Small Business Owners Report Difficulty Finding and Keeping Talent

Small businesses typically don't have the resources to track down a large number of highly-qualified candidates for any job opening they may have, and as such, are now reporting more difficulty in competing with larger companies for those employees.

Today, 31 percent of small businesses say they plan to hire at least one worker over the next 12 months (with about three in five of those saying they're doing so because they expect business to improve), but 47 percent say that finding a qualified candidate has proven to be difficult, according to the latest Small Business Owner Report from Bank of America. Perhaps more troublesome, though, is that 92 percent of entrepreneurs say that they have to take steps to retain the workers they currently have.

As such, many small business owners have a number of concerns, topped by 77 percent who say that the cost of health care is a significant worry for their companies going forward, the report said. That's up from just 65 percent in the same survey a year earlier. However, many may have to absorb those higher costs as a means of keeping and attracting that top talent. Interestingly, while 56 percent of those polled say they won't change hiring plans as a result of these issues, more than a quarter responded that they would only hire part-time or freelance workers, the report said. Another 9 percent say they simply won't hire anyone as a result of these changes, perhaps to focus on retaining current employees.

"One of the biggest challenges small business owners throughout the country face is hiring and retaining talent, yet they say managing their staff is one of their greatest sources of pride," said Robb Hilson, small business executive at Bank of America.

Another way in which many companies choose to increase employee engagement is by adding to existing benefits, and many will do so this holiday season, the report said. Close to half say they will also distribute holiday bonuses, and more than two in five say they're going to host a holiday party or give gifts to their employees. Nearly as many will also either give workers more flexible hours during the holiday season, or close entirely during that time.

Owners concerned about their budgets may want to think of ways to reduce costs, including by finding more affordable small business insurance coverage. Cutting expenditures on these kinds of policies, including liability insurance, may help enterprises save thousands of dollars or more per year.