Although presidential election years always seem to generate different dynamics for businesses, here are some issues that businesses need to pay attention to in 2016:
1. Labor shortage. I have predicted for several years that businesses will have a much harder time finding and hiring qualified applicants. By definition, a 4.5% unemployment rate represents full employment. Full employment means that everyone who wants a job is working; the remaining 4.5% either can’t work or aren’t actively looking for work. Although these statistics aren’t completely accurate, the same measurements have been used for decades. As of November 2015, New Hampshire’s unemployment rate was 3.2%. I predict a lower rate, as low as 2% (equaling New Hampshire’s rate from 1983 to 1989). Businesses can counteract this shortage in a variety of ways:
a. Most of us baby boomers don’t look at retirement as our parents did; we would prefer to slide into semi-retirement and work part-time. Allowing your senior employees to move to a part-time status if they choose will give your business time for succession planning. Post that employee’s job for internal candidates. Create training systems that give senior employees avenues to pass along their knowledge and expertise to those coming behind them.
b. Posting internal jobs creates ladders for your employees to climb; companies typically keep employees longer and reduce their turnover if they offer internal training and tuition reimbursement, allowing employees to move up from within and obtain professional certifications.
c. Make sure your on-boarding activities are designed to make your new employees feel part of your team quickly. You want your new hire to acclimate to the job and your culture in the shortest time possible.
d. Before adding an applicant to your payroll, you must check them out thoroughly to make sure they will be a good fit with your other employees. Every time you hire someone you don’t know personally or without checking and verifying references, you put your company at risk.
2. Hands-free driving. Use of cell phones while driving was regulated by law in 2015 and hopefully hands-free driving will become the norm in 2016. To protect their employees, their business and the public, business owners should make sure that their policies emphasize hands-free driving protocol. Many of my clients have incorporated hands-free language in their job descriptions and made Bluetooth devices available.
3. Social Media. This remains an issue for employers. Laws in New Hampshire make it unlawful for employees or applicants to disclose their login information or lower their privacy settings so you can see their information. However, when an applicant hands you a resume that is significantly different from the one that she posted on LinkedIn, it is worth having a discussion with her.
4. Workplace Violence. Ever since 9/11, workplace violence has been a bigger concern for employers. All retail employers must implement policies and procedures for their employees to follow in the event of a holdup or an episode of violence in their workplace.
In 2016, finding and retaining strong employees, ensuring employee safety and adapting to new technologies will create challenges for business owners. But taking the proper steps will promote not only the best interests of employees but the best interests of the business.