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How small businesses in the Philly area can find that most precious resource: employees

By September 13, 2021No Comments

(This article originally appeared in the Philadelphia Inquirer)

Small businesses are dealing with many problems right now, includingrising prices,supply chain issues and the continued uncertainty around the COVID-19 virus. But there’s still one issue that leads the list:finding good employees, particularly in these times of tight labor.

There are a lot of opportunities to find good talent, with 65% of employees looking for a new job, according to an August pollof 1,007 full- and part-time U.S. workers conducted by accounting firm PwC. But unfortunately, there’s no quick fix. If you’re hunting for that great employee, go directly to the career sites at colleges and universities or check out the statewide employment programs offered by Pennsylvaniaand New Jersey.Or you could consider some of these strategies that other employers are using.

Start by asking your current employees for referrals

There’s a good reason for this. Your workers know you and your company and they can more easily (and affordably) connect you to their friends, neighbors or even family members for a job. According to a 2017 reportfrom talent acquisition software maker SilkRoad, employee referrals remains the top source of new hires, delivering more than 30% of hires overall and 45% of hires from internal sources.

There are some drawbacks to this strategy, like possibly depending too heavily on one family or group of people to shape your workforce. But what better way to find a good worker than a recommendation by someone you know?

Go online

There are plenty of online sites to post ads including LinkedIn, Craigslist, Monster, Dice and CareerBuilder. Or you can you sign up for an aggregator service such as ZipRecruiter or Indeed which manages postings and responses on a number of these popular services in one place. And don’t limit yourself to the local area.

“We used both Indeed and Craigslist in other cities,” said Melissa Wilson, a payroll and recruitment manager at FCM Hospitality, an event and restaurant management firm based in Philadelphia. “We hired and housed 11 line cooks from Florida this summer when hiring locally proved difficult. As seasons rolled down in resort towns, we were able to entice employees to come up North to work our season!”

Focus on your industry

Trade groups and professional associations are very helpful resources to find talent, particularly if you’re looking for someone with experience in your industry. Some of these groups have their own recruitment arms while others simply help connect members informally.

“We typically post advertisements in regional, industry-related job boards,” said Paul Kahan, executive director of the American Helicopter Museum & Education Centerin West Chester. “We also post those positions to our Facebook page, but the vast majority of applicants report having found out about our open positions from industry-related job boards.”

Consider an affinity group

Michael Robinson, who is a director of community outreach and hiring for Temple University’s Lenfest North Philadelphia Workforce Initiative, has long time connections with professional groups such as the National Association of Black Accountants, the Society of Human Resource Management and even the National Panhellenic Council – a three million-strong organization of fraternity and sorority members who represent alumni from across a myriad of professions and industries.

According to Robinson, having an alliance with one or two of these types of organizations can be a great pipeline for potential recruits.

“If I was a small business owner, I would form relationships with affinity groups because it would provide a way for me to have an alliance with some professionals of like-minded background,” he said. Robinson adds that affinity groups are also a great resource for finding young professionals and even college students seeking internships. “Many of these groups are open to partnerships and are relatively inexpensive to join,” he said.

Reach out to religious and faith-based groups

Besides affinity groups, Robinson has found that many faith-based organizations have a good cross section of professionals and workers who attend and participate and can often be a resource for new talent.

“I would make sure that communication is going out to those houses of faith about job opportunities that my company may have available because many people that attend those houses of faith are representatives of different industries and different professions,” he says. “So what better place to get all of those mix of people under one roof that can be familiar with what you do and your hiring needs?”

Hire an outside recruitment firm

Recruitment firms are often used by larger companies and come with a cost which can be anywhere from 10% to 30% of a first year’s salary. But then again, you get what you pay for.

“Referral incentives and recruitment agency fees cost money but can be extremely cost effective compared to the loss of productivity, loss of revenue or turnover,” said Brandon Saylor, a partner at the Philadelphia location of staffing and recruiting firm Atlantic Group.

Tori Mitchell, VP of National Accounts for HR & Operations at Juno Search Partnersin Philadelphia, said that a good recruitment firm will help their clients put together the best strategy for attracting new workers. “We help our clients to understand the market and know what candidates are looking for as well as determining training needs and the right combination of benefits and perks that will attract the right employee,” she said.

Finally, always be networking

When it comes to finding that right employee, there’s one thing that’s certain: there’s no easy answer. All of these strategies should be tried and the best success usually comes from an ongoing commitment to networking.

“It’s very important for employers to have alliances and relationships with a cross section of others – professional groups and community leaders and corporate business executives – in your industry,” said Robinson. “I’ve found that without those relationships, job placements can’t be done.”

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