Many small business owners spent much of last year trying to fill lingering job openings. In fact, a recent Careerbuilder survey of small business owners found that 31% had job openings they couldn’t fill because they hadn’t found qualified candidates. While recruiting and hiring will always be more challenging during a state of full employment, there are steps that small business owners can take to attract, hire, and retain quality employees. 1. Offer flexibility. As freelancing, telecommuting, and flextime have gained popularity in recent years, workers have come to expect some flexibility with hours and work locations. If you have positions that can accommodate flextime or remote work, be sure to let potential candidates know. You may also get more bang for your buck by allowing your employees to telecommute: a Stanford study found that remote employees are 13% more productive than their in-office coworkers. 2. Consider contract workers. If you’re having a hard time finding a part-time or full-time candidate to fill an opening, try looking for a freelancer. There are many skilled workers who prefer the independence of the gig economy but who can still be relied on to get the job done well. Considering freelancers also gives you more candidates to choose from and exempts you from the various taxes and wage regulations that apply to employed workers. 3. Tell your network. Spread the word that you’re hiring and invite your network of contacts to send qualified candidates your way. And don’t overlook former employees - the Careerbuilder survey revealed that 33% of small business owners plan to reach out to former employees about their job openings. Even if a former employee isn’t available to rejoin your team, he or she may know someone who is a perfect fit for the job.