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Small Business Wishes that just Might Come True in 2017

Small Business Wishes that just Might Come True in 2017

By: John Rossheim

What tops the 2017 wish list of small business owners and their HR managers? Items on the list include affordable health insurance coverage and improved talent-acquisition processes, among other things. 

Here’s what the companies we checked in with are wishing for in the New Year to improve their hiring strategies and employee retention.

A stable health insurance and regulatory environment. With a new Congress and president taking office in January, small business owners and HR managers are wishing for more certainty in the regulatory landscape. 

Lorna Hagen, senior vice president of people operations at OnDeck, which has 640 employees, is concerned with the uncertainties surrounding the future of the Affordable Care Act and the incoming administration’s evolving policy on health insurance. “With overtime and sick leave laws, multi-site companies like ours have to deal with different rules in different jurisdictions.”

Easier access to affordable health insurance programs. With the talent supply continuing to tighten, many small businesses want to improve their benefits offer -- but for 2017 they are confronting spiraling health insurance premiums and administrative headaches. 

“Small-business owners wish the Federal government’s SHOP Exchange [Small Business Health Options Program] insurance was better run,” says Christy Hopkins, principal at 4 Points Consulting.

Efficient queueing of quality talent. “Our biggest wish is to be able to keep getting A players in the door as we scale up,” says Steven Bock, chairman of Swaponz, an eight-employee startup that makes designer cell phone covers. 

“We need designers and graphic artists and so far we’re recruiting through networking connections with art schools in Boston and Providence. We’re still a step away from using recruiters or recruiting platforms.” 

Bock says that when the time comes, he’ll be looking for effective tools to streamline that qualification process, such as technology to send candidates questions and video interviews.

A more dependable supply of hourly workers. Small businesses bemoan the fact that dependable hourly employees are difficult to recruit and hard to retain, says Christy. 

To ease the shortage, she believes employers should think creatively about scheduling. For example, employers can offer a 6 to 10 p.m. shift to accommodate student workers who can only work evenings. 

A steady pipeline of high-quality workers with legal immigrant status. Some small business owners are hoping that the incoming Congress and presidential administration will consider employers’ continued need for legal immigrant workers. 

“We want to see more and more people from other countries who want to contribute to our society, that they have more of the right opportunities to immigrate,” says Lior Rachmany, CEO of Dumbo Moving in New York City. 

“The president-elect has taken an approach to immigration that could compromise our service. With undocumented workers disappearing from the labor pool, immigrants who do have legal status will start to demand higher salaries and positions.”

Talent acquisition technology that grows with the employer.  HR managers wish that 2017 technology would step up to the challenges of implementing 2017 people strategy and policy.  

“HR strategies change faster and faster, but HR technology isn’t nimble or customizable enough, so you’re often hamstrung by technology that doesn’t work,” says Hagen. For example, OnDeck would like to mask the names of candidates on resumes they are considering in order to reduce implicit bias -- but Hagen finds that her company is “stuck with doing it manually.”

Candidates with realistic expectations about compensation. Business owners, recruiters and HR managers wish that workers, especially young professionals, would bring knowledge of what the talent market actually is -- rather than what they imagine it to be -- to their salary discussions with prospective employers. 

For a recent software developer position, Hopkins had multiple candidates; some interrupted her job pitch to ask her what the pay was. “I say to the candidate, ‘Unfortunately you interrupted me, which is not a great way to start the interview, so let’s start over.’ ” One candidate whose professional experience comprised two internships expected $70,000 for a position where the market rate is about $40,000.

Millennials with management skills. Small business owners are concerned about mining management talent from the young generation of Millennials that is now the most numerous in the U.S. workforce. 

“We wish that we’ll have more people skilled in management,” says Rachmany. “The Millennial generation doesn’t have the best management skills. We wish that problem would disappear.”

Employees with a development mindset. With flatter organizations and fewer opportunities for rapid upward mobility, employers are hoping that internal opportunities for career planning and increased responsibility can serve as a key retention tool. 

“We want our employees to acquire a mindset of growth and learning,” says Hagen. “We want them to appreciate the value of development, of experiences in different departments and on different teams.”

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