Like the rest of the country, Colorado faces a serious worker shortage right now. No single issue caused the shortage, though the pandemic has sparked problems ranging from lack of child care to concerns about contracting COVID-19 on the job. These issues, plus some shifts in attitudes toward work, have companies struggling to fill openings.
Nationally, employers have recorded record-high job openings since spring. The Colorado Restaurant Association says 90% of the state’s restaurants face staff shortages. Law enforcement, schools, retailers, warehouses and more report understaffing across Colorado.
“I think the pandemic has shifted and changed the way job seekers look for jobs. We’ve noticed a decline in applicant flow,” says Lauren Master, SHRM-SCP, SHRM People Analytics, human resources business partner at Pinnacol. She says since the pandemic began, applicants have become more interested in jobs that make them happy than jobs that simply pay the bills.
How can employers continue to attract talent and retain their current employees? Master and Amelia Morton, PHR, talent acquisition specialist, provide tips for hiring during a labor shortage, including sharing several strategies, such as focusing on compensation and benefits and employee engagement, that have worked for Pinnacol.
1. Raise pay and/or increase benefits. More money, time off or special benefits always draw more applicants. Morton has seen companies recently institute signing bonuses or significantly raise entry-level pay. “If someone’s going to make $5 more an hour, they’ll probably go to that organization,” she says. Other companies have offered to cover college tuition, added vacation days or extended remote work options.
2. Provide more time off. Master cites one company that has given employees an extra week off this year to counterbalance all the stress COVID-19 has brought. While a week off may not be feasible, an additional day or Friday afternoons may be.
3. Emphasize mental health and wellness programs. Pinnacol has an employee assistance program (EAP) that offers five free sessions to employees each year. For employees in the midst of a trying time due to the pandemic, such small extras make a difference.
4. Acknowledge burnout. The pandemic has stretched for nearly a year and a half, and people are burned out, Master notes. Employers should understand and empathize with employees’ burnout. “People are looking for a place that recognizes them as a human being outside of work,” Morton says.
5. Sell your company culture. Master says burnout has driven people to think about their values. They want to work for an employer that shares those values. Explain what your company stands for and why, and proactively demonstrate how your culture reflects those values.
6. Build greater flexibility into the workday. Some people continue to juggle caregiving with work as they work from home. Allowing greater flexibility to a parent helping a child navigate Zoom, for instance, can alleviate stress for the employee worried about missing a few minutes of a tightly scheduled day.
7. Consult outside resources. Pinnacol has found new talent by tapping into nonprofits and other local organizations. Partnering with community colleges and universities can assist with recruiting efforts too.
8. Embrace diversity, equity and inclusion (DEI). DEI efforts ramped up nationwide over the past year. “Having diverse perspectives in the room is a huge benefit to everyone,” Master says. She notes Pinnacol is redesigning its careers website for greater transparency and to make a conscious effort to reach a more diverse applicant pool. “Companies should be transparent about where they’re going with their story and their vision,” she adds.
9. Think outside the box. Not every new idea will hit the mark, but some do, and they can make a difference in finding talent. Master heard about a restaurant where the manager and job seeker enjoyed a dinner at the five-star establishment during their interview, which offered the candidate a chance to see what made the food and service so appealing. It also increased the candidate’s desire to work there.
10. Assist during the interview process. Employers should want job seekers to succeed, and helping them increases those chances. Pinnacol explains to candidates what the interview process entails and gives them tips for interviewing via Zoom. “We make sure that they’ve got all the tools and resources to make it through the door,” Master says.
Looking for more resources relevant to the pandemic? Visit covid.pinnacol.com.