4 Actionable Tips for Handling NJ Labor Shortage

If you’re in business in the Garden State, you know all about the current labor shortage that’s going on. Even if you’ve been unaffected personally, it’s probably something that’s not far from your mind, and it’s likely you know someone who has expressed difficulty finding bodies to run their business.

Don’t complain about how unemployment benefits are disincentivizing workers’ desire to get back to work, it won’t do anything but give you a headache. If you want, write your representatives, but for the time being, you’re going to have to get creative and figure out new ways to make working for you an attractive proposition to the happily unemployed.

Today I’m going to give some insight, some tips, and hopefully some answers for the people who are scratching their heads wondering how they can rectify a disaster they never would have expected a couple years ago.

Increase Wages and Forget About Topping Past Years Financially

Increasing wages is the quickest and easiest way to get the workers you need to run your business. The costs of paying more for labor might seem outrageous now, but the costs of failing to staff your business can be far more destructive or even fatal (to your business) in the long-run.

I understand that this probably seems to conflict with the, “AND Save Money” part of this post’s title, but here’s why it doesn’t:

Every day, week, and month where a shortage in labor prevents you from operating at full capacity or operating at all, is a loss. Don’t get focused on, or fearful about, increased expenditures. Focus on the fact that you need to maintain your business’ viability and outward projection of vibrancy. If you’re open intermittently, or closed for a period of time, customers will find other places to get whatever it is you provide. Loyalty in business is only skin-deep, and most customers are of the “yeah, but what have you done for me recently” mindset.

I’m not trying to be negative, I’m trying to shine some light on the true nature of human behavior. If we’re being honest with ourselves, many of us might make the same decision if our preferred restaurant, lumberyard, or trade service was suddenly closed. What other choice do customers have? They need what they need, and although they’ve supported you for years, you’re not open.

Further, your taxes will still be due at the end of the year. Perhaps there will be some grant, or fund, or deferment of payment for a while, but you will eventually owe the government for the privilege of operating your business. It’s best not to start digging that hole any deeper than it has to be.

Even if it comes at a greater cost than you’re accustomed to, it can’t possibly be more expensive than letting your business go under, which is exactly what will happen if you do nothing. Keep that in mind, even inaction has a price-tag, and it’s usually more than we realize.

Paying Bonuses Delivers You the Bonus of Having a Staff

Bonuses are a great way to incentivize workers to come on board with you for a defined period of work. Besides solving the problem in the immediate sense, it’s something of an insurance policy against someone deciding a couple of weeks into their employment that they don’t want to work after all, and quit.

Don’t worry, I’m not suggesting that you start packing envelopes with cash like happened when I was a teenager. Outline a period of time over which the worker will need to work in order to receive the bonus, put the money aside beforehand, and get back to focusing on running and growing your business.

It doesn’t have to be an absurd amount of money, but a little incentive helps. Workers appreciate being appreciated, and nothing says appreciation like some greenbacks.

Offer Benefits as a Gesture of Good-Will and an Indicator of Your Desire for Long Term Employees

Providing some form of benefits is a surefire way to turn the table on your labor shortage and watch as you are now able to select the best amongst those applying to work for you.

Lack of benefits is a big reason that many are avoiding taking the jobs they used to take. Yes, unemployment certainly has an effect, but probably not in the exact way you’d expect. The amount that many people are receiving from UI doesn’t even come close to what they were earning at their job, and it’s more about the sense of insecurity that comes from going back to a job that does nothing for their future and does nothing to protect them against financial and physical ruin should they get injured.

The pandemic and unemployment gave people time to think, make no mistake! They’ve been learning to do with far less, and they realize that their time is better spent scrimping by and looking for opportunities that provide them with more than simply a paycheck; they want security in their lives!

Get Your Social Media Game Going, Guy!

Get on social media and promote the heck out of your business. Promote it as a place to spend money, promote it as a place to work, promote it as a pillar of your community. If this isn’t something you have time for, or an understanding of how to do, find someone that does. There are literally tens and hundreds of thousands of people around the world to be found on freelancing  (Upwork, Guru, Fiverr),  many of whom work for far less than Americans, who can do an adequate job of expanding your digital footprint and your brand awareness.

I should note, you’re definitely better off with a native English-speaker, preferably an American. This isn’t some “America FIRST” patriotic thing, it’s simply that a person who can command English and has an understanding of American culture can provide you with a better campaign than someone that doesn’t.

You’ll pay more, but you’re going to get a much better deal proportional to what you’re spending. You can certainly find freelancers, but it’s advisable to link up with a branding/growth hacking/digital marketing agency right here in the Garden State that will be able to give you a full range of services from email, to web copy, to social posts, to marketing.

Keeping it SUPER local, check out Start Monday Media. They’ve got beautiful design and clever ideas that engage users.

Keeping it a little less local, but still NJ-proud, check out Push Agency. They provide excellent, cohesive branding that can identify areas for improvement and take your business to the next level.

A Tough Pill to Swallow

I understand that many of you reading this are shaking your heads, dismissing me as someone who doesn’t understand business at all. I encourage you to expand your perspective and see what an opportunity this moment is. It may seem like a catastrophe, but it’s a great chance to turn your business from a place where people go to get a job, into a place where people build their career. Stop spending your time (and money) stuck in the cycle of hiring, firing, and watching employees leave for greener pastures. If you want your business to be a green pasture for yourself, make it so for the people to need to run. It makes a lot of sense when framed like that.

As business owners, we need people. It’s easy to get into the mindset of “I pay their wages so they need me!” Apparently, that’s not entirely the case, or else we wouldn’t be having this conversation, no? Good business is always symbiotic, with all parties benefiting from the relationship. There was a long period in which it was easy to say “If you don’t like it you can always quit.”  

Guess what? They did. It’s not time to bemoan how unfair it is, it’s time to aggressively move towards solutions to your staffing problems. It’s time to be a businessperson.