As we wrap up the sixth and final installment of Springfield Business Journal’s 2021 Economic Growth Survey, I want to take a moment to reflect on my big takeaway from the forum discussions. It was great to be able to resume those invaluable live conversations after being completely virtual in 2020.
Since this project launched in 2019, I have appreciated what the research tells us about business decision-maker optimism regarding the future local economy. Year over year, we see shifts and trends on the overall community as well as by industry. But the conversations that the data prompts are where the real insights come to light.
This year, one topic seemed to be on the mind of all decision-makers: people.
Competition for talent has been a top discussion topic all three years of the Economic Growth Survey, but never before has it been so detrimental with many businesses scaling back by cutting shifts and even reducing overall hours of operation.
Every business appears to be having issues related to staffing and human resources. I believe there are many causes, including people jumping jobs or careers, while others are removing themselves from the workforce to retire or stay home to raise children. Regardless of the causes, business owners and managers still have to fill positions, and the data show that’s challenging.
According to SBJ coverage of the latest data from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, the Springfield metropolitan statistical area unemployment rate was 2.7% in August. The last time unemployment was roughly that low was in November 2019, at 2.8%. At that time, the labor force was 237,016, which is 2,029 more people in the local hiring pool than in August 2021.
Penmac Staffing Services Inc. CEO Tim Massey shared at the Aug. 25 forum on Demographic Shifts that not only had the Missouri unemployment rate dipped below pre-pandemic figures, but also Missouri job postings on Indeed increased 32% since Feb. 1, 2020. We simply have more jobs and fewer people to fill them, so employers have to figure out how to adapt. Some employers discussed offering set schedules in traditionally floating-schedule workplaces; others lauded the benefits of switching point-of-sale systems to make it easy to tip and drastically increase effective hourly pay. Those were very specific examples, but I particularly appreciated the general insights Massey offered.
Many company hiring practices and policies were developed years, even decades, ago in a very different hiring environment. Often, they were intended to weed out candidates for reasons that may or may not be critical to fulfilling job requirements. Massey advised companies to rethink seven factors to increase hires and decrease turnover. The exercise isn’t intended to change everything, but rather to find where you can adapt without sacrificing core job responsibilities and become more attractive to prospective hires. Massey’s insights are valuable enough to enumerate again (see the “7 Steps in Hiring” box below).
My big takeaway was that in order to be competitive, we must be adaptable, responsive and realistic. No longer are we just competing for employees in our industry, so we need to look beyond industry standards for our hiring practices.
Believe it or not, the 2022 Economic Growth Survey is starting soon. Your participation is vital to the data collection and the conversations they inspire. Please respond to the survey, which you should receive via email if you are subscribed to any SBJ e-newsletters. Then, when forum dates are announced, please mark your calendar and attend to share your voice so that we can all work together for a stronger economic future.
A career pivot for a former human resources professional resulted in Bosky’s Vegan Grill; Neverending Game Store LLC made its second move in as many years; and Mercy Springfield Communities added a second Queen City clinic focused on sports rehabilitation and performance improvement.