Challenges Small Business Owners Are Facing Due to Labor Shortages

The past year has been among the biggest challenges most small business owners have ever faced. Between municipal restrictions, mandatory closures, safety protocol that limited the number of people allowed in an area at a given time, and difficulties accessing needed supplies, it’s been an uphill climb toward better days.

But now that restrictions are easing across the country, and places are reopening, some businesses are finding a new challenge: hiring enough workers. 

A survey conducted in March, when some restrictions were starting to lift, by the National Federation of Independent Businesses, detailed more than 40% of owners had jobs that they were struggling to fill, with 91% of those hiring finding few or no qualified applicants for their positions. 

There isn’t just one reason for this obstacle. Here are some of the factors contributing to shortages: 

  • Lingering restrictions:

    Some municipalities, especially where there have been surging COVID-19 cases due to the Delta variant strain, are again limiting the number of people allowed in one place at a time or reinstating six-foot social distancing guidance. For some small businesses, that means reducing hours of operation, making employees uncertain if they’ll be able to earn a consistent wage. 

  • Health concerns:

    Whether employees are vaccinated and unhappy with the lifting of mask mandates, or if they’re unvaccinated and required to wear masks while people they interact with toss them aside, concern about becoming infected with COVID remains. Even vaccinated workers face the risk of being exposed to the virus and contracting a mild case of illness; these fears can be heightened if they have young children at home who cannot be vaccinated or relatives who have other health issues.

  • Family obligations and concerns:

    Parents of young children might be struggling to work out child care responsibilities if kids aren’t back in school full time yet or if daycare is too expensive to allow both parents to work outside the home. Additionally, there are lingering concerns about transmission of COVID-19, even among vaccinated people, to those who are unable to get the vaccine. 

  • Lack of flexibility:

    As many businesses adapted to the pandemic, some offered employees the ability to work remotely. If that isn’t an option due to an adherence to traditional workplace ideologies, that could be a turnoff for potential employees who know those options exist elsewhere. 

  • Wage changes and challenges:

    Between extra unemployment support provided by the federal government to help people survive during the pandemic and the decision from some businesses to increase wages, companies might have to choose between hiring more staff and paying existing employees more. Either decision could create tension.

Sound familiar? 

There are ways to overcome or address these challenges so small business owners can bring their staffing levels up and welcome new employees: 

  • Higher wages:

    This might not be feasible for companies with tight budgets or struggling to regain their footing after the pandemic, but for those who can offer a higher wage, it will help draw in more candidates. 

  • Paid benefits packages:

    If higher wages aren’t on the table, look to benefits. Offer new hires incentives like additional time off or flexible schedules, maybe even a higher contribution toward their insurance premiums. 

  • Rethinking and rework job descriptions:

    Forget about titles. What kinds of people does your business need? What kinds of skills are important for the jobs you have open? Throw out what was prioritized before and rebuild and reframe job postings to look for the talents and abilities needed to do the jobs you have. 

It’s a long, tough road to recovery, but taking some time to address the obstacles in your company’s way can help your leadership envision new paths forward. These things take time! 

If you need more advice or help finding qualified candidates to join your team, contact Debbie’s Staffing. We have skilled, driven job candidates ready to fill the positions you have available and eager to get started. Call Debbie’s Staffing today, and let’s get to work!