Layoffs are mounting, and Main Street still can’t get anyone to take jobs

A “Hiring Now” sign is displayed in the window of an IN-N-OUT fast food restaurant in Encinitas, Calif., May 9, 2022.

Mike Blake | Reuters

When it comes to salary, small business owners generally don’t play in the same league as large corporations.

It’s even more difficult now in a tight job market with higher wages and with more states and municipalities publishing salary ranges, which makes small businesses look less attractive from a salary perspective.

The stakes are especially high given that small businesses are still hiring even as the economy slows, and workers aren’t easy to find. 86 percent of small business owners have expressed plans to hire one or more workers in the next year or two, according to an October survey of employee scheduling company Homebase. Meanwhile, the National Federation of Independent Business, the main trade group for small businesses, last week reported, for the 10th consecutive month, a decline in confidence in Main Street, despite a slight change in the need to hire more workers.

“Landlords continue to show a dismal view of future sales growth and business conditions, but they continue to look forward to hiring new workers,” NFIB Chief Economist Bill Dunkelberg said in a statement with the latest monthly survey. “Inflation, supply chain disruptions and labor shortages continue to limit the ability of many small businesses to meet demand for their products and services.”

A separate jobs report released by the NFIB showed that among landlords who did hire, 90% reported having few or no qualified applicants.

Here are five ways small businesses can level the playing field for attracting top talent.

Highlight over wages in the window

Jim Marks, director of retirement plans at Edelman Financial Services, recently drove by a convenience store advertising “competitive benefits” in the window, highlighting perks such as the company’s retirement plan, medical benefits, and student loan assistance. “I was touched to see that,” he said. “Obviously they want to get good talent in the door and that’s what they’ve been highlighting.”

The point: Small businesses need to make sure candidates know the benefits of joining them beyond the potentially higher starting wage already.

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Benefits should be emphasized in job descriptions and discussed in every one-on-one interview, during onboarding and training, said Kayla Lebovits, CEO and Founder of Bundle Benefits, a fully remote company focused on wellbeing, professional development and team building. “If he was just mentioned in the job description, but wasn’t promoted during job interviews, [a candidate] I guess it’s not real.”

Involve existing employees in the recruitment process

Lebovits finds it effective to invite employees who actively use the company’s various benefits to participate in the interview process. That way, candidates get a realistic sense of how benefits such as the company’s home equipment stipend and co-working membership support will work.

“These aren’t expensive items, but the employees take advantage of them,” Leibowitz said.

Having a dialogue up front about the benefits and knowing what is important to the candidates is crucial as it sets the tone for the future. “It signals that the candidate is important to the organization,” said Victoria Hodgkins, CEO of PeopleKeep, a benefits management software company. “In this work environment, candidates want to know, and it gives them an opportunity to ask questions and get more information.”

Examining employee usage patterns, draw on common franchises

Small businesses generally cannot offer the full range of benefits that larger companies can, but they can offer a set of highly desirable benefits that employees use regularly. “Identify what people actually use and those people you should be promoting to because clearly they are the people people value the most,” Leibowitz said.

Notably, benefits related to retirement, health, and welfare can go a long way in improving workers’ finances. While most workers believe these benefits are important, there is a significant gap between the percentage of those who indicate their importance and the percentage employers offer them, according to an October study from the Transamerica Center for Retirement Studies. “This presents an opportunity for employers to increase the competitiveness of their compensation and benefits packages, while helping their employees achieve greater long-term financial security,” the study found.

In general, wellness benefits are also in high demand. A significant majority of employees, 68%, said they are more likely to stay longer in their current job if their employer offers financial health benefits, according to a recent survey from TalentLMS, a learning management system powered by Epignosis, and financial wellness companies Tapcheck and Enrich. The survey also showed that 61% of employees are more likely to stay in their current job if training and financial resources are provided.

Parental leave is another important feature worth considering. A recent survey by disability insurance company Breeze found that most employees would prefer their employer to offer paid parental leave rather than vision insurance, employer-paid physical or mental health benefits, employer-paid social events, or a Student loan repayment. The survey examined 1,000 active working adults between the ages of 22 and 40.

Avoid the all benefits equal approach

It is important to offer a range of benefits that can appeal to different people.

For example, don’t just offer yoga or meditation apps or gym benefits; Offer multiple ways employees can recharge, Lipovits said. “People take care of themselves completely differently.”

And while Breeze’s study found that parental leave is more popular than vision insurance among workers 40 and younger, that may change once they reach the age for “reading glasses.”

There can be significant differences in the types of benefits that attract employees based on gender, age, and types of work environments.

A May PeopleKeep survey of more than 900 small business employees found that 70% of women rate mental health benefits as “very or extremely important,” compared with 49% of men. Women also value flexible work schedules (84% to 70%), paid family leave (73% to 61%), and professional development (64% to 57%) more than men, while men place more value on paying internet and phone bills. of women (40% to 32%), according to the survey.

Convert existing employees into referral sources

If your current employees are happy, they are more likely to recommend a job opening in the company to others. This means making sure existing employees are excited about the benefits you offer – and to achieve that outcome, you need to make sure employees feel connected.

Sixty-two percent of respondents to a recent survey by Edelman Financial said they “don’t always feel represented” in their company’s messages about benefits. Emotions feature more prominently among women, with 68% saying they didn’t always feel included—much higher than their male counterparts (58%).

The survey found that 93% of employees who don’t always feel represented said they would be more likely to benefit from financial wellness support if it was tailored to their own background and family circumstances.

Finally, small businesses need to understand what attracts job seekers in the first place and leverage those benefits in all of their communications with candidates. Seventy percent of small businesses cite a sense of community, followed by flexibility in the workplace (69%), close relationships with co-workers (66%) and closer relationships with managers (53%), according to Homebase.