2023 State of HR: 3 Ways for SMBs to Thrive Amid Workplace Challenges

Nathan Christensen

Nathan Christensen

“Bad companies are destroyed by crises. Great companies are improved by them.”

These words, from former Intel CEO Andrew Grove, were spoken long before 2020 and the unprecedented challenges we’ve faced in the years since. Still, I think there’s inspiration to be found as we take the crises from the last few years and apply what we’ve learned to make our organizations even stronger than before.

As we continue to rebuild from the toll taken by the pandemic, and as we face an uncertain future, I understand the instinct among small business leaders to tighten business operations and investment in the name of future-proofing.

After all, I’m also a small business leader myself.

But as I review the findings from this year’s Mineral State of HR survey, I’m troubled by some of the results. As business leaders we learned a lot over the last several years. We learned about the importance of people and culture. We learned about the resilience of our companies and customers. We learned how to use technology in new ways. We learned the value of focusing our time and energy on what’s most important. And we learned the importance of being agile.

As often happens with crises, we acquired decades of experience and lessons in a few challenging years. To turn those learnings into long-term improvement for our companies, however, we need to stay dedicated to them, even when the crisis subsides. I encourage business leaders to reframe how, where, and in whom they invest to reach their goals. Specifically, to stay focused on three key HR areas:

1. Investing in people.
2. Investing in technology.
3. Investing in productivity.

1. Invest in people. 

Our 2023 data shows that 87% of respondents say employee upskilling and reskilling is important, yet more than half lack formal training programs and close to a third have no plans to offer more options for career advancement. It’s understandable that business leaders may be feeling more cautious, but we also know that these initiatives are not simply expenses—they are investments. Employees who are developed and supported are more loyal to their employers and more productive at work—especially when they receive training that amplifies their talents and commitment. If my experience leading Mineral has taught me anything, it’s that investing in people almost always generates great returns.

2. Invest in technology.  

At the same time, investing in HR solutions reduces administrative work and increases capacity for more strategic work that can truly transform the organization. The 2023 State of HR finds most business leaders use spreadsheets and email to manage HR initiatives. Embracing more modern solutions yields compound returns by freeing up employees for higher-value work and making HR and compliance operations more effective and efficient—which together can generate higher business productivity overall.

3. Invest in productivity.  

We also see a gap between the public’s interest in artificial intelligence and the interest of small business and HR leaders. The concern is understandable but also limiting. If any profession can maximize technology’s benefits in a way that maintains privacy and avoids misuse, and benefits organizations and the people within them, it is the HR industry.

Small businesses have access to the tools and technology to thrive, and the agility to put them to use, even in tough economic times. The key is to stay the course, leveraging the learnings of the last several years, and taking advantage of resources to make our already great companies even greater.

Mineral 2023 State of HR

Find full data, analysis, and resources from the Mineral 2023 State of HR.

Author: Nathan Christensen
Nathan is driving Mineral to transform the delivery of HR knowledge solutions and create unparalleled customer experiences for employers. He has been named a “Game Changer” in the HR field by Workforce magazine and was selected by the Portland Business Journal as a member of “Forty Under 40” class. Nathan’s articles on management, human resources strategy, and public policy have appeared in publications such as The Washington Post, Fast Company, and Workforce. He’s also been a featured speaker at numerous industry conferences and events. Nathan holds degrees from Stanford University and The University of Chicago Law School.