WASHINGTON, D.C. — From restaurants to hotels, it’s been a tough year for small businesses looking to hire employees.
“Everybody has had to show up to work and work a little bit harder to fill those voids,” said John Urchin, who manages a hotel in Virginia Beach, Virginia.
The voids loom large because of unfilled jobs.
“We’re really pushing for more staff, especially in the kitchen,” said Harrison St. Pierre, owner of The Kettle Black restaurant in Phoenix.
John Waldmann is CEO of Homebase, which works with more than 100,000 small businesses around the country to manage their employees and the hours they work.
“There are a lot of variables at play here,” Waldmann said. “Here's the reality for small businesses: it is always really hard to run a small business in the best of times, and we're not in the best of times.”
Homebase compiled data looking at 60,000 small businesses in the U.S. Overall, employment is down by 21% compared to before the pandemic.
However, it varies by state. In Michigan and Ohio, it’s down 5%. In Colorado and Tennessee, it’s down 13%
Yet, in states where the hard-hit hospitality industry is a major employer, the numbers are worse: in Arizona, it’s down 19% and in Florida, it’s down 27%.
“The hospitality industry, in particular, has been hit very hard and has been the slowest to respond, and a large part of that is, frankly, just consumer demand,” Waldmann said.
So what to do? Waldmann said there are some concrete steps small businesses can take to staff up and retain workers.
“Allow workers more control over their schedules, whether that's through shift trading, whether that is through publishing the schedule in advance,” he said.
While wages are important, Waldmann said how often people get paid can also be an incentive.
“Not every two weeks on a normal paycheck cycle, but as they work. That's a benefit that, you know, certainly big companies like Uber and Doordash have been offering,” Waldmann said. “For a lot of workers who have gone through their own financial hardships over the past year and a half, it's never been more important.”
As for what 2022 might bring on the employment horizon, Waldmann warns change may be slow to come.
“Every small business owner needs to do more with less, and they're going to have to do that now,” he said, “and they’re going to have to do that in 2022 as well.”
It’s a new year that might still hold old problems.