Many small business owners struggle to fill entry-level positions with great employees. Competition for labor often leaves small business owners feeling pressured to compete with wages paid by larger employers in their area. When you are maxing out on the wages you can afford to pay an entry-level employee and still remain profitable, it’s time to consider other perks.
Small businesses have a KEY advantage over corporate employers, but very few owners recognize it, much less leverage it. The advantage is this: a great employee has the opportunity to advance their career much more rapidly in a small business than they ever could in a larger corporation.
Many businesses advertise the “opportunity for advancement.” What does this really mean? Very few small business owners give much thought to what this really means. Even fewer have articulated a clear path of advancement from an entry-level position through the ranks of the company.
The best employees are interested in advancing their career, even when they are starting out with you in an entry-level position. Even though you may have a vague idea of how an employee would advance in your business, your employees may not be clear about this. You are at risk of losing your best employees when they are unclear as to how they can advance their careers with your small business.
The next time you are hiring an entry-level employee, here are some questions to consider:
- What is the next promotion for this employee?
- What is the pay increase for that promotion?
- What criteria must that employee meet to receive a promotion?
- What personality strengths are needed to perform the duties of that next position exceptionally well?
- What skills are needed?
- Will you provide the training needed to acquire those skills? If not, how will you support that employee in acquiring the necessary training?
Keep asking yourself this same set of questions for each promotion as an entry-level employee advances in your company. Once you have answered these questions, you are in the position to tell an applicant about real career opportunities with you.
Consider the difference between telling an applicant, “We start you at $10/hour and you have the opportunity to advance with us” versus telling an applicant, “We start you at $10/hour and if you work hard, over the course of the next 5-10 years, we’ll support you in moving up into a management-level position, with the opportunity to earn $80,000 or more annually.” The second scenario will be much more attractive to a career-minded applicant, making it much more likely you will attract and retain an A-Player employee for your entry-level position.
TIP: Make the first promotion easily achievable for an employee who is a real go-getter. This is psychologically motivating and will increase your odds of retaining that employee over time.