You Gotta Sell It!

I came across a salient commentary on the state of hiring by Paul Davidson in USA Today.  One that business owners and managers should at least peruse...

The Good, a small e-commerce firm based in Portland, Ore., has been besieged by an armada of Silicon Valley tech giants including Salesforce.com and Airbnb that have invaded the region in the past year or two and are cherry-picking skilled job candidates.

As a result, it’s taking the company — with seven full-time workers and another seven part-timers — about three months to fill openings, up from two months a year ago, company President Jon MacDonald says.

"There are lots of people just looking to move to higher-paying employers," he says.  At 4.7%, the unemployment rate was near its 10-year low in February, down from 4.9% a year ago, supplying employers a smaller pool of available workers. The tight labor market is making hiring a struggle for most companies, but small businesses face an especially daunting task. While some add or sweeten benefits and salaries, they typically can’t compete with packages offered by larger firms.

Thirty-two percent of small businesses had openings they weren’t able to fill in February, the largest share since 2001, according to the National Federation of Independent Business’ monthly survey, which mostly covers companies with fewer than 50 employees. Seventeen percent of firms cited "quality of labor" as their biggest problem, a 10-year high. And 85% of those seeking workers said there were no, or few, qualified applicants.

"The big firms skim the better-skilled people," says William Dunkelberg, NFIB’s chief economist. That, he says, can contribute to more modest sales growth as key positions stay vacant longer.  The Good, which helps e-commerce companies optimize sales, vies for analysts, strategists and software developers against Salesforce, Airbnb and Ebay. All have opened satellite offices in Portland. In response, The Good has increased starting salaries by 5% to 10% over the past year and plans to offer paid maternity leave this year, MacDonald says.

Thornhill and Associates, a Los Angeles-based insurance firm, also trumpets its less tangible worker benefits. But company President Neal Thornhill says his best drawing card is that he lets employees work at home and set their own hours.

"We may not have benefit packages as competitive as the larger companies, but we provide a better quality of life," he says.