize them with referral bonuses.
  • Consider a trial basis – Many small businesses find success with a contract to permanent situation for new hires. This gives both parties time to discover if it’s a good fit.
  • Competitive salary and benefits – Do you know how your salary and benefits compare to other companies like yours? You’re competing for talent so be aware of where you fall.

Here in Northeast Ohio, small businesses abound, and they really are the drivers of our economy. According to the CBIZ Small Business Employment Index, an entity that tracks payroll and hiring trends for over 3,500 companies that have 350 employees or less, small business trends will end 2021 with vast improvement over the past few quarters. Hiring will remain key and staying competitive in your hiring practices will be essential for small businesses to attract and retain the best talent.


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