The Great Resignation and the ongoing war for talent are impacting not only large enterprises but small ones as well. The Great resignation describes the record number of people who have left their jobs since the beginning of the pandemic. This trend captures the over 47 million Americans who exited the workforce voluntarily in 2021, and the 20% of workers expected to quit this year. Many circumstances have led to this trend, including mounting employee frustrations, anxiety related to the ongoing pandemic, and limitations with flexible work options.
With staffing resources being so tight in the marketplace, it is leaving businesses of all sizes fighting to find talent with the right skills, leading to a hypercompetitive hiring frenzy. Furthermore, the war for talent has disproportionately impacted small businesses. Consider the fact that small businesses create 1.5 million jobs annually, accounting for nearly two-thirds of all new jobs in the US. But unfortunately, many small business owners have fewer resources than larger enterprises for attracting the right talent.
This is why some experts say that it’s critical for small business leaders to start caring about the future of talent now. And, in some cases, this could actually mean targeting and engaging with future workers, even as early as at the high school level so they can help build a relationship now with tomorrow’s workforce.
Dr. Toinette Gunn, Executive Director of Chicago Debates, sums up the importance of this by stating, “I think everyone should care about future talent, especially small businesses. It impacts all of us, no matter our industry or where we live. Our future will be shaped by how we prepare young people today. These youth are our future leaders, and if we want them to be successful and ensure a better world for ourselves and upcoming generations, we have to invest in their preparation to enter into the workforce.”
In fact, small businesses are not too small to make a difference as there are a number of things they can do to get involved. Small businesses can join the call to help prepare youth for the workforce in several ways, like stepping up to provide mentoring, internship and externship opportunities and informational interviews to offer real-life exposure to current leaders and skills needed in the workplace. Additionally, small business owners can get involved in programs within their local communities, including volunteering with organizations that target youth development and training.
Furthermore, small businesses must understand that the war for talent means that small business leaders must be hyper-focused on developing diverse talent and ensuring that Black and Latino youth are properly prepared for the workforce at an early age.
Dr. Gunn stated that, “Unfortunately, because of the systemic inequities that continue to exist in our world, Black and Latino youth have had fewer opportunities to increase their economic status significantly or to build wealth, including building successful entrepreneurial businesses. This inequity, amongst others, ultimately limit their academic, leadership, and future career and economic potential. Without access to successful business leaders and exposure to opportunities that help develop the skills needed for career success, Black and Latino youth face more challenges in their professional and leadership journeys.”
But small businesses can play a role in equipping them now with the professional, business, and leadership skills they need to impact tomorrow’s workforce positively. And they can realize many benefits in doing so, such as:
Increased community engagement: Unlike major enterprises, small businesses rely on local customers. And much of this customer base is developed by organic marketing, which relies on having a great local reputation. Working with students and job seekers who need training is one way to create additional goodwill in the community, resulting in valuable marketing that emphasizes your business’s need to attract qualified job candidates. Free and positive advertising is sometimes the best type of marketing you can get!
Increased interest in your business. Small businesses aren’t immune to the challenges that all businesses have with hiring currently. And many of these challenges are expected to grow in the coming years. Fostering a relationship with potential job applicants now can benefit your business by providing a new channel for hiring.
A competitive edge. At the end of the day, if you aren’t doing anything you can to attract new job applicants, you can be sure your competitors are. By beating them to the punch and establishing these relationships, you may find that many future workers will be attracted to joining your team rather than a competitor.
The challenges with hiring won’t be going anywhere anytime soon. Baby Boomers are retiring at higher numbers than ever before. And there aren’t enough new workers to offset these numbers. But small businesses that start working on the future of talent and take steps to put their business in a good position to snap up young, willing, and competent workers can find they have a competitive edge in this challenging hiring environment today and for years to come.
Dr. Toinette Gunn joined Chicago Debates in August 2018. Previously, she served as the Vice President of Programs for Chicago Scholars, where she the led vision, research, and strategy for all programming for nearly 3000 students annually.