Employee Challenges for Small Business Owners and How Other Businesses Cope and Survive

Many business owners still struggle to find and keep employees, whether small businesses operate in-office (store or restaurant), virtually, or in a hybrid environment. 

As the nation continues to operate at nearly full employment, keeping your staff happy and onboard is even more difficult. Several recent surveys of U.S. employees reveal some challenges small business owners face and how they cope with them.   I will share some insights into this challenge for CEOs as reported by Reeva Lesonsky, one of SCORE’s content partners.  She is president and CEO of GrowBiz Media, a custom content and media company focusing on small business and entrepreneurship, and the blog SmallBusinessCurrents.com.

The New Way of Work 

The overall outlook reported in the Kabbage from American Express Small Business Recovery Report was a bit of a mixed bag. The businesses surveyed nearly doubled their revenues from July 2021 to July 2022, yet profits were flat.

The Small Business Recovery Report also shows that the businesses are “rethinking how best to navigate employee recruitment and retention,” especially given the impact of inflation. Nearly half (47%) of the surveyed companies say inflation has “pushed them to accommodate.” They “compensate for higher healthcare, enriched employee benefits and more frequent pay raises” to keep their employees happy.

Since the search for employees is so competitive, many small businesses are learning to accommodate their employees. They are “leaning into the new way of work,” offering hybrid and remote work options. To stay competitive in the labor market, 49% of businesses offer flexible work options, with hybrid work being the most popular option (27%). This solution has proved effective—77% of the businesses surveyed say this has “made a positive impact on their ability to attract new employees.”.  Interestingly, the newest businesses (those less than two-years-old) have the highest adoption rate of these hybrid and remote working options (57%).

The Future of Time

Adobe surveyed thousands of small business leaders and employees in eight global markets, including the United States. The Future of Time 2022: Redefining Productivity During Uncertainty report reveals that most (70%) of the surveyed business leaders believe “change is the new constant in the workplace.” They also agree that “constant uncertainty is forcing their businesses to innovate.”

If there’s a positive to all this, the business owners say the uncertainty has “sharpened their entrepreneurial mindset.” Employees are embracing digitization—over 67% say they rely on digital tools to cope with the constant change in the workplace and gain peace of mind. To support their employees, particularly in these uncertain times, 33% of the business leaders have upgraded their existing technologies or adopted new ones in the past year.

And they intend to keep investing in digital tools to:

  • Enhance productivity—86%
  • Keep innovating—84%
  • Improve collaboration—81%
  • Manage uncertainty—75%
  • Retain employees—72% 

According to The Future of Time report, employees want to work in a “purpose-driven culture that prioritizes values of support and wellbeing.” Also, “companies that build a work culture based on employee values are more likely to retain talent.”

Creating this type of work environment will help your business retain employees. The survey reveals:

  • 78% of employees say they are looking for a more supportive work culture to motivate them to stay on the job
  • Employees whose values align with their work culture are 15% less likely to look for a new job
  • When asked what they need from their employers to help navigate uncertainty, they prioritize mental health and flexibility benefits.

Seasonal Hiring

If you’re trying to find seasonal workers for the upcoming holiday season, Snagajob conducted a survey revealing that these workers also have expectations.

Workers say these are the top five benefits that would entice them to take a seasonal job:

  • Weekly paychecks—69%
  • Flex scheduling—62%
  • Sign-on bonus—51%
  • Potential for permanent job—46%
  • End-of-season performance bonus—37%

Since consumers are expected to shop early (meaning now) this holiday season, you need to hire your seasonal workers as soon as you can. The competition for these workers will likely be more challenging than usual, but 81% of holiday job seekers are already looking for a job. How can you best find them? Look online—65% of seasonal workers look for work on online job boards.

Seasonal employees could also help you find permanent workers after the holiday season—about half of the seasonal workers are interested in full-time work. Testing them during the busy holiday season is a smart way to test if they’d be a good fit for your company.

The challenge of finding employees is not likely to end soon. The keys are understanding what today’s workers want (flexibility and access to digital solutions), creating a work environment built on values and purpose, and treating your employees well.

Of course, if you need help creating employee attraction and retention policies, your SCORE mentor can help.

About the Author(s)

Dean Swanson

Dean is a Certified SCORE Mentor and former SCORE Chapter Chair, District Director, and Regional Vice President for the North West Region, and has developed and managed many businesses. The Rochester Post Bulletin publishes his weekly article on a topic geared toward the small business community. The articles here are printed in their entirety.

Certified SCORE Mentor for the Southeast Minnesota Chapter
Attracting and Retaining Workers for Your Small Business