In Springfield and across the nation, worker shortages have become a challenge for many businesses. In fact, 52.4% of respondents to Springfield Business Journal’s 2021 Economic Growth Survey said their company plans to increase the number of employees in the next year. Another 35.3% said they will recruit new employees to replace any that leave. Also, 62.1% say access to skilled workers has worsened over the last year – likely why a skilled workforce ranked among the Top 5 most important business concerns over the next five years.
To survive the new normal, employers must adapt by rethinking wages, policies, company culture and more, says Tim Massey, CEO of Penmac Staffing Services Inc. Penmac is an employer providing contingency – or temporary – workers to businesses and helps companies find people to hire.
One of Penmac’s clients is Myers Industries Inc., which includes Buckhorn, Jamco Products and Akro-Mils. Director of Human Resources Chris Lehman says the current hiring situation is the worst he’s experienced in his career. For his company, the biggest shortage is among entry level production operators. He also says quality workers aren’t staying home; rather they can choose where to work. That means companies like his must adapt by making themselves more attractive.
Massey agrees the positioning has shifted. Today it’s about wooing employees. One reason for that is changing worker demographics and expectations, Massey says. People once poured their life into a career. But for younger working generations, particularly the millennials, “their career is just part of their life,” he says. They also expect higher wages. Massey estimates wages have risen 12%-15% in Springfield.
“We’re seeing wages appreciate as much as 40% in some areas,” Massey says.
Lehman says jobs that started at $11 per hour last year now start at $15. Some companies are boosting benefits too. For instance, Penmac offers a health insurance option from day one of employment, with no waiting period.
Offering good wages and benefits is not enough. Massey says workers also want opportunities to grow, to make a difference; to have input and be rewarded for their input. Training has also become more important. When companies pair workers with a coach as part of an ongoing training environment, retention accelerates.
“If (workers) don’t like what they’re doing and they don’t understand how to do it, they’ll stop and go do something for somebody else. So, investing in that is huge,” Massey says.
Lehman says company culture is important for attracting employees. For instance, Myers Industries has engagement committees at all their locations. Not only do committees set up things like Silver Dollar City outings, they also ensure company rules are appropriate and that supervisors are being good leaders.
It’s not enough to get a worker in the door. Massey says companies must figure out how keep them; to become an “employer of choice.” That’s why many have added performance or attendance bonuses in addition to signing bonuses. And they are motivating employees to help recruit. Lehman says they offer employees a referral bonus that benefits the employee and their recruit. Payments are incremental so the longer the recruited worker stays, the more each of them makes. The company has also found success by hosting job fair open houses with fun family activities for employees who are encouraged to bring friends who might be interested in a job.
Flexibility is another key attraction. That might mean for some companies, flexible hours; for others, flexible work environments. It also means adjusting hiring practices. For instance, some companies have stopped screening for marijuana use, Massey says. Other companies are making exceptions to “no rehire” lists and still others consider hiring convicted felons if a crime was nonviolent.
In the first half of the pandemic, businesses resisted change, Massey says. But with more cash in the economy and money being spent, the need for production is high. Making adjustments to attract workers is the only path for many, and companies not willing to change will be left behind, he says.
“We have to start considering things because you know, going into the pandemic there was like 6 million open jobs, and about 3 million people or so.” Massey continues that now there are “9 million jobs and the number of people available for those jobs has decreased, not increased.”
This sponsored content brought to you by Penmac Staffing Services Inc.
The Bureau of Labor Statistics reported in May the all-items inflation index surged 8.6% over the past year, the highest increase since 1981.