As the world opens back up again, many small and medium-sized businesses have encountered unexpected difficulty finding employees to fill their open positions. This labor shortage is hitting nearly all businesses, especially those in the hospitality, service/retail, and transportation industries.

As businesses scramble to find workers, many of them are using creative ways to bring in prospective candidates, such as new-hire bonuses and even incentives for interviewing. However, at GLFS, we know that attracting and hiring employees requires more than just offering temporary perks, it’s about connecting with employees and creating an attractive work environment. The following suggestions will help you stay competitive in today’s labor market while expanding your pool of good potential candidates.

  1. Connect with Your CommunityIf you find that you aren’t having much luck on digital hiring platforms like social media, LinkedIn and Indeed, then you should look in to ways to directly connect with your community to find potential employees. Local job fairs, state job boards and educational institutions can provide businesses with slews of eager qualified applicants.

    One of the best ways to find new potential hires is by partnering with vocational training programs. Suppose that you own a car service center and need to hire entry-level oil technicians. If you partner with a community college’s mechanic certification program, then you can hire its students as entry-level technicians to give them on-the-job training. In some specific technical fields, employers are offering to pay for or reimburse vocational training.

  1. Make a Competitive OfferAlthough your business may not have the deep pockets of larger corporations, you still need to compete with them for the best and most qualified candidates. Therefore, you need to ensure that your compensation meets or exceeds the average for the position that you need to fill.

    Sift through job listings for similar positions and determine the range of pay. Then, adjust your pay to meet or exceed the average for these positions. In this competitive labor market, you need to be willing to pay for quality candidates to join your team. If you cannot offer competitive salaries, then add attractive benefits to fill that pay gap.

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  1. Expand BenefitsEven if your pay is competitive, some employees may choose another company over yours because it offers better benefits. Expanding the benefits that your company offers is thus another effective strategy to recruit highly qualified employees.

    Most employees, however, view core benefits like 401(k)s and health insurance as givens, so you may need to get creative with the types of benefits that you offer. These new benefits should be meaningful and go beyond coffee bars and ping pong tables in the break room. Gym membership reimbursements, pet insurance, student loan assistance and flexible work hours are just a few examples of non-traditional benefits that you can use to attract potential candidates.

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  1. Improve on the Job TrainingAnother way to expand your hiring pool is to open opportunities to less-experienced candidates by offering on-the-job training. By focusing less on initial qualifications and more on general skills and willingness to learn, you can find talented employees who you can train for specific roles within your company.

    These types of opportunities are most appealing to recent graduates and people looking to make a career change. A worker looking to leave the service industry and join your sales team, for example, may not have a lot of formal experience, but with their customer service background and the right training, they can excel as a salesperson.

  1. Offer Paid InternshipsCreating a paid internship program can offer students and recent graduates experience while providing your company with much-needed help. Hiring an intern for accounting, for instance, will allow that department to delegate simple tasks like data entry, allowing full-time employees to focus on more advanced work.

    To establish an internship program, you can partner with local colleges and universities that allow students to intern for college credit. Many of these organizations will help you make your internships meaningful learning opportunities while providing you with a steady stream of interns.

  1. Modernize Management StrategiesAltering your management strategies to meet the needs of modern employees is one of the best ways to attract and retain new hires. Most modern employees desire a culture of openness and respect, and many of them enjoy having a degree of influence over their schedule. Online reviews of employers make it easy for an applicant to determine whether your business is one at which they’d like to work.

    Modern managers should therefore be adaptable, understanding and transparent to foster a positive working environment. Coaching instead of telling, explaining rationales for decisions and being understanding of your employees’ personal and professional needs will make your company an attractive place to work.

  1. Outsource TasksCompanies can also combat a labor shortage by outsourcing tasks and projects to freelancers and other organizations. For instance, many businesses hire outside companies to handle tasks like deliveries. These types of activities can be labor-intensive and expensive to manage, so outsourcing them allows you to focus on the core elements of your business while reducing your hiring burden. Finding partners who understand your business and can assist you with various services is a great way to reduce your workload.

    Likewise, you may want to employ freelancers for temporary projects like logo redesigns or website updates. Unless you need someone to manage the project in-house at all times, it is easier and more cost-efficient to temporarily hire a freelancer to complete a short-term project.

  1. Focus on RetentionAlthough your business may be focused on hiring new employees, you should never lose sight of the ones that you already have. Losing current employees can exacerbate issues with short staffing and hurt company morale, which can lead to more attrition.

    Your staffing efforts should also include outreach to current employees to determine what they like and dislike about their working environment. This will illuminate ways that you can improve working conditions to retain as many employees as possible. You should also be sure that any benefits extended to new hires are also available for current employees.