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Small businesses sweat hiring. In fact, according to a recent survey of over 1000 small businesses, hiring qualified staff ranks as one of their top 3 challenges (survey by Wasp Barcode Technologies). As a company specializing in helping organizations scale, we hear the pain points over and over again:

  • We don’t have time to recruit, screen or train anyone.
  • We can’t compete against the big companies for the best talent.
  • It’s too difficult to define and size a job within our tight budget.
  • We can’t absorb the high cost of hiring mistakes.

If you are paralyzed by these concerns, you may be holding your company back, starving it of resources it needs to grow. But if you think outside the traditional staffing model, there is a fix tailor-made for small businesses. It is the part-time professional talent pool, largely undiscovered and somewhat undervalued, but projected to grow significantly over the next few decades.

The resources we are talking about are not the underemployed. The resources we are talking about are seasoned professionals who choose to work part-time. Many are women in the sandwich generation scaling back from the workforce at the peaks of their careers to care for dependent children and aging parents. Some are retirees not ready to exit the workforce. And some are simply freelancers. They have proven track records and strong work ethics. Many have MBAs, CPAs or other advanced credentials and/or have been managers, directors or even VPs in their respective industries. They are ultra-capable and ready to hit the ground running, but flexibility trumps top-dollar pay in their evaluation of job opportunities. This can translate into hourly rates or salaries that are a fraction of traditional full-time employee costs, which is music to most small businesses’ ears.

Small businesses are uniquely positioned to take advantage of these resources and for many of the businesses with whom we work, this talent pool has been the ACE in solving their staffing problems. Here is why:

The part-time professional candidate pool is exceptional, but they are not looking for jobs in the same channels where big companies recruit. They are not looking for the types of jobs that big companies offer. So as a small business, if you want to compete more effectively for qualified resources, make this talent pool your target. Capitalize on your ability to offer rich, rewarding jobs plus flexibility. Capitalize on your ability to offer increasing responsibility unconstrained by silos and fiefdoms. Capitalize on your vibrant results-focused culture and its contrast to the staid, workaholic culture of many large organizations. The part-time professional talent pool is one you can access and compete for with big companies and WIN.

Building the right organization model and filling it with the right people is tough when your business is green, the market dynamics are uncertain, and the responsibilities are continuously changing as the company expands. Hiring part-time professionals can be a great hedge against this uncertainty. Hiring only for the hours you need allows you to keep the organization as lean as possible, ramping up the hours of a position as the business expands or ramping down if it contracts. You can test, alter and refine a job and calibrate the number of hours it requires before making it a permanent part of the organization structure. And you can identify critical skills and characteristics required and ensure the fit of a hire before making a commitment. Many of the part-time professionals with whom we work understand the dynamic landscape of a small business and are open to starting with reduced hours and increasing hours and responsibility as the business grows. It is the best of both worlds – pay only for the hours you need now, but groom a resource to take on more hours as volume picks up.

The economic advantages of hiring part-time professionals for small businesses are enormous and come in many forms. On the cost side, these professionals have rates that are 20% to 30% below market because they see flexibility as part of their compensation (plus most don’t need benefits). On the revenue side, they offer small businesses an affordable way to build out back-office functions, freeing up owners to focus on growing the customer base and other top-line strategies. And on the risk side, a small injection of the right part-time talent can go a long way towards establishing sound accounting processes, employee policies, controls and other measures to ensure compliance with business laws and regulations where a stumble can be extremely costly in terms of fines or law suits.

So if you’re a small business struggling with the challenges of hiring qualified staff to support your growth, play the ACE and tap into this growing talent pool. You are uniquely positioned to offer these candidates what they are looking for: meaningful work PLUS flexibility PLUS growth opportunities. But more importantly, you are uniquely positioned to benefit from the advantages they will provide you in competing against big companies for talent, right-sizing and evolving your organizational structure, avoiding failed hires and maximizing your staffing dollar.