ND Small Business Development Centers
ND Small Business Development Centers

Powering the creation, growth, and success of small business in North Dakota.

Workforce and Your Business

“How will I make my business operate if I can’t find employees?” is a challenge small business owners and entrepreneurs face as they build and sustain their businesses. In addition, how will they compete as small or new businesses in a very tight labor market? The United States had 10.1 million job openings as of the last business day in April. As of May, North Dakota held 32,000 positions open, 7.8% of the employable population in N.D., according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics.

Add the twist of a rural setting; the ability to recruit a workforce seems to be exponential. The first challenge faced is becoming something (a location, a business, etc.) appealing enough to be on the list to explore as an option. Many small communities have limited housing, childcare, and general remoteness that are hard to sell for the workforce on the move.

Overwhelming as these challenges seem, there is always an opportunity to contribute solutions and innovation. Take a look within your organization for opportunities, be creative in recruitment, innovate within your business, and do your best to plan for what is ahead. Consider becoming involved in local workforce efforts. Explore incentives that the local economic development organization or state is offering that may assist in opening the door to additional talent. It often becomes a community effort as employees and their core unit seek a great job and place to live.

There is a price tag of $4,700 to recruit and train a new hire. With that type of investment, push to focus on current employees. Support a growth mindset within the workforce and culture of the business while making development opportunities for soft and hard skills available. Empower employees to be comfortable enough to bring new ideas or suggestions about workflow and client interactions. They know facets of the business you are not involved in daily and can be crucial in building efficiencies. This can also build engagement beyond day-to-day duties. And, don’t look past your employees for moving into a new position you need to fill.

Circumstances also lead to the need for new hires. Search your network and your employees’ networks. Just like you have identified what makes you unique to your clients, what makes you unique to the potential workforce? Feature culture, schedules, and growth opportunities that your business supports. Also, be prepared to build candidates’ skills that fit the culture. Outsourcing specific tasks to contractors.

Consider innovative approaches to conducting business. Many businesses adjust hours and delivery times to accommodate their employees better. Small businesses exist to serve their customers and help them solve problems, so adjusting expectations on both sides is often key. Communicate to provide updates to clients and customers to ensure quality experiences. There could be potential to streamline or focus on a specific niche. As technology continues to develop across industries with automation or other options available, consider tech innovations to fill in duties.

One thing is clear: a plan that considers the workforce needs of the business over the next three years is crucial in staying ahead of the labor market. Be prepared to communicate with your employees, customers, and networks, laying out what to expect, and building trust.

Key questions that can help prepare:

  • Are there efficiencies or changes that should be made in the current employment structure?
    • Schedule changes
    • Are their job descriptions/duties that should be adjusted?
  • Where will growth occur?
  • What human capital will be necessary to sustain or keep up with growth?
  • Where is the impact made?
  • How will you retain your current employees?
  • What can you do to build engagement with new and current employees?



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