August 28, 2014

Are Women Business Owners Afraid to Hire Employees?

business afraid to hire

In the current economic climate, it’s not news that few small business owners are planning to hire. But are women business owners even less likely to hire than men?

The recently issued Fall 2013 Bank of America Small Business Owner Report (PDF) examines small business owners’ attitudes toward hiring and talent retention and found some important differences between male and female entrepreneurs.

Small Business Owners Are Not Hiring

First, most small business owners are not planning to hire. Over the next 12 months, just 28 percent of women and 33 percent of men plan to hire employees, while 63 percent of women and 56 percent of men plan to keep their staff levels the same.

Those who are hiring have varying reasons for doing so. Overall, men are slightly more likely to hire due to an increase in business (33 percent of men vs. 29 percent of women). But men are more likely to be forward-thinking in their hiring. For example, 23 percent of men vs. 15 percent of women are hiring to bring new or different skills to the business, and 17 percent of men vs. just 7 percent of women say they are hiring to adapt to a change in the business environment, such as mobile or digital.

Overall, men are at least 5 percentage points more likely than women to hire employees in order to adapt to a new business environment, particularly in roles involving mobile, social media, business development, financial, HR or marketing.

What makes these differences even more interesting is that men are more likely than women to say finding qualified employees is difficult (50 percent of men vs. 41 percent of women). Conversely more women say finding qualified candidates is easy (23 percent of women vs. 15 percent of men).

What Are Men and Women Business Owners Looking for When They Hire?

There are some interesting differences here as well. Men are more likely than women to cite skills/experience as the most important criteria (49 percent of men vs. 43 percent of women). In contrast, more women say a proactive attitude/willingness to learn is the most important factor (22 percent of women vs. 18 percent of men).

When it comes to retaining employees, men are more likely to focus on the bottom line. Fifty-seven percent of men vs. 48 percent of women offer a competitive salary, and 47 percent of men vs. 41 percent of women offer bonuses to top performers.

Obviously, these are generalizations – there are plenty of women business owners who offer competitive salaries and plenty of men who would rather hire for attitude than skill.

Important Lessons for Women Business Owners

Be Proactive, Not Reactive

If you see a change coming that affects your business, such as the growth of mobile marketing, consider hiring people who can get your business out in front of the trend instead of trailing behind.

Be Willing to Spend

Money talks. No matter how many surveys say that “soft” perks like flextime matter more, the reality is no one ever turned down a job because the salary was too high.

If you truly can’t afford competitive pay, at least consider offering performance-based bonuses or other financial incentives to attract and retain employees.

Build a Bench of Contractors

The memories of having to lay off employees during the recession are still fresh and painful to many entrepreneurs. If you dread hiring because you can’t bear the thought of layoffs, cover your bases by building a bench of talented freelancers and independent contractors who can help you capitalize on trends and beat your competition.

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Rieva Lesonsky


Rieva Lesonsky Rieva Lesonsky is a staff writer for Small Business Trends covering employment, retail trends and women in business. She is CEO of GrowBiz Media, a media company that helps entrepreneurs start and grow their businesses. Follow her on Google+ and visit her blog, SmallBizDaily, to get the scoop on business trends and sign up for Rieva’s free TrendCast reports.

9 Reactions

  1. I think the reason that they don’t hire is not because they don’t like to. It is just that they don’t know if their business is that stable. Let’s admit it. With this economy, it is hard to tell if a business’ income will remain constant.

  2. In my opinion, women are more careful with their finances, as compared to men who are more willing to take risks. Hence, men are more likely to be forward-thinking in their hiring.

  3. Love the point about contractors. Use them to bridge the gap between too much work for current resources and the work needed to justify an additional hire.

    And it’s not just women. Hiring involves a lot of risk and costs. All SMB owners should be cautious about it.

  4. Rieva,

    Interesting topic. IMO, hiring is a problem to both women and men, especially after the layoffs they were doing in the past.

    I was running a business with 18 staffs. I remember firing a couple of my employees – it wasn’t a pleasant experience, to be honest with you. That, along with some other factors, have turned me into an independent business owner with no full-time staffs and hiring contract workers and freelancers to minimize contract hassles.

    Indeed, hiring is challenging – not that I don’t want to delegate, but hiring/firing is a roller coaster ride for me :)

  5. Great article. I am the marketing manager for my local NAWBO Chapter. I think our membership would greatly benefit form this article. I would like permission to re-post it on the NAWBO Phoenix blog. Please let me know!

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