Small businesses can offer job candidates advantages when competing with larger companies


You have the business, you have the production, but you don’t have the people to make it all happen. Is this your business?

Imagine you’ve landed a big government contract but you can’t find enough workers to execute it. Right now, the talent shortage is affecting companies globally. In the fourth quarter alone, 15 million Americans resigned their jobs. This Great Resignation trend continues, according to Katherine Culhane, a business consultant at the Florida SBDC at Indian River State College.

Katherine Culhane, Associate Director for the Florida SBDC

Katherine Culhane has an extensive career in banking, including roles in management, business development, commercial lending and private banking. She has a master’s degree in organizational learning and leadership, is a certified professional behavioral analyst and is a Society for Human Resource Management senior certified professional. With more than 25 years of banking experience, Culhane serves as the capital access specialist for the Florida SBDC at IRSC. Contact her for more information on this and all SBA lending programs to help your business expand, grow and succeed.

As a small or medium company, you compete with larger companies that can offer higher pay and more benefits, but don’t throw in the towel just yet.

Small businesses are attracting and retaining talent by leveraging advantages that large corporations don’t have and offering attractive lures that big companies can’t necessarily match.

Culhane explains millennials and Gen Z candidates are seeking a work-place culture and company that focuses on their well-being. In fact, according to Gallup, it is their top priority. A company with a clear mission, workplace flexibility, healthy work-life integration and a management team that is committed to employee success are also top priorities.

“If employers are not committed to some or all of these workplace issues, they will struggle to engage, recruit and hire this segment of the workforce,” said Culhane, who specializes in human resources. “The good news is small businesses can have significant advantage in implementing and creating workplaces that will appeal to the millennials and Gen Z segments.”

Leveraging these workplace advantages, a small business can potentially compete with much larger firms, who may be offering better pay and benefit packages.

Most HR professionals agree traditional acquisition and retention strategies no long apply in this marketplace. Business owners have to be more innovative and creative in their recruiting process.

Millennials pioneered the social media movement and remain connected on-line 24/7. Improving recruitment success could as simple as being more innovative in using social media channels.

“Entire hiring campaigns can be created on YouTube,” Culhane said. “A recruitment video could include employee testimonials, cover perks and benefits and most importantly highlight the company’s culture.”

State colleges, such as Indian River State College, are good sources of talent and recruiting through career events, on-campus interviews and engaging students through internships, where students can get a chance to wear many hats.

Because recruiting is expensive and time intensive, employee retention is also a critical factor for small businesses.

What can small businesses do to build an organization so workers stay?

Small businesses can invest in employee growth opportunities by providing ongoing professional development training; creating an employee feedback program with legitimate follow through; and diving deep into exit interviews. Employee retention is another area where the small business operator can compete with the larger employers.

“Make no mistake, employee satisfaction is what enhances and fosters better rates of acquisition and retention,” Culhane said. “Small business owners, please get to know the culture and brand your business represents to your customers and employees just as well as you understand your cash flow and profit margin.”

To save time, it’s a good idea to phone-screen a candidate first.

For the main interview, ask behavioral based questions, such as tell me about a time you dealt with a difficult client and how you resolved it? Or give me an example of a time when you had to conform to a policy about which you did not agree? Or tell me about a time you failed?

Make sure it is a structured interview process, with a set of standardized questions asked to all applicants.

Having a detailed job description is critical. People want to see the job, how enriching the job is and what is expected of them. And for the employer, it’s not only having a good culture but it is about finding the right candidate for the culture. You are looking to ensure that they match the organization culture and can fit in.

Always compare the candidate qualifications to the job description. Attitude is likely more important than technical abilities. Can he or she learn and grow on the job?

Once hired, onboarding of new employees in the right way is also important. People want an orientation to the company and to be introduced to colleagues. This is the time to set the right expectations of the job.


Small business owners certainly must:

• Determine how to pay fair and competitive wages
• Regularly recognize employees for hard work and good job performance
• Provide continuous performance feedback
• Allow employees to develop a sense of security; feeling undervalued is always a top reason for employees leaving
• Ensure employees experience a positive environment, so they will become brand ambassadors and promote the company
• Provide employees with regular professional development training opportunities.

See the original article in the print publication

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