Small businesses are relying heavily on technology like high-speed internet, which 77% cited as critical to supporting connectivity since the start of the pandemic, a new study finds.
Small businesses have similar challenges to their larger counterparts: Filling open positions (60%), offering employees flexible schedules (88%) and digitizing as their adoption of technology increases (63%), according to the Small and Midsize Business Outlook and Technology Adoption Study by Verizon Business.
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Among the most notable findings were that 71% of SMB decision makers consider themselves in a better position now than they were one year ago. They view technology as a key ally to help them overcome lingering challenges to improve sales, boost talent acquisition and tackle rising inflation and supply chain issues.
Owners of SMBs are now also addressing mental health issues: 65% of respondents said they have either begun or expanded their offering of mental health and wellness programs during the pandemic.
Yet the picture isn’t totally rosy: 57% said they have experienced declining sales over the past year coupled with 69% experiencing increased costs. Further, 61% of respondents reported issues with sourcing materials due to the ongoing global supply chain crisis.
However, the study’s overall message is that they are forging ahead.
“Overall, these decision makers are seeking new avenues to expand their business and maximize their use of new technologies to solve challenges in order to drive growth,’’ the Verizon report said. “With access to a variety of solutions, there’s a renewed optimism and investment in growth as the pandemic recovery is in full swing.”
The study also found that SMBs:
- Transitioned to digital operations. 63% of respondents have added or transitioned to digital and online operations in the past year.
- Incorporated technology into recruiting and retaining practices. 59% have provided employees with devices or technology to help recruit or retain talent in the past year.
- Increased revenue through digital transformation. 65% said the revenue their business generates through digital operations is higher now than before the pandemic.
- Added tech perks to combat the labor shortage. When it comes to operational impacts, nearly two in three respondent decision makers said their business has implemented new systems for remote collaboration (65%) or security (64%) or started offering new products and services to adapt to changing customer needs (65%).
Investing for growth
SMBs are bullish on their recovery and growth. The study found that:
- 61% said they expect their business’ financial security to get better in the coming months.
- 63% said they expect that providing goods or services will be easier one year from now than today, and 64% believe the same for acquiring products.
- 42% said they have dealt with supply chain disruptions by stockpiling goods, while 38% are implementing continuity planning.
Technology fuels flexibility and the future of work
Beyond how SMBs are using technology to drive growth, the changes in employee needs are a top consideration in determining both their workplace of the present and future. Similar to many large businesses, the forced changes have created some unexpected benefits.
- Nearly 40% of decision makers said they have added net-new remote work or flex work hours during the pandemic, and 79% either offer or plan to offer incentives to attract and retain employees.
- 62% said they have transitioned employees from on-site to remote while 52% have transitioned from remote back to the office in the past year.
- Half of those surveyed said they have hired non-local employees for remote work in the past year, and 73% believe that it’s important to offer a stipend for home internet services.
- As a result of these changes, 56% said employee morale and 62% said collaboration are higher compared to pre-pandemic levels.
Free resources for small businesses
To help small businesses with their digitization, Verizon recently launched the Verizon Small Business Digital Ready curriculum. Developed in partnership with small business owners, this online portal is open to any business for free.
The company said the portal provides a personalized experience, providing resources, networking and coaching tailored to an SMB’s specific needs.