Recruiting for Small Businesses Today
When our CEO, Lindsey T. H. Jackson, recently sat down with a group of hardworking small – midsize distribution company owners and managers, we asked about the biggest challenges they’re facing today.
One question was on the top of their minds:
How can I stand out as an employer to attract the best talent?
Together we named the challenges they’re facing, and talked about some immediately useful solutions to improve their employer branding, recruitment, and retention of top talent.
Challenges in Recruitment & Retention Today
These were the challenges named directly by this group of small – midsize business leaders, many of whom are running a family business that has hit a wall in recruiting and retention:
- Younger workers in particular are often only staying for a maximum of a few years. It drains resources to attract and skill up new people repeatedly.
- It can be hard to adapt to more modern ways of working, especially when you’ve been doing something the same way for 20 years.
- A number of business owners felt that candidates & workers in the younger generation are “softer”; that they “don’t have as hard a work ethic.”
- Some employers felt they were being “taken advantage of” by newer employees who continue to increase their demands — and that their more senior employees resented the ways they’ve had to “bend over backwards” for newer hires, even when those hired people don’t bring as much on-the-job knowledge.
While it can be tempting to wallow in these challenges, the fact remains: business owners have to adapt to today’s hiring market. It is expensive to keep wishing things were the way they used to be, rather than adapting to how they are now.
Solutions for Small Business Recruitment & Retention
- Recognize that this is not a personal issue you’re facing alone – these are challenges across industries.
- The goal as a business owner, though sobering, is to make yourself obsolete as a senior worker. Your job is no longer to be the best technician in the room; it’s to create an environment by coaching and listening to your team, that inspires them to stay and bring their full excellence to the job.
You can know what needs to be done without having the exact technical skills to execute it; instead you should be delegating work to guide your team to create proper outputs.
- Rather than focusing on what’s been lost, and how you wish things were (think: Kodak…), shift the focus to how you can adapt to this employment market by positioning yourself as inclusive of younger generations. Remember, the younger generation does not necessarily have a low work ethic, they simply have different expectations about their work experience that may be new to you.
Share your excitement with senior employees that they can now be in a position to mentor your incoming staff (if you know they are skilled at teaching – not everyone is suited to teach).
- This is an opportunity to position your company with a better story to tell ahead of your competition. LTHJ Global has people submitting resumes to us (when we don’t even have open positions)… because of our storytelling!
This employer branding work cannot be completed overnight. Every step you take is moving you closer to aligning your business with the kind of culture you want to create, to attract and retain the team members who will bring their excellence to help the business thrive.
If you have questions about how to take action on this, you can reach out to us any time at for a chat.
Recruiting Success with Equitable & Inclusive Interviews
Some positions don’t require industry knowledge, as long as the person coming in is ready to learn. It requires several rounds of interviewing to truly vet someone in all aspects, including their technical skills, as well as their ways of thriving within your organization’s culture.
At minimum you should have any candidates interviewed through:
- An initial phone screening in which you’re assessing technical skills mapped back to those skills clearly outlined in the position description.
- To begin to eliminate bias from the hiring process, aim to conduct this first screening call without seeing what the candidate looks like.
- An interview with those people on the team the candidate would be working with regularly.
- This interview aims to answer, how would this person fit into our culture of learning & development, the pace of work, etc.?
- This interview does NOT aim to answer, do we like them?
- Then an interview with their direct hiring manager.
- This candidate would be reporting to this manager throughout their tenure with the company – the person responsible for employee evaluations, mentoring & coaching of this candidate.
- The role of the hiring manager in regards to this role should be clearly expressed in the position description (this gives the candidate a chance to fully assess who they’d be managed by).
Retention Success with ‘Stay’ Interviews
You may have heard of an Exit Interview, which is conducted with people who are leaving your organization. Just as important to your successful culture management is a routine Stay Interview: a recurring interview in which you / your culture leader speaks at least every 6 months – 1 year with every team member about why they stay with your company, and what would inspire them to keep doing so.
This should happen over a more casual lunch – going for a walk is especially effective. Think going to a food truck, walk & talk in the park, etc. The aim is for as much honesty as possible. You want to hear critical feedback in this conversation as well as positive.
Important note: Stay Interviews are not a performance evaluation. The focus here is making strides to elevate levels of engagement and retention.
Questions for a Stay Interview include:
- What do you find enjoyable about your work at __(company)__.?
- Overall, how well do we follow through on what we say is important to our company? (DEI, customer inclusion, employee satisfaction, etc)
- How does your current role fit into the vision and mission of __(company)__?
Want to get our full guide to Stay Interview questions? This is one of the many resources slated for access through our upcoming platform, Sojourn. Get on the waitlist to be the first to join, or leave a comment below to let us know you want the resource!
More Top Recruitment & Retention Strategies
- Write what you’ve learned (from your Stay Interviews) keeps your people –> into your job descriptions! You’re looking for more people like your star employees, so you want to directly use their language when attracting new employees.
- Check for your business on Glassdoor.com. Be sure to claim your company with an Employer Account! Attempt to implement the suggestions from former or current employees that you can learn from, and reply to their reviews when you are able to make those changes.
- Conduct regular Exit Interviews when people are leaving. This is an excellent time to get the most honest feedback possible. That data is extremely useful; it gives us an opportunity to better understand the culture and climate in your business, and the types of team members who have not been supported in being successful in this climate.
- Ask your star employees, where did they look for jobs when they were searching? Especially make sure to ask younger employees: where are they on social media now? Those are the channels and platforms where you can focus your recruiting efforts, to attract more people like your best existing team members.
- Make clear in your job postings and through photos on your website that you’re open to older workers, who may be able to bring industry knowledge and who are seeking a more long-term position. It is essential that you communicate the systems you have in place to support them, such as healthcare, vision, dental, and retirement benefits when reaching these people.
- If you’re aiming to attract employees who are coming to work across state or country borders, be sure to demonstrate how you’re making this an easier transition for them.
- When you’re telling the story of your employer brand, every person who represents your organization (this includes your entire team) needs to be brought together in alignment. This requires intentional, strategic work which is best to have expert DEI support on. It’s vital that whoever is running your recruitment process has been trained in the latest best practices. Be aware that some people will leave during this process, some will be incentivized to stay longer, and some new team members will come onboard to help create the culture you seek.
- In positions where there isn’t ‘upward mobility,’ paint a picture of (and actually offer) the aspects of that job that do grow over time; creative opportunities, increased compensation, vacation time etc.
- Show off benefits you have for people with children or other caretaking roles, such as dedicated parental leave, flexible schedule for pick-up/drop-off, etc.
The work of fostering an attractive and inclusive culture will not be done overnight. Every step you take is moving you closer to aligning with the kind of culture you want to create, to attract and retain the team members who will bring their excellence to help the business thrive.
If you have questions, or need a clear step-by-step plan of action, you can reach out to the experts at LTHJ Global any time for a chat.