Small businesses struggle to hire, retain qualified workers

Posted at 2:56 PM, Feb 28, 2020

ALBANY, N.Y. -- In New York’s capital region, just 20 minutes north of the state capital building, is Tech Valley Office Interiors and Rod Dion who has owned the small business for 15 years.

“It’s been quite a ride,” said Dion. “We opened up, we were very successful our first three years, then the great recession hit and we had four or five years we prefer not to look back at and ever since then, it has been a happily steady rise again.”

Like many small businesses in America, Tech Valley has enjoyed growth in this economy. However, with the upside has come a downside of a tight labor market.

“Before, I would just put an ad up and I would have 50 resumes and have a person within a day or two,” Dion explained. “Now, I can go 30 days and I will get two or three resumes and they are not even qualified for the position.”

Tech Valley is a part of the 88 percent of small businesses across the country that report struggling to hire qualified workers in a labor market where there are more available jobs than people looking for work.

The Department of Labor and Statistics estimates there are 6.4 million jobs available but only 5.89 million people seeking work. Employees have an advantage and are forcing all employers to get competitive to actually hire good talent.

Tech Valley is in that position currently, trying to hire at least two full-time positions.

“We are paying a lot more than we did in the past,” said Dion. “We are probably paying about $10,000 more in starting salary more, per employee, than we were 10 years ago.”

Like most small businesses, Tech Valley cannot afford more significant salary increases. However, it still has to compete for new talent in this labor market and compete to keep its current staff, so it’s begun helping employees pay off their college debt.

Student loan repayment is a benefit few employers offer. It can be costly, but ultimately less expensive than what it would cost the company to lose an employee or not be able to grow its staff.

“The only way a business like mine is going to grow is to grow my staff, so if I can’t grow my staff, we are not going to grow as a whole,” said Dion.

Stunted growth in any business could eventually lead to less profits, which would be an even bigger problem.

“It is very difficult right now there is more of a strain going on than many people realize, but in many ways there have been positives out of it,” Dion explained. “Salaries have gone up and businesses understand what they have to do to respond to their needs.”