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Small business hiring trends 2019: What to focus on to stay ahead

The economy is booming, which is great news—except for the fact that it makes recruiting for your small biz harder. Here’s where to focus your efforts in ‘19 to attract the talent you need.

Small business hiring trends 2019: What to focus on to stay ahead


Unless you've got a clairvoyant on staff, chances are you're grappling with planning strategies for the coming year. Who knows what the future holds? 


Well, it turns out that we can glean a lot from the previous year as a way to help predict what the next 12 months will bring for small businesses. 


Last year, the talent shortage, health insurance, immigration and a sense of “cautious optimism” were top of mind, and some of those issues still are.  But according to the NFIB 2018 Small Business Optimism Index, small businesses continue to expand and grow and optimism is still at record levels—so we seem less cautious and more optimistic.


However, as businesses grow and companies create more jobs, a growing number of owners are reporting an inability to fill those jobs, according to NFIB President and CEO Juanita D. Duggan.


“The biggest concern facing small businesses going into the holiday season and the new year is finding qualified employees for the positions they’ve created,” Duggan says.


Forty-seven percent of owners report open positions in construction and 38 percent report open positions in manufacturing. Sixty percent report hiring or trying to hire, but 87 percent of those report few or no qualified applicants.


Sound familiar? Let’s look at some areas you may want to focus on for 2019 so you can meet these unique small business hiring challenges.


Invest in technology that requires fewer hires


With minimum wages rising abruptly in big cities and a very tight labor market, small businesses are doing their best to make each hire count for more. In 2019 that will mean finding employees who can make use of the latest equipment and technologies to get more work done faster. 




That’s the approach taken by Dumbo Moving and Storage of New York City. “We are actually growing, but our workforce is not growing as much,” says CEO Lior Rachmany. In 2018, Dumbo’s business has grown 30 percent, while its workforce has expanded by only 10 percent.




How has Dumbo pulled that off? By reducing paperwork in an industry traditionally heavy on manual processes, many conducted in the field on moving day. And by investing in better equipment like trucks with lift gates and more maneuverable dollies.




“Jobs that used to done by three men are now done by two,” says Rachmany. The fact that this equipment makes moving somewhat less strenuous helps attract candidates, and opens the job up to candidates who may not have been interested in those more manual aspects of the job.




This means that Dumbo can pay a little more, recruit better workers and hopefully keep them longer.




Use HR technologies that level the playing field




More than ever in 2019, technology will be the great equalizer for small businesses, especially when it comes to sourcing and attracting talent. You need candidates who can be nimble and trainable, and since you don’t have a vast HR team to vet every applicant, you should be taking advantage of the incredible advances in HR technology to find tools that can do these things for you.




When you don’t have a team of hundreds to convince candidates that your company is the right fit, you can use video to amplify your message. Create a video that shows your office space, the culture and even a video job description featuring you, a hiring manager or someone from your HR department, speaking directly into the camera and bringing the job to life.




That way, job seekers who are looking 24/7 can get a “feel” for the job, your company and the people who work there, even after you’ve gone home for the day. Full disclosure, Monster is launching a new tool called Monster Studios in 2019 that can help you do just that, and all you need is a smart phone to get started.




In addition to making your career site mobile-ready, which is a must in today’s world, in which 70 percent of candidates are looking for work on their mobile devices according to ICIMS 2017 Modern Job Search Report, you’ve got to sharpen your social strategy so you can attract as many candidates as possible—whether they’re looking for work or not.




A robust career site, online job ads integrated with your ATS—these are table stakes.  To reach the hard-to-find talent you need, that means finding them where they are—on Facebook, Twitter, even Instagram, and targeting your job ads and corporate branding directly to the type of candidates you want to attract.




Source for potential vs. the perfect resume




With unemployment under 4 percent heading into 2019, you’ll have to get creative about sourcing qualified candidates. You may not find that “perfect” candidate you’ve been dreaming of. But that’s ok. High potential candidates make excellent hires, as long as they’re trainable.




Many growing businesses make the mistake of only looking at people who are unemployed, says Chad Sorenson, treasurer of HR Florida State Council and president of Adaptive HR Solutions.  “Clients say, ‘I post a job and only get people who are unqualified.’ ” If you expand your willingness to hire “high-potential” candidates as opposed to “highly qualified’ candidates, you’ll have a much higher success rate, he says.




In addition to a robust social strategy designed to reach passive job seekers, to get high-potential talent to want to work for you, pitch that you’ll tailor the position to the individual, by giving them responsibilities that are a reasonable reach.




It may seem obvious, but many employers don’t do it: Ask both incumbent employees and strong candidates what they’re looking for in the career opportunities that the company can offer.




Additionally, any kind of training that you can offer will make the job more appealing, and although it may seem like an investment of time and money to train an underqualified hire, you’ll know that you’re getting the outcome you want most.




Do reality checks on candidates’ interest in the job




Just as important as sourcing a broad selection of qualified candidates is weeding out those who would turn down the job if they really understood it. After all, many growing businesses suffer very high turnover among their service workers; in September 2018 alone, 3.6 million Americans quit their jobs, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics’ JOLTS report.




So in 2019 the gold-standard solution will be job shadowing. “Shadowing allows the candidate to interact with the team and get a good idea of what the job would entail,” says Rebecca Cenni, CEO of recruitment firm Atrium. “It provides the hiring manager and the candidate alike with a good assessment of the candidate’s fit.”




“Shadowing can be done in many ways,” says Cenni. “It can mean working next to a potential peer, or observing them and what happens in the day of that peer. It gives the candidate an opportunity to react to how the job actually gets done.” But do set the expectation in advance that shadowing will not lengthen the timeframe of hiring, say within two weeks.




Ready to put your 2019 plans into action? Our small business recruiting solutions are a great place to start.