SBDC helps small businesses solve staffing issues

  • Austin Weber

    Austin Weber

By Austin Weber
College of Lake County
Posted3/6/2022 1:00 AM

"Now hiring" signs are commonplace during the COVID-19 pandemic. All kinds of businesses have been hit with employee departures, but the problem has taken a bigger toll on smaller organizations. According to a June survey by the National Federation of Independent Businesses (NFIB), 61 percent of small businesses reported a staffing shortage.

The Illinois Small Business Development & International Trade Center (SBDC/ITC) at College of Lake County (CLC) is getting to the root of why people are leaving and finding ways for small businesses to recruit and retain workers. They are creating a new series of workshops to address how to improve company culture.


People started leaving their jobs for several reasons, but SBDC/ITC Manager Mitch Bienvenue said the two biggest reasons are pay and company culture. Workers in various industries were unsatisfied with their wages and chose to leave to find opportunities that would better help them support their families.

Workers want jobs that make them happy as much, if not more, than jobs with higher wages. The COVID-19 pandemic was a big disrupter in everyone's daily life, allowing people to reflect on their lives, jobs included.

"To some degree, people are leaving because they're dissatisfied with where they work," Bienvenue said. "It's not feeding them in the way they want to be fed, or it's not helping them with the challenges they might have at home with child care and other such matters. "

Increased unemployment benefits helped people survive while looking for jobs. However, people will eventually start going back to work, and small businesses will have to find ways to have an upper hand in recruitment. Larger corporations do not have the same financial limitations small businesses have and are freer to increase wages and benefits if necessary.

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Small businesses have already started to become more financially competitive. Bienvenue said many have started offering sign-on bonuses. According to the NFIB survey, 63 percent of businesses increased their starting wages.

But culturally, small businesses have to continue improving if they want to bring in workers. Important perks workers look for outside of pay include things such as flexible schedules and support for child care. These are impactful, but the actual work environment also needs to be worked on too.

"Businesses need to make sure communication is good," Bienvenue said. "People need to have a sense they can advance in the company. Employees want to feel cared for, not just as employees, but even in their personal and home lives."

The SBDC/ITC is tackling the issue head on, and the series of workshops to help small businesses will address different culture-related topics including benefits, leadership, management, work-life balance and more.


The hope is small businesses will get the information and resources they need to address issues now and after the pandemic.

"Money only goes so far," Bienvenue said. "Working on company culture as a way of recruiting and retaining people, over time, will help to fix some of the current problems. However, it will take some time to reduce this staffing shortage so many are experiencing right now."

The SBDC/ITC plans to offer live online sessions in early 2022.

The SBDC/ITC provides no cost, confidential business advising and low-cost, interactive workshops and is funded in part through a cooperative agreement with the U.S. Small Business Administration (SBA), the Illinois Department of Commerce and Economic Opportunity (ILDCEO) and the College of Lake County.

For more information, call (847) 543-2033, email or visit

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