If you’re like most small business owners, you’re stretched thin, with everyone at your business doing more with less. Maybe business has picked up a bit and you’ve finally decided to hire.
Well, according to a new study by The Wall Street Journal  and Vistage International, if you’re like most small business owners, you can’t find anyone to hire.
That’s hard to believe in today’s economy, with millions of workers still unemployed. But as of last month, 31 percent of the small business owners and CEOs polled said they had jobs they couldn’t fill because they couldn’t find qualified workers.
The problem was particularly onerous for manufacturing firms, with 41 percent unable to find the right workers. Still, 30 percent of service businesses and 29 percent of retail companies reported the same problem.
Small business owners in the Journal article say the lack of skilled, experienced workers is hindering their ability to expand. While some 36 percent of respondents say they offer training for their workers, training can take time and money a small business may not have.
If you’re on a tight budget and need someone who can hit the ground running, it may be more cost-effective to get along with an unfilled position than to hire someone who not only won’t be productive from Day One, but will also take up another employee’s time to train, lowering overall productivity.
A less popular solution is raising salaries for jobs that are hard to fill. About one-fourth of respondents report they’ve tried this tactic in order to attract better-qualified workers. But not every entrepreneur can afford this option.
By the way, if you think this issue isn’t a concern because most companies aren’t hiring, think again—nearly half (46 percent) of companies in the survey say they wanted to hire.
Where can you find qualified workers with the experience you need? I’m a firm believer in the power of networking—both social networking and the old-fashioned kind. Here are three suggestions:
- Tap into your networks. Let your contacts on social media networks and in professional organizations know you’re looking for new employees. Delve into the industry groups you participate in on LinkedIn and keep an eye on promising people in your industry who might be a good fit for your business. Tell your friends, relatives and neighbors what type of jobs you’re looking to fill. You never know when a friend of a friend of a friend will turn out to be exactly what you’re looking for.
- Tap into your existing employees. Birds of a feather flock together, so an employee who’s reliable, trustworthy and smart is likely to have friends who share the same qualities. Let your employees know about job openings you’re looking to fill. Offer a “finder’s fee” for anyone who refers a candidate that gets hired and passes your probationary period. When employees know their reputation is on the line, they’re likely to think carefully before they refer anyone who might not work out, so this can be one of your best resources.
- Tap into local colleges, universities, trade schools and technical programs. If you’re looking for employees with specific technical experience such as that required for IT or manufacturing jobs, contact local schools or programs that provide training and certification in these areas. Typically they’ll have hiring programs that connect qualified grads with local businesses. This can be a great source of workers who have up-to-date training and skills.
How do you find qualified workers?
Help Wanted  Photo via Shutterstock