Struggling to hire? Let’s go back to basics. (Part 1)

stressed hr manager struggling to hire employees

If you’re having a difficult time finding new hires to rebuild your workforce, you’re not alone. According to Bloomberg, many small businesses are struggling to find and hire people who currently want to work. As a matter of fact, 42% say they have jobs they can’t fill! At the same time, the number of people quitting jobs right now is also higher than average. But why?

The Hiring Struggle is Real

One big culprit of these hiring woes is COVID-19. Due to the pandemic, many people are simply choosing not to work right now. They don’t want to risk getting sick, they have children at home, or they may be able to get by for now on unemployment insurance.

To combat this, some small businesses have turned to gimmicks like signing bonuses and free food. Unfortunately, these recruiting tactics are unlikely to be effective long-term. Why? Because they don’t actually address the risks, challenges, and needs that people have right now.

Fortunately for employers looking to hire, the problem of people choosing not to work isn’t fundamentally different than the problem of people choosing to work somewhere else. In both cases, the would-be employer has to convince prospective hires that working for them is better than the alternatives. Then, they have to live up to those promises.

Sure, individuals who choose not to work are missing out on many benefits. For example, a job provides not only a paycheck, but also opportunities for employees to do meaningful work, contribute to their community, make friends, develop skills, receive training, advance their career, and fund their retirement.

As an employer looking to hire, it’s your job to leverage these benefits to appeal to those who have removed themselves from the workforce and convince them that work (specifically, working for you!) is worth it.

Cover The Basics

If you’ve ever heard of Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs, then you’re probably familiar with the idea that people have a variety of needs, and some of these needs take precedent over others.

Our most basic need is for physical survival, and this will be the first thing that motivates our behavior. Once that level is fulfilled, the next level up is what motivates us, and so on.

So before employers can use benefits like friendship and skill-building to lure applicants, they must first address the basics. To an employee in 2021, these basic requirements that you must demonstrate the ability to meet are safety, flexibility, and pay.


While vaccinations are proceeding at an encouraging rate and all adults are now eligible, COVID-19 remains a serious threat. It will be some time before people getting their shots now develop immunity to the virus. And they may worry about infecting friends and family who are unable or unwilling to get the vaccine in the meantime.

Because of these fears, some people aren’t going to work, period, and there’s nothing employers can do to persuade them. Others, however, may be open to working if they feel confident enough that the job won’t put them or those they care about in danger.

Application Suggestion: Include a commitment to safety or a summary of your organization’s safety precautions in your job postings and on your Careers page to address applicants’ safety concerns head-on!


Flexibility is another key component for many potential applicants, much more so now that in-person school and childcare have become scarce. Since younger children cannot be left alone while parents are at work, something has to give.

Employers that provide flexibility—either through the initial scheduling of shifts or the ability to rearrange working hours on the fly—will likely receive more applicants and have a lower rate of turnover.

Application Suggestion: If you offer special flexibility accommodations such as teleworking a few days a week or dynamic working hours, be sure to mention this! If you have a large hourly or part-time workforce and flexibility isn’t your company’s strong suit, consider adding SDP’s Scheduling Solution (check it out below!).

It not only equips you to build complex schedules in minutes with our drag-and-drop builder, but also empowers employees with the ability to trade or pick up additional shifts on their own (pending manager approval!) to improve schedule adherence and employee retention.


Click here for a full-screen version. Contact us if you’d like to learn more!


Other potential employees may be willing to work if they feel the pay is worth the risk and sufficient to cover the costs of working. For example, transportation, childcare, insurance premiums, etc.

Of course, most businesses don’t relish the idea of paying employees higher-than-usual wages. However, there’s good reason to believe that increased pay is a good investment, especially for people in traditionally lower-paying jobs.

When people are preoccupied with bills, debts, and other forms of scarcity, they tend to be less productive and make more mistakes. On the flip side, when scarcity isn’t taking up their mental bandwidth, they’re able to be more productive, make fewer mistakes, and increase business profitability. As it turns out, increases in pay often pay for themselves.

Application Suggestion: If you don’t already, we strongly recommend including a pay range on your job postings! This helps attract applicants who will actually accept your employment offer and saves you from wasting time on candidates who are out-of-budget. Additionally, it helps mitigate any potential pay equity concerns.

If you can afford a competitive salary, great! If not, that’s okay too. Get creative and see if you can highlight any benefits you offer that would lower an employee’s expenses to offset the lower pay rate. For example, does your company partner with a childcare provider or public transportation service to offer reduced or free services? Do you offer an FSA/HSA plan? Financial wellness benefits like Wages On Demand? Make sure to mention these!

Next Steps

Now that you have the foundational building blocks covered, it’s time to apply what you’ve learned. Take the next week or so to work on the application suggestions (or create your own!). Then, join us back here next week as we go beyond the basics to level up your hiring game even further.

Need a little extra support with your recruiting and hiring processes? No matter your situation, SDP has layers of HR support that can help. Learn more about our HR Support Services here. And don’t forget to follow us on FacebookTwitter, and LinkedIn for even more business tips & news!

Photo by Karolina Grabowska from Pexels

hiring, HR

Related Posts