Finding the ideal workers can be a challenge for small business owners. Here are 6 ways to find and retain great talent.

The economy is in good shape and the unemployment rate is down—way down. While there are more people working, small business owners may find it harder to hire great talent. However, despite the competition, there are several ways for small business owners to find and retain top talent. Here are 6 tips for hiring good employees for your small business.

1. Assess the state of the hiring market

Unemployment has reached an 18-year low and is currently at 3.8%, according to the Department of Labor. This is expected to fall to 2% by the end of 2019, but wages haven’t gone up much with the drop in unemployment. Added to that, more people are leaving their jobs, according to NPR. Cardiff Garcia of the money and finance podcast, The Indicator, says that the quit rate, or, the share of people choosing to quit their jobs, is the highest it’s been in 17 years—there are currently more job openings than there are unemployed people. People are confident there are better situations out there, but it poses a challenge: how can you hire the best candidate when competing with other companies for a finite pool of talent?

2. Offer higher wages

Low unemployment sounds like good news, but wages have remained stagnant. There are different reasons for that stagnation: slow company productivity, tax cuts that favor companies and weakening employee bargaining power, but small businesses can take advantage of the situation by offering a higher-than-average wage to tempt high performers to your company. If possible, offer other incentives like a moving or housing bonus to encourage people to consider moving to your city or town.

3. Offer flexible schedules

Not everyone is at their best from 9-5—some might be better from 10-6 or 11-7. To get the right talent for your open role, you might consider customizing the right work environment for the right candidate, within reason. Not only do you get the best fit for the job, but tailoring the right environment makes employees feel valued and encourages enthusiasm, fosters productivity, and your reputation as a fair employer is spread organically, creating a cycle where people want to work for you. Some options to consider may be part-time, remote and non-traditional hours. This is the opportunity to sit down with all your stakeholders: you, HR and the candidate, to create a customized contract where expectations and results are set and agreed upon by everyone involved.  

4. Develop your company culture

Create a culture that encourages and motivates employees. A good culture means top talent will be aware of your company and want to work with you. Developing a culture that encourages talent to want to work for you means working with your employees from a bottom-up perspective and taking their wants into consideration. For example, everyone wants their work to have meaning, but Millennials especially want their work to have an effect beyond their own gratification.

5. Tap your internal network

Love your current employees? Why not ask them if they know anyone who’s looking for work? Even if you’re working with external recruiters, get your employees involved in sourcing by tapping the hidden job market. They may have a friend who might be, kinda, not-really-looking-but-would-be-interested in a new job but would only make the move if they knew there was an opportunity. Spread the word around and offer monetary and non-monetary compensation if their candidate is hired.

6. Create education and advancement opportunities

The job market is changing thanks to artificial intelligence, the creation of new job industries and automation. One way to encourage and keep talent is to create a pathway for them to improve their education and career. For example, developing an education plan and creating a mentorship program where valuable education can be passed between team members is a great way to foster continued learning at work. Encourage cross-departmental work and education and consider secondments so people can work in other departments for a period of time.

While it may seem tough looking for great talent as a small business owner, there are many people looking for their next opportunity. A blend of incentives that offer work-life balance, ongoing training, and value for employees is one of the best ways to differentiate your company and access a pool of talented people who want to work for you.

Readers should consult their own attorneys or other tax advisors regarding any financial or tax strategies mentioned in this article. These materials are for informational purposes only and do not necessarily reflect the views or endorsement of Santander Bank.

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