The following article was first published in the Hartford Business Journal.

Over the past year, small business owners have expressed record confidence in their local economies and, as a result, many are attempting to expand their business or increase hiring.

However, this growth has been somewhat tempered by one of the tightest labor markets in half-a-century. With Connecticut's unemployment rate sitting at 3.8%, it is unlikely that we will see the market loosen anytime soon. Therefore, entrepreneurs must look for ways to stand out from the crowd when competing for talent.

Small business labor market tactics
Source: Bank of America Fall 2018 Small Business Owner Report.

According to our most recent Bank of America Small Business Owner Report, 67% of business owners plan to expand in 2019, and 27% are looking to hire. At the same time, 58% say it is difficult to find qualified talent, with many saying their inability to find new employees is having a direct impact on business growth.

Our report also found business owners have embraced the following tactics to attract top talent amid a tight labor market:

1. Shifting to a More Flexible Culture

Small businesses are often heralded for having less bureaucracy and offering more creative freedom versus large corporations. Business owners should embrace that reputation and can even look to expand it further by offering a more flexible workplace culture.

This can mean anything from offering the option for employees to work remotely or set their own hours, to switching to casual dress everyday rather than just on Fridays and holidays.

In fact, our study found 57% of entrepreneurs already say they are offering flexible hours to attract talent, and 33% are offering flexible work locations.

2. Using Social Media More Actively

Posting updates and photos on social channels is also a good way to market yourself, not only to potential customers, but to prospective employees. Through platforms like Facebook, Instagram, LinkedIn and Twitter, you can share content that highlights your company's culture and allows prospective employees to get a sense of what working with your company might be like.


If you aren't offering at least comparable benefits, you may find it challenging to secure top talent.

Many business owners report that they are using social media to reach out to new talent. From various job networking and listing sites like LinkedIn to more generalized social channels like Facebook, social media provides a cost-effective method for reaching a wide audience of potential new hires.

In addition, social media allows for people to easily share your job posting among their own networks.

3. Offering Higher Salaries

At the end of the day, we all know that compensation—be it salary, benefits, or a combination of the two—is often the determining factor in choosing a new job. Therefore, it is no surprise that 17% of business owners say they are offering higher salaries to attract prospective employees. When the job market is this tight, businesses need to be able to compete on salary to attract and retain workers.

Before making an offer to a job candidate, try to get a sense of what your competitors are offering and make sure that your package is competitive. Job hunters value company culture and workplace environment, but if you aren't offering at least comparable benefits, you may find it challenging to secure the top talent that can help your business thrive.

Small business owners are planning for 2019 to be a year of growth, and to meet their goals they will need to make sure they have strong teams supporting them. Today's successful entrepreneurs are taking a holistic and competitive approach to hiring, considering their culture and social presence as well as salary to ensure they are poised to standout in the current crowded labor market.


About the authors: Ed Marchetti is vice president, small business banker at Bank of America in Hartford. Joe Gianniis is Bank of America's market president for Greater Hartford.