A job vacancy sign is seen outside of a Starbucks in Manhattan, New York City, New York, the United States, May 26, 2021.

Andrew Kelly | Reuters

The labor shortage has forced businesses large and small to find new and creative ways to attract workers.

Half of the small business owners surveyed on CNBC in the third quarter of 2021 | According to the Momentive Small Business Survey, it is more difficult to find qualified employees compared to last year. Slightly less than a third of respondents, or 31%, say they have vacancies that they have not been able to fill for at least three months, compared with 24% in the last quarter and 16% in the first quarter of 2020.

While there are signs that the shortage may be easing – hiring numbers rose as fast in July as it has been in almost a year – recent data suggests there are a million more jobs available than people looking for them. In total, according to the Ministry of Labor, there are more than 10 million vacancies, the highest level of all time.

The inability to hire the staff they need hits companies where it matters: revenue opportunities. The National Federation of Independent Businesses sees labor shortages translating into lost sales at its member companies, Holly Wade, NFIB’s executive director of research, said at the CNBC Small Business Playbook event on Wednesday.

The largest companies are now looking for ways to stand out from job seekers. Chipotle Mexican Grill and McDonald’s have raised wages, while Target and Walmart have expanded tuition reimbursement programs to help employees pay for higher education.

Small business owners may not be able to compete with large corporations in the race for wages and benefits, but they can thrive in the job market by using technology tools that allow them to connect with applicants like LinkedIn.

Here are some of the top strategies to help you stand out in your workforce, according to the talent experts who spoke at the CNBC Small Business Playbook event.

1. Go beyond just posting a job

It is critical for companies to have a digital presence and a strong brand, not just to attract customers but also to attract talent, said Gyanda Sachdeva, vice president of product for LinkedIn.

Sachdeva said LinkedIn data suggests job seekers spend months studying a potential employer’s brand before applying for a job.

“It is important that you set up a digital presence page and use it to reflect your values, purpose, mission in society and to give job seekers a preview of what it will feel like to work in your company” , Sachdeva said.

In the midst of the tight labor market, job seekers look deeper into companies to see if they are a good fit and focus even more on culture as a potential attraction for workers.

“When you have a corporate culture that stands out from your competitors and other competitors, it is a great asset to talk about and explain,” said Sachdeva. “The more people start to see your company as more than a brand, the more they see the thought leaders and who the people are who support the company.”

2. Tag the right people

While having a digital presence is critical for a business, it’s just as important to send the right message.

Nina Vaca, Chairman and CEO of the Pinnacle Group, said companies should use their social media presence to “communicate what you think people want to hear, rather than what your values ​​really are.”

That means the news should go beyond the CEO, Vaca said, so that other employees can speak up and share their experiences.

“Nobody speaks louder than your current employees and what they really think about work in your company,” said Vaca. “It is important that you make your values ​​transparent because you attract people to your company – recruiting is essentially about prospects, it is about combining the right people with the right opportunities.”

3. Build an interactive community

While it’s important to only have one LinkedIn Page, building that page into a community hub can help make a business even better.

Sachdeva said the community could focus on current or future customers, current or future employees, or both.

The easiest way to build this community is to be active on the platform and get people to get involved.

For example, RTC Road and Traffic Engineering, a 44-strong civil engineering company based in Dubai, creates a LinkedIn post with all current vacancies and asks followers to apply and share with others if they are interested. Sachdeva said the post received more than 1,400 reactions and 1,000 comments.

“With a single contribution, they were not only able to increase their brand awareness, but also a lot of people who raised their hands and expressed their interest in working together,” she said.

Another company that focused on creating product management training resources hosted its entire annual conference on LinkedIn Live, Sachdeva said. That helped the 16-person company receive more than 1,000 comments during the live session.

“They all wanted to learn more and hopefully become future customers and some people will become future employees,” Sachdeva said.

4. Be upfront about plans for working from home

There is no hotter topic for potential employees than what a company has planned for employees in terms of working from home, hybrid accommodations, or getting back to the office. Companies should use this as an opportunity to speak openly and transparently about these plans, Sachdeva said.

“It’s actually a conversation people want to have, and if your organization has a specific policy about it, it’s worth talking about and sharing so people can get in and share their feedback,” she said. “There is no longer any background conversation and I would strongly recommend that it be discussed in job postings on the company page and even the CEO talk about it.”