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3 Posts authored by: Bank of America SB Team

Jon-Dowst.gifHiring the right talent to grow your small business is an ever-present challenge filled with nuances and complexities – whether you’re a zealous entrepreneur running a brand new start-up, or a well-established organization experiencing exponential growth.


Last week I was on a Google+ Hangout panel along with Stephanie Bevegni from LinkedIn and Steve Strauss from USA TODAY, for the latest installment in the Bank of America Small Business Social Series: “Strategies for Navigating the Small Business Hiring Process.” Carol Roth from CNBC moderated our lively discussion, and you can view the full video replay here. Below I’ve provided a recap of several strategies and tips we shared, to help you attract skilled and experienced candidates that have strong potential for making substantial contributions to your small business:


1. Know What You Are Looking For

One of the first and most important steps for you to take is to identify the criteria and background you are looking for in candidates. According to the spring 2016 Bank of America Small Business Owner Report, nearly half of small business owners nationwide believe skill level is the most important factor when hiring a candidate. Twenty-four percent said the candidate’s fit with their company’s culture is the most important, and an additional 24 percent cited previous work experience. Only 3 percent rated educational background as the most important factor they consider when hiring a candidate. Take some time upfront to decide what specific factors and background will make a potential employee the right fit for your company, before you begin looking for candidates.


2. Screen Soft Skills and Do Your Homework on Potential Candidates

Once you’ve decided what you’re looking for – whether it’s a highly specialized skill set in computer programming, five years of experience managing a restaurant, or simply the right personality to greet clients and answer phones – it’s understandable that “soft skills” may not be top of mind when you’re hiring. Qualities such as leadership, collaboration, creativity and fit with company culture can be tough to screen for. One way to screen for soft skills is to ask behavioral questions during the interview such as “Tell me about a time when you were asked to do something you have never done before. How did you react? What did you learn?” Alternatively, ask an unexpected question such as “What is your favorite book, and why?” These types of questions will tell you a lot about a candidate both as a person and as an employee, about how they think on their feet, and if they will fit with your company’s culture. It is also important for you to do your homework – call past employers, check out their profiles on social media, and follow-up on references to make sure your potential hire possesses the qualities and characteristics they say they do. By looking at a candidate’s past behavior, you can more easily determine what they will be like to work with.


3. Perks, Benefits and Culture Win Over Candidates

When speaking with small business owners, we often hear that they experience challenges attracting top employees due to competition from larger companies. However, according to results from a LinkedIn survey, 87 percent of professionals said they wanted to work at a company of 200 employees or less. To attract these professionals to your business, it is important to offer competitive wages and benefits and to have a culture that makes your company a great place to work. While these types of offerings are critically important to attract and retain top talent, they also cost money.  A “free” way to attract and retain top talent is to simply be a great boss; make your business a comfortable and fun place to work.  If you are concerned about how you can grow your business or offer competitive wages, reach out to your small business banker as a resource. Your banker is available to offer advice and solutions for effectively managing growth.


4. Understand the Implications of Employee Classifications

The spring 2016 Bank of America Small Business Owner Report found 22 percent of small business owners plan to hire more employees in the year ahead. It’s a mixed bag among the various employee classifications – part-time employees, full-time employees, freelancers or independent contractors. There are pros and cons to hiring different types of workers. A full-time employee will give you more of a commitment, but it is more expensive to hire them – you will pay workers compensation insurance, unemployment insurance and match social security payments, not to mention the benefits you should offer to attract top talent. Independent contractors are less expensive, but it’s important to understand that you are not their boss and they will have other clients besides you. Regardless of approach, make sure you are hiring to meet your business needs and that you understand the full tax and financial implications. Small business bankers, accountants, mentors and peers can offer advice to help navigate the pros and cons.


Want to learn more? Click here to watch the full video replay of the Bank of America Small Business Social Series’ Google+ Hangout on “Tips for Navigating the Small Business Hiring Process.” Once again I’d like to thank CNBC’s Carol Roth for moderating our panel, as well my fellow panelists Stephanie Bevegni (Small Business Content Lead at LinkedIn) and Steve Strauss (Senior Small Business Columnist at USA TODAY) for offering tips and strategies that we hope will help you find and hire top talent for your small business.


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Robb-Hilson3.pngBy Robb Hilson, Bank of America Small Business Executive


In today’s ultra-competitive business landscape, hiring the right talent is a vital part of growing, running and maintaining a successful business. This is especially crucial for small business owners, who typically have very streamlined organizations. In our daily interactions with small business owners, we’ve seen optimism about the economy and an inclination to hire and retain the right employees.  According to a recent Bank of America Small Business Owner Report (SBOR), a majority of entrepreneurs (53 percent) are confident the national economy will improve over the next 12 months – up a staggering 22 percentage points from just six months earlier.  Similarly, small business owners’ confidence in their local economy improving jumped to 51 percent from 37 percent in fall 2016.


Though small business owners are excited about their prospects for growth, bringing in—and hanging on to—top-tier talent can be challenging. As the modern workplace continues to evolve, small business owners must adapt to their environment to avoid falling behind in the technology they use or the benefits they offer employees. Recently, I participated in a Google Hangout with Alexandra Levit, a workplace expert, and USA Today columnist Steve Strauss to discuss how the small business workplace is evolving, and how small business owners are adapting. Here are some of my biggest takeaways:


  1. Develop a talent strategy. Hiring should never be done on the fly. Take the time to assess your needs and find employees who can round out your team by building on your strengths and fixing your weaknesses. Consider working with potential employees in a freelance or part-time capacity before you hire them, and make sure everyone is on the same page when it comes to your company’s goals.

  2. Be flexible with your employees’ needs. Building the right culture is essential—happy employees create happy customers. You should also keep in mind the different attitudes and priorities of employees from a variety of generations. According to the SBOR, small business owners are now offering all types of creative perks like areas to relax and unwind (20 percent) and pet-friendly environments (11 percent). At the end of day, making your employees feel like their ideas are valued and their opinions are heard is the most important thing you can do.

  3. Make technology your ally. Technology can be a windfall for your business and employees. Giving employees the option to telecommute can make their lives easier and their work better—54 percent of the small business owners we surveyed believe their employees are more productive when they have the option to work from home. And, when it comes to bringing new technology into your business, don’t get overwhelmed with all the technological options out there—speak to your team and find the right mix for your business.

According to the Fall 2015 Small Business Owner Report, more entrepreneurs than ever are feeling optimistic about the future of their businesses. They are hiring more, planning growth strategies and looking ahead in big ways.  In the face of all this growth, however, a continuous concern among small business owners is having good talent – and keeping it. In order to retain the talent that keeps their businesses running, it’s important that small business owners adjust to emerging workplace trends, like adopting new technologies and offering unconventional employee perks.


This month’s installment of Bank of America’s Small Business Social Series will discuss how small business owners can increase employee retention and productivity through changes to the workplace environment.



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