How a Small Business Finds Workers in a Tight Job Market

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Today, businesses large and small face unprecedented challenges in finding enough workers to fill vacancies. Moreover, the latest data reveals that the national labor shortage crisis continues to worsen. There were 10.6 million job vacancies in the United States, a record, at the end of November 2021, the last month for which data is available.

The pandemic has forced businesses to get creative and adapt to survive. Today, the labor shortage crisis is forcing them to improvise again. In this new world, a small Midwestern company learns new ways to find and recruit workers to stay ahead of the competition.

“Right now, we’re doing everything we can to attract the workers we need,” says Traci Tapani, co-president of Wyoming Machine, a Minnesota-based precision sheet metal worker. “We use more than one contract placement agency to try to help us find candidates. We also use online resources to post job vacancies.

Nearly half (46%) of small businesses say their business is facing a labor shortage according to the date of the latest Small Business Index from MetLife and the U.S. Chamber of Commerce. Even more are noticing that their peers aren’t finding enough workers: 76% of small businesses surveyed said they’ve noticed staffing shortages at other small businesses in their area.

This has forced companies like Wyoming Machine to expand their benefits to attract talent. A top priority has been to offer more flexible working hours — something many workers have grown accustomed to during the pandemic — but that’s still rare for a line manufacturing company.

“We are now offering part-time as well as full-time work options, hoping to attract people who are only available at certain times of the day. And I think that helped us attract more applicants.”

Labor shortages are impacting many industries. Last quarter, 60% of commercial construction contractors said they bid higher on projects and 45% said they turned down work because they couldn’t find enough qualified workers. Meanwhile, 54% of middle-market companies said they increased compensation to get workers.

Tapani says her company is offering paid time off sooner to new hires than it has in the position. She added that the more traditional tactic of offering higher wages also helps the company find more talent as wages rise across the economy.

“We have made proactive wage increases across the board, here among our existing workforce,” Tapani says. “It’s been a way of trying to retain these people because the job market is so tight, as well as offering higher salaries to people who are just starting out.”

The competition for talent shows no signs of slowing down. Among small businesses surveyed, 38% of small businesses plan to increase their workforce next year, an increase from last quarter (28%) and the highest score for this metric since 2017. 56% of businesses in the middle market said they would increase hiring, and 68% suggested they would raise wages to attract workers.

Get ready for the competition to keep workers warm in 2022.

About the authors

Thaddee Swanek

Senior Writer and Editor, Strategic Communications

Thaddeus is an editor and managing editor on the strategic communications team at the U.S. Chamber of Commerce.

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