Growing your business in a tight labor market

You’re hiring right now, but there’s precious little talent out there with the tight labor market. What do you do to recruit the best possible candidate?

This is Part One of a five-part series on surviving the tight labor market.

While unemployment for those without a college education still hovers around 8% – 9%, for those with a college degree it’s well under 5%, with some months this year down close to 4% (Statistic from the Bureau of Labor Statistics). (Economists consider “full employment” to be somewhere between 2% and 7%) So for those businesses who rely on college educated employees the labor market is getting tight. Like any other market, when the supply of labor comes close to the demand for labor prices rise, and your best people think about jumping ship.

I do some recruiting for small businesses and as we have been posting jobs over the past few months we’ve seen a decrease in the number of applicants for each job we post. There are still good people out there, but you have to look harder and dig deeper to find those ideal candidates.

If your business is growing, if you are winning new business and growing the business with your existing customers you are going to need talent to fuel that growth. Where is that going to come from? There are four things you need to start to get very good at:

  1. Get more out of what you’ve got. How confident are you that you are getting everything you can out of your team? What if there were 10% – 15% more productivity, creativity and general good work to be had without adding another single body? If it’s possible that’s the best possible place to look for more talent, right? More output with the same team, it’s a dream.
  2. Hold on to your best people. In a tight labor market your best people will have options. We need to make sure that our pay is up to market levels, that we are offering the best workplace that meets the needs of our team members. We need to be the place they want to work.
  3. Recruit all the time. Instead of just looking to fill a job opening, we are going to need to be in the market for talent whenever it comes. Keep job postings up on your site all the time, reserve time every month to meet with prospective employees. Develop a pipeline of talent so that you can “pick them off the tree” whenever you growth, or attrition occurs. Having this talent pipeline makes it easier to eliminate poor performers too. If you’ve got a solid replacement that you can slide it, it’s easier to let that problem person go.
  4. Creatively leverage part-time and freelance employees. What can you outsource? How can you work with part-timers, or folks who are remote? Some employers look at this as a big pain, but with the right processes you can expand the pool of available team members and make use of some phenomenal talent. The hidden bonus is that the processes and procedures that you need to put in place to work efficiently with remote workers make your in office team more efficient too!

Are you seeing signs of a tighter labor market? How are you adjusting?


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