Recruiting In A Labor Shortage

My husband owns an automotive body shop.  We frequently have conversations about how difficult it is to find skilled technicians to work in his shop.  The talent pool is small, fewer people are going into auto body technician programs, and the curricula that exist are not exactly cutting edge.  If you are in an industry requiring a skilled workforce like this, I am sure you can relate.  A quick search reveals a lot of talk about a decline in available skilled labor.  Small business owners may wonder how they can close this gap, how they can encourage people to get into their industry, and how they can compete with larger organizations for talent.  So, what is a small business to do?

To start, internal conversation should be had about what hiring practices your organization is currently using.  How do you typically locate employees?  What does your welcoming, or onboarding, process look like?  What sort of training do you provide for new hires?  What are the most needed skills? What makes someone successful in your organization?  What does your turnover look like?  This might seem like big fish stuff, but even small businesses must find ways to be strategic about hiring and training.  Hiring and training should be approached with intention no matter how busy or how big you are.

Consider whether the things noted above are really working for you.  For example, in the case of my husband, running ads online was insufficient. Evaluate how you are locating candidates.  My husband for example might be better served advertising with the local technical schools.  Forming partnerships with schools in your area might be worth exploring for your business too.  You might ask yourself if you are in the position to take on the novice, but this is a good opportunity to train someone to do things the right way before they learn negative habits.  Moreover, if businesses are unwilling to provide practical training, there will continue to be a lack of a trained labor force – the work must start somewhere.  Developing a relationship with a school can also provide opportunities for you to influence the curriculum.  This is a fantastic way to both improve the quality of future candidates and give back to your community.  This might give you ideas on how to train new and existing employees.  By taking an intentional and proactive approach to these aspects you will find yourself better positioned to find the right candidate and provide them with the tools to be a productive member of your team.

Additionally, retention strategies should be evaluated. Evaluate your compensation and benefits program.  A small business might be in the position to offer full medical benefits, pensions or 401K matching, or generous leave programs.  However, consider things like connecting employees to supplemental benefit programs to which employers aren’t necessarily required to contribute, or may require only a small employer contribution.  This demonstrates that the organization is invested in their employees’ future, with little, if any, financial burden on the organization.  Moreover, in places where a business can go above statutory minimums for time and leave requirements, do so.  For example, currently the Washington State Paid Sick Leave Act requires that one hour is earned for every 40 hours work.  Consider adding even just an hour per 40 hours work.  This may seem like it would have a minor impact on your employees, but it again goes to demonstrate that you care and are offering the best environment that you can.


Finding talent is a challenge in the best environment.  By placing yourself in the role of influencer, consistently striving to improve your hiring and training practices, your small business can become an industry and community leader!  If you would like to talk more about your hiring and retention practices, please reach out.

Jacqueline Justice