Facing a talent drain? SMBs must try training and upskilling

With National Small Business Week underway, a recent survey from Verizon highlights the significant supply-and-demand talent challenges facing leaders of small and mid-sized businesses as the economy emerges from the COVID-19 pandemic.

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More than 1,000 decision-makers of SMBs in 10 major U.S. metros report three key concerns, according to the Small and Midsize Business Outlook Study from Verizon Business: filling open positions (60%), increasing technology adoption, including a focus on digitization (63%), and heeding the importance of offering flexible schedules (88%).

Other key HR/talent-related findings include:

  • 65% of respondents say they have either begun offering or expanded their offering of mental health and wellness programs during the pandemic, further showing the support small and midsize business owners are offering their current and prospective employees.
  • Nearly 40% of decision-makers say they have added new remote work or flex work hours during the pandemic, and 79% either offer or plan to soon offer incentives to attract and retain employees.
  • 62% say they have transitioned employees from onsite to remote, while 52% have transitioned from remote back to the office in the past year.
  • Half of those surveyed say they have hired non-local employees for remote work in the past year, and 73% believe that it’s important to offer a stipend for home internet services.

“I continue to be inspired by the ingenuity of small and midsize businesses,” says Tami Erwin, CEO of Verizon Business, which offers a Small Business Digital Ready portal at no charge. “These figures are indicative of what we’ve seen in working with our customers, who are embracing technology to meet their customers’ changing needs, scale their businesses and ensure they are future-ready.”

Similarly, according to an Oxford Economics survey, 21% of SMBs say “shortages of skilled talent have a major future impact on their company.” And a LinkedIn Learning study reveals that 94% of employees would stay at a company longer if it invested in their careers. Findings from both reports reveal training and upskilling will be “must-do” issues for small businesses in 2022 and beyond.

Sandy Kaminski, vice president, Client Development at Vensure, a full-service HR solution service, says that one way small businesses can compete in both recruiting and retaining talent via training is by deploying employee education programs (EEPs).

Kaminski explains that the current job market, with the skilled talent supply low compared to job openings, means SMBs that utilize EEPs can increasingly overcome talent challenges by incentivizing their workforce to become more qualified and capable while reducing turnover and attracting candidates at the same time.

“EEPs can aid in reskilling and upskilling,” she says. “Both of those processes develop employee abilities to move into new roles within SMBs.”

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Kaminski says that as the workforce continues to evolve and SMBs are faced with changing their business model to remain competitive, reskilling/upskilling allows employers to maintain their workforce while adapting to necessary organizational shifts.

“SMBs that invest in their people through programs such as EEPs embrace the known outcome that these employees are more likely to remain loyal, be high producers and, increasingly, reach higher levels of self-development and self-esteem,” she says.

Kaminski notes that large employers, such as Amazon, PwC and The Home Depot, have invested billions in EEPs that drive reskilling/upskilling. The result is new career paths for their employees while increasing employee engagement and empowerment and attracting valuable new talent. Likewise, small businesses can benefit from EEPs.

Related: How The Home Depot builds its own employee retention solutions

“SMB needs will continue to develop in order for them to survive in the current and future business environment,” she says. “EEPs are a proven solution to help them achieve their talent goals.”

Tom Starner
Tom Starner is a freelance writer based in Philadelphia who has been covering the human resource space and all of its component processes for over two decades. He can be reached at hreletters@lrp.com.

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