Uh oh: the latest NFIB Small Business Optimism Index shows small business optimism continues to taper from the 42-year average of 98 points (it's currently at 96.1). What gives?
The National Federation of Independent Business states the stagnation in optimism may be because of:
- Increased regulations on small-business owners.
- The tax burden on small businesses.
- Uncertainty over whether the Federal Reserve will increase interest rates.
- Difficulty in finding qualified workers.
Though small businesses have little control over those first three issues (that fate is in Washington's hands), they can do something about that last pain point.
If your business is gaining traction and you want to keep that momentum going, you probably need to hire some help. You don't want to hire just anyone, but you're not sure you want to take the leap into family-run territory just yet (you can learn more about running a family-owned business in "Small Business Spotlight: All in the Family with The Bookkeeper").
How can you find qualified workers you can trust to do their work properly and to represent your business? We have some ideas.
Pen a Good Job Description
If you want to attract qualified workers, you have to clearly lay out your expectations in your job description. A good description should help applicants prequalify themselves by describing…
- The individual tasks the worker will do.
- How the worker will complete the tasks.
- The job's purpose and responsibilities.
- Who the worker will report to and work with.
- What education or experience the job requires.
For more tips on what to include in a job description, read the US Small Business Administration's article "Writing Effective Job Descriptions."
Remember: don't take for granted that the applicant should know what the job entails from the title alone. Be as specific as possible, and post your description on all the job-hunting sites (and social media sites, too!).
Ask Colleagues for Recommendations
No matter how good your job description is or how many places you post it, you may not have job applicants lined up around the block. To increase the applicant pool, give the job description to some business associates and colleagues you trust and respect. They might know someone who is looking for a job or thinking about leaving a current position.
Don't be afraid to reach out to your business networks – this is precisely what they are there for!
Hire Independent Contractors or Contingent Workers
If you're hard-pressed for immediate help, consider hiring an independent contractor for a specific project. (For tips on where to look for these workers, check out our post "What Small-Business Owners Should Know about the Contingent Workforce.")
There are several perks to going this route:
- You can give the worker a trial run before making a full-time employment offer.
- You don't have to pay employment taxes for 1099 workers.
- You don't have to offer Workers' Compensation Insurance benefits or pay overtime to 1099 workers.
However, you have to make sure your independent contractors are actually independent contractors. That means they must…
- Be in business for themselves (e.g., they have other clients).
- Determine their own rates.
- Provide their own work equipment and materials.
- Be given the freedom to make their own work schedules.
If you make the mistake of classifying a worker as an independent contractor and treating them like an employee, they can sue your business for overtime pay, employment taxes, and other unpaid benefits. Plus, you can be fined over misclassifying them in the first place and not offering Workers' Comp. You can learn more about worker misclassification penalties here: "Another Day, Another Worker Classification Lawsuit."
That's why it's smart to hire a freelancer or contractor for a specific project. Long-term work that is central to your business may automatically make the worker an employee in the eyes of the law. Learn more about how to distinguish between an employee and an independent contractor in "10 - 20% of Businesses Make this Expensive Mistake. Do You?"