Hiring employees—it’s a dreaded phrase for many small business owners today, given the tight labor market and near-full employment numbers. Furthermore, what job candidates are looking for in an occupation has changed somewhat due to the pandemic. Given these challenges, how can you find and keep the employees you need for your small business to grow and thrive?

Let’s look at some key things job seekers are expecting in their search and how you can accommodate those preferences. Some of these are old standards, such as good pay and benefits, and others are the result of difficult realities faced by employees during the pandemic.¹

Pay and Benefits

  • Pay and benefits always show up in the list of top things employees desire in a job, but now it’s a bit more specific. Inflation has caused salaries to rise in almost all cases, so be sure your wages have been adjusted accordingly. Check online sites such as Salary.com or the US Bureau of Labor Statistics to benchmark wages for your business, industry, and location.
  • Include hiring bonuses for candidates and merit or bonus pay for current employees in your budget if you can. As workers face inflationary pressures, on-demand pay, where employees are paid as they earn, is a growing practice in some industries. Your payroll provider may offer this service. See here for more information about on-demand pay.
  • After the pandemic, individual and family health benefits moved from nice to have to must have as a top priority. A common resource for affordable plans is the ADA site, specifically the SHOP program for small businesses: ADA SHOP Otherwise, check with your business or personal insurance carrier for employer plans. Industry associations are another good place to look for group health plans.
  • Other highly coveted benefits are retirement plans (with or without employer match), and educational funding (or repayment of student loans). Check with your insurance or financial providers for options on implementing plans that fit your budget and meet the needs of your employees.


  • Along with Paid Time Off, candidates are looking for more flexible options in their work. Work-life balance has become work-life integration, where employees want the flexibility to work around their home and family obligations. They also want to ability to work from home all or part of the work week. To maintain operations during the pandemic, businesses allowed remote work options; it is now expected that employers will offer it to attract and retain talent. Review your job descriptions and company procedures and see if/how you can accommodate flexible worksites and hours for job candidates and be sure to note those in your postings.

Professional Development

  • The Covid pandemic facilitated important psychological mind-shifts for workers. Mass layoffs, business closings, and workplace safety issues contributed to a labor transition from job seeking to career building. In addition to better pay and benefits, workers are seeking personal meaning, a sense of belonging, professional development, and long-term stability. Many individuals sought career training, trade internships, or educational degrees and certifications to prepare themselves for this change. Review your organizational structure, job descriptions, and processes to see where you can provide professional development and career advancement opportunities to attract and retain employees.

Culture & Meaning

  • As noted above, employees today are looking for more than a paycheck when they apply for positions. A positive, engaging, and inclusive culture is one of the best ways to attract and retain talent, as well as improve efficiency, productivity, and growth in your business. Jobseekers want to contribute to something outside themselves for the betterment of society as a whole. They want respect for their contributions, opportunities for teamwork, and ongoing feedback along with the time and space to fulfil their own personal goals and obligations. Building culture depends on values, purpose, and engagement. Start by developing company values and purpose and integrate those throughout your HR practices and work processes. For more information on small business workplace culture, see here.

A final note: Offering the benefits noted above is KEY to attracting and retaining talent in today’s market. What you pay out in benefits you reap back in less turnover and lowered replacement costs. Employees who are appreciated and growing in their roles are not only more productive but tend to stay with their employers longer than those who are not. Explore these ideas to help build a positive, engaging work environment that reinforces your company values, aligns with your strategy, and leads to a happier workforce.


¹ https://www.gallup.com/workplace/389807/top-things-employees-next-job.aspx; accessed 11/16/2022.

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