Can you explain how the labor crisis has specifically impacted small businesses, regarding finances, organization and productivity?

Small businesses have taken a harder hit than medium-to-larger sized businesses — with competition for labor in the market at its highest level in decades. While organizations with a greater bandwidth for a labor shortage are able to continue most of their business operations as is, small businesses are seeing losses in productivity and a lack of growth as a result of the labor crisis. Larger businesses have more resources that help them weather the effects of the labor crisis or mitigate productivity losses with finances that small businesses simply don’t have.

Small businesses must analyze which business operations add to their margins and which functions contain inefficiencies that hinder productivity. Fortunately, small businesses can both leverage technology to support their current labor pool and increase productivity to close the gap in operations. Shift coverage, employee engagement, and productivity can be measured and orchestrated with a digital workplace platform, allowing small businesses to eliminate inefficiencies and use their productive capacity to increase the bottom line.

For SMBs, what is the ideal way for them to supplement their hiring practices and attract new talent to come work at the business?

Managing a workforce now has additional caveats to consider, and many employees have responsibilities outside of work that a small business must take into consideration as they increase the numbers in their workforce. Some employees need to take care of a loved one, handle new finances and bills because of the pandemic, or possess flexible scheduling and shift allocations so that they can handle the responsibilities of taking care of their children or attending to other needs. One of the most effective methods for a small business to increase labor coverage is to attract and retain talent by offering a great employee experience. Giving employees the tools they need to do their jobs — complete tasks, communicate effectively, learn, acquire new skills, and stay informed — help employers of all sizes become employers of choice.

Research has shown that even missing a few hours of pay can be financially devastating for a frontline worker, and responsibilities outside of work for the workforce have only made things harder to juggle. Digital workplace platforms help businesses cater to flexible schedules while ensuring shift coverage, helping employees work the hours they need to, remain productive, and engage with the needs of their personal lives. Tools like task management, open shift marketplace and same-day pay can help frontline workers fill the shifts that work best for them and even receive their earned wages early, which can assist employees with bills and advanced budgeting.

How can they use workforce orchestration to best support and manage employees? What can SMBs do to combat future long-term labor shortages and protect any vulnerable margins that they may have?

Workforce orchestration strategies are most effective when business culture, community, and transparency are top of mind for business leaders. This helps drive forward momentum at all levels of the business — from the business leaders to the frontlines. For small businesses, what keeps employees engaged and excited to continue working are the benefits unique to the small business that are difficult to replicate — small businesses have a leg up on the competition when it comes to culture.

Utilizing company-wide communication channels through a digital workplace, for example, compounds the ability for small businesses to communicate business goals and objectives. Additionally, community channels amongst a small group of employees fosters a closer community and a sense of belonging among workers in a small business. Businesses can then echo the input of their employees and make them feel like valued, decision-making members of the team with less hoops to jump through.

Where does the digital workplace fit into the SMB equation and how can small businesses best optimize their workforce during times like these?

Digital workplace platforms, especially during times of labor crises, are best deployed to streamline productivity and communication. With fewer employees, small businesses need to keep overhead low and take advantage of opportunities to maximize productivity while catering to the needs of its employees and reducing inefficiencies in the workplace.

When small businesses keep the employee in mind, they mitigate burnout, dissatisfaction, and stalls in productivity. A digital workplace platform helps solve issues of inefficiency by providing clear, concise and accessible resources within a secure company sanctioned system. Small businesses thrive with digital workplaces integrated into daily business functions, because they introduce features capable of determining average task completion times, allocating regular tasks to team members, and managing which task is completed for the day.

Is there anything you would like to add regarding SMB priorities on workforce management and employee retention?

The gig economy and the gigification of many frontline roles is rapidly increasing. To compete with on-demand economies — great training, bosses, and communication are all needed. As the founder of a talent sharing company that was acquired by WorkJam in 2019, I learned that flexible scheduling is critical to the success of businesses of all sizes. Every generation in the workforce, especially the youngest working generation, expects the ability to balance their work life with their personal life — technology helps facilitate this employee experience. The best news is that this technology also creates better business outcomes and is a true win-win for employers and their employees.

Stacey Ferreira is the Director of Digital Workplace Strategy at WorkJam, primarily focused on helping Ops/HR/IT leaders select the right workforce management platform for their employees to succeed in the 2020 decade. Previously, Stacey was the co-founder and CEO of Forge, a flexible scheduling and talent sharing platform (acquired by WorkJam, ’20) and the co-founder of MySocialCloud (acquired by, ’13). She also co-­authored 2 Billion Under 20: How Millennials Are Breaking Down Age Barriers & Changing the World. Stacey’s Twitter handle is here: @StaceyFerreira

Labor market stock photo by GaudiLab/Shutterstock