Celtic Bank Blog

Six Things Small Businesses Can Do to Attract and Keep Employees—WITHOUT Spending a Fortune on Salaries

With the unemployment rate at its lowest since April of 2000, employers are left scrambling to find enough people to fill positions. And though small, midsize, and large companies alike are feeling the sting of the workforce shortage, small business owners face some particularly difficult challenges.

To help attract top talent, larger companies are offering salaries well above what small businesses can reasonably offer. Meanwhile, many small businesses struggle to provide basic benefits like health insurance—let alone the bigger benefits provided by many large corporations.

So what’s a small business owner to do?

Well, before you throw in the towel thinking all is lost, there are some things your business can do to attract and keep talent that don’t cost much (or anything!).

Be flexible with scheduling

Some large corporations have employee handbooks the size of dictionaries! They meticulously outline overtime, scheduling, and time allowed for breaks. Small businesses often find themselves at a polar opposite: an unwritten code of conduct.

And that spells opportunity.

Enabling employees to take a morning off to chaperone a child’s field trip, an afternoon to get a head start on a long road trip, or a shifted early-off day once a week to pick up kids from school can make a big difference in company morale and culture. For some people, these benefits and values are enough to outweigh the slightly smaller salary.

Offer unlimited PTO

Even more so, unlimited PTO can bring unbeatable perks for both the employee—and the employer. When set up correctly, unlimited PTO allows employees to take charge of their productivity and their schedule. As firm expectations are set for performance and quality, employees know the standard they need to meet while maintaining the freedom they want to take time off as necessary.

How does it work for the employer?

Employees who take the vacation time they need come back more rested, productive, and happy than those who remain chained to their office desk. Allowing employees to control their time demonstrates trust, which leads to more job ownership and better job performance from the employee. And if you’re worried that a more lax PTO schedule will mean nobody comes into work, you might be surprised. Many companies reported that employees with unlimited vacation time took the same amount of time off as they did when vacation time was defined, and a few companies even reported that some employees took less vacation time once the unlimited PTO policy started.

The key to successfully implementing an unlimited PTO program is clearly-defined expectations. What are employees expected to accomplish? What is the company’s policy on scheduling these vacations, and how much notice is needed when scheduling them? What do you really mean by “unlimited?” (Obviously, you don’t want employees gone 80% of the time).

While unlimited PTO may not work for every business, it can definitely help eligible companies attract top talent during a hiring shortage.

Get creative and cross-train

Major corporations function smoothly by training their employees to specialize in a limited number of responsibilities. Manufacturers hire laborers to work one or two machines the entire 40 hour work week, or customer service departments sort employees into specialties—like handling calls or emails.

While this is good for productivity, the nature of small businesses requires most employees to wear multiple hats. Perhaps you, as the business owner, also help with the accounting. Or your sales and retail team share basic custodial responsibilities to keep things looking presentable. This may seem run-of-the-mill to you, but having a variety of responsibilities attracts employees who like having different things to do or who get bored doing the same thing every day. Allowing someone a break from normal duties to cover the front, answer phones, redo the storefront display, or help stock inventory can help his or her day go by more quickly, boosting job satisfaction and retention.

But the benefits of cross-training employees doesn’t stop there. By optimizing an employee’s skills sets—whether or not they fall within the traditional job description—you can find the help you need and see higher returns for your hire. Think about it:

A shift lead might be cheaper and easier to find than a store manager, and many of the responsibilities can carry over. If you can’t find someone for a managerial position and you have the time to train, hire a shift lead and gradually give them more managerial responsibilities until they’re ready to be promoted to the higher position. This takes time and planning but is a viable option when good help is hard to find.

Plus, if you hire someone at a lower position with the goal of grooming them for a promotion, the opportunities for growth motivate your employee to stick with your company.

Play up opportunities to make a difference in the community

Small businesses are the backbone of the economy. According to the SBA, small businesses make up 99.7% of United States employer firms and 63% of net new private-sector jobs. But they are a backbone in their communities as well.

By staying involved with the community, participating in local events, and working with local charities, a small business shows employees that it’s there to make money—and a difference. For the millennial demographic—now over one-third (and the largest demographic) of the workforce—this “making a difference” is a key factor in job satisfaction and retention. Your commitment to community attracts them to your business—even if it means they sacrifice some of the perks that come with working for a larger organization.

Plus, giving back to the community has other perks, too. According to one 2018 Cox Business Consumer study, 71% of people are likely to spend more money at a small business that supports positive causes. Be willing to support the local little league team, the city’s homeless shelter, or join the chamber of commerce, and you might just find your incoming job applications—and your revenue—rising.

Use social media to promote office lifestyle

Do you have a great workplace environment? Show it!

Just because social media is free doesn’t mean it can’t be effective. Posting pictures of company events, fun office spaces, or a donut day in the break room brings personality and a sense of comradery to your page and helps people get a sense for your company culture.

By showcasing a typical day in the office—as well as those extra fun ones—you attract the candidates who are going to be the best fit for your organization. Someone who’s looking to work a traditional 9-5 job with a suit and tie and cubicle might be turned off from applying if they see you have bring-your-dog Fridays, team meetings with ice breakers, or lunch-time yoga. On the flip side, others may be willing to forgo the formality of a bigger company environment for casual Fridays, Taco Tuesdays, or to work in an open office.

Another great idea? Have your employees post about their experiences working for your company. In fact, studies have shown that 52% of people trust the review of a regular employee more than that of a higher up, such as the CEO. And those reviews are eight times more likely to be shared than one posted by company leadership. As your employees have positive experiences with the company, invite them to authentically share those experiences online. When applicants see your employees finding enjoyment in what they do, it makes it easier for the applicant to picture themselves happy working for you, too!

Finance key hires

If you must pay more, here’s a great way to do it: use financing to bring on key hires.

There are a number of loan options for getting cash to hire new employees. An SBA working capital loan can get you the money you need to hire quality talent—affordably. You get cash now, and pay back the loan with the profits from your new employee. Simple, easy, and obtainable.

When it comes to hiring, it’s a job seeker’s market. But just because you don’t have money to roll out the big bucks doesn’t mean you can’t keep your small business staffed. By taking advantage of the flexibility you have as a small business, you may find yourself able to make them an offer they just can’t refuse!


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