By: Cameron Albert-Deitch
Today’s post should be read and understood by both job-seekers and employers alike. Both constituencies can learn and profit from this particular post.
It has been said many times that small business is the “engine of the economy.” And from an employment perspective, it certainly is. More people work for small business in the United States than any other employer.
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One way to gauge a small business’s momentum is by looking at its employee count: You’re either hiring or trying to do more with fewer people. If your startup is in the same place as it was a year ago, don’t panic: You’re not alone.
Last Wednesday, the most recent ADP National Employment Report–a monthly study of U.S. private-sector employment conducted by ADP and Moody’s Analytics–revealed that employment among companies with one to 19 workers actually decreased by roughly one million people between January 2019 and January 2020. According to the report’s historical data, this is the first such occurrence since 2008-2011, when employment among small firms consistently dropped in the midst and aftermath of the Great Recession.
It’s an individual data point within a much larger study that’s largely positive about the job market: Compared to last month, private sector companies of all sizes added 291,000 more people, the largest monthly gain observed by the report since May 2015. So is that statistic an outlier, or is it significant? I called up Ahu Yildirmaz, co-head of the ADP Research Institute, to ask her that very question. And in no uncertain terms: She believes it’s significant.
“Small businesses are struggling with employment. They’re facing more pressure than larger companies,” Yildirmaz told me, pointing me to another statistic in the report: 13 percent of net new jobs in 2018 came from businesses with one to 19 workers. In 2019, she noted, it’s a very different picture, thanks to the historic tightening of the U.S. labor market over the past couple years–a trend that has brought myriad consequences for small businesses.
Right now, Yildirmaz said, that hiring squeeze is largely affecting nascent startups and mom-and pop shops. But on Monday, Moody’s chief economist Mark Zandi told the Wall Street Journal that it could be a premonition for all businesses in “the not-so-distant future.” So whether you’re a brand-new founder or a CEO running a 100-employee startup, you likely need to get more creative with your hiring tactics. Back in 2018, Inc. staff writer Emily Canal investigated ways to tweak your hiring practices to fit tough job markets. She found four strategies:
- Broaden your search. Prioritize candidates who match your company’s culture over those with the technical skills you need. They can learn on the job.
- Study the competition. If you can’t outspend your competitors on salary, you can find ways to compensate with benefits like flexible work schedules or access to wellness programs.
- Sell yourself. If you can make yourself seem like a dream destination, more talented people will want to work for you.
- Act quickly. Job candidates get frustrated if they don’t hear back promptly after their interview, and they often flee to your competitors.
Give them a try–because if you’re not struggling to scale, you might be soon. And the more prepared you are, the more easily you’ll be able to get through any hard times.
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