The small-business impact on employability in Greenville

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By Brent Warwick, partner, ipsoCreative

Small businesses in Greenville, as anywhere else in our country, have great potential to positively impact our communities through employment. But, ironically, that potential is made possible through the challenges small businesses face in finding candidates. Small-business owners often struggle with the time-consuming and disillusioning task of finding the right people to hire. And it’s not just the task itself. It’s also the fact that there is so little public discussion on the topic. Very seldom do publications and media outlets spend time on the challenges faced by small businesses. Most folks are more interested in a Fortune 500 adding hundreds of jobs to the local economy or perhaps eliminating hundreds of existing jobs.

However, small businesses account for 47.8 percent of private sector employees (58 million out of 121 million employees), according to the U.S. Small Business Administration Office of Advocacy. Coupled with the fact that “small businesses accounted for 61.8 percent of net new jobs from the first quarter of 1993 until the third quarter of 2016,” that means that while the big news goes to big businesses, it’s small businesses that are making some of the biggest impacts on employment, and more specifically, on the lives of employees. So, the issue of small-business hiring is an extraordinarily relevant topic with significant ramifications.

The Challenge

Small businesses simply don’t have the resources to attract candidates or make offers comparable to large companies. This is true of any small business, but it’s an acute challenge for small business in industries where higher education, professional certifications, or specialized training is required. Larger companies have the odds stacked in their favor with regard to compensation, perks, and resources to lure potential hires.

Add to that the additional challenge that small businesses don’t have the brand or name recognition that large ones do. This is a major hindrance to employees who might otherwise be willing to take lower compensation in exchange for the brand equity their resume could contain.

The Opportunity

However, it’s this very difficulty that small businesses have in hiring the ideal candidates that give them their strength in developing people.

If a potential employee does not have the right degree or work experience, or they have not gone to the right school, or they don’t have the right social network, they are most often overlooked by larger companies. The same is true for candidates who may be younger or older than the “ideal,” or for candidates who have blemishes on their credit or have a criminal history.

These candidates may lack employability among large companies, but among small businesses, they can add great value. When small businesses struggle to gain the ideal candidates, overlooked candidates then have an opportunity.

Small businesses have a trade-off to offer these candidates. In exchange for lower compensation, what a candidate lacks will be overcome by the small business’s investment in that employee. The candidate who lacks the proper credentials can be given the opportunity to continue his education. The candidate who lacks sufficient experience can be given the opportunity to gain that experience. The candidate who has a blemished past can be given the opportunity to establish a new resume.

The Impact

The small business benefits from filling a position at a lower compensation point, which adds to its overall sustainability as a business. The overlooked employee is given a chance, which he might not have otherwise.

It’s in this way that small businesses are a truly vital component to individual human flourishing. The very structure of the agreement between the small business and the employee facilitates the growth and development of that employee. For the small business to thrive, its employees must meet its needs. So, it’s in the best interest of the small business to fill gaps in employees’ knowledge, skills, and experience. Conversely, an overlooked employee who has been given a chance has a tendency to prove his worth, work hard, and show loyalty.

The story of the outlier, who was given an opportunity and made good on it, is a powerful narrative that resonates with us. And that’s because, on a deep level, we know that it matters for individuals, their families, and our community here in Greenville.

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