As Nebraska addresses its labor shortage, companies are getting creative with staffing Companies


Lozier, manufacturer of jigs and fixtures for retail stores, was looking to hire another 20 welders in July.

“We knew we were not alone with this labor shortage. So we decided to do something different. We had to do something that made us stand out from the crowd, ”said Hannah Bolte, Head of Corporate Communications.

The company’s offering for potential employees like Tauzier included training in a two-week course at the Metropolitan Community College. This was on top of Lozier’s previous decision to increase his hourly wage by $ 1 to $ 3 and a $ 1,000 hiring bonus after 90 days of employment.

Without the training program, Lozier would only have been able to hire five certified welders. Instead, 13 new employees were hired – just below the target of filling 20 positions, but enough to help the company keep pace with increasing demand for its products, Bolte said. Before the July event, Lozier employed 59 welders.

Another company, Cobalt Credit Union, has filled customer service and cash handling jobs by finding people who have worked in other industries. According to executives Erin Maloney and Allison Malone, the credit union has taken steps such as increasing employee referral rates and flexibility in employee personal life.

“It’s really become kind of a candidate market,” said Malone.

Finding people for open positions in Nebraska has been a challenge for a decade, according to Eric Thompson, an economist at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln. The COVID-19 pandemic has exacerbated this challenge, especially after its spring 2020 outbreak plunged the economy into sharp recession and created the vacancies many employers are still trying to fill.

“It is not uncommon to have a higher (number) of openings in the period shortly after a recession and the start of the recovery. But this time it seems a little worse, ”said Thompson.

The reasons for this are numerous and varied, say economists, ranging from skills imbalances to wage levels and immigration policies.

“Labor markets are complicated things,” says Christopher Decker, an economist at the University of Nebraska, Omaha. “There are people looking for work that may not have any vacancies. Then companies look for skills that may not have a workforce. It’s kind of a labor mismatch problem. “

Jorden Hansen, a UN graduate who worked with Decker last June to publish an economic report and outlook for the Omaha region, agreed.

“There are people who are well versed in certain things and the work is not available to them for that. Then you need to do the training and transformation to find a job that is more applicable and available, ”she said. “That can be a challenge.”

In some cases, the labor shortage may be due to people reassessing their priorities and desires during the pandemic. Thompson theorized that potential employees in customer-facing industries, including leisure and hospitality, might be concerned about dealing with people who might not be vaccinated.

“I don’t think it stops most people from working. But I think there are some employees that this could be a problem for, ”he said.

And local economists say that after a certain amount of unemployment, some people may have realized that their financial and family situation does not depend solely on their employment, but can instead focus on other goals, such as: B. going back to school or starting a family.

Both Thompson and Creighton University economist Ernie Goss theorized that federal government funds, including stimulus checks and the recently expired increased unemployment benefits, may have played a role in the labor shortage. In some cases, Goss said, low-wage workers made more money getting unemployed.

“I think the government needs to create incentives for work and leisure at all levels,” said Goss. “The gap between what you do for work and what you do for leisure is too small. … On the low-wage side, we have to see that this gap is widening, be it through work incentives or leisure incentives. One of them has to happen. “

Goss also said that it is difficult for workers to afford childcare when they are only making $ 12-14 an hour.

Some measure appears to have increased wages in Nebraska. Citing federal data, Decker wrote in an email that wages per worker rose 3.5% in the first quarter of 2021 compared to the same period in 2020. This followed an 11% increase in the fourth quarter of 2020 over the same period in 2019. Typical wage increases range from 2.5% to 3%, Decker said.

By another measure, wage growth has lagged inflation, which has effectively resulted in a net loss of workers’ wages. August federal wage statistics for manufacturing show 5.2% wage growth from 2020 but an 8% increase in the cost of living, Goss said, attributing to increases in money supply and stimulus spending.

For employers looking to hire, the impact of inflation on purchasing power is a big problem, Goss said.

“They rely on the workers to be irrational or stupid. You are not. They know how inflation works, ”he said.

If employers want to fill their positions, Macy Sarbacker, editor of CareerCloud, suggests continuing to take action that some companies have taken during the pandemic. These include increasing wages, being able to work from home, and being flexible with parental leave.

The CareerCloud study found that ZipRecruiter job postings at $ 15 an hour have doubled since 2019. The study also found a survey by management consultancy McKinsey & Company that 52% of workers want a hybrid work model.

The Omaha Public Power District adopted this model early on in the pandemic. John Staup, OPPD director of talent acquisition, said the public service even hired a moving company to bring office equipment to the homes of around 800 employees. OPPD has around 1,850 employees.

“It was incredibly important for us to understand the criticality of what was going on,” he said.

The study also suggests employers help with commuting for workers who cannot work from home. This could include subsidizing travel costs, providing a company shuttle, or allowing employees to work longer but fewer shifts.

Ultimately, Thompson said, it is up to each company to figure out how to address its labor shortage through measures like wage increases and working from home flexibility.

“You always have to weigh the short-term situation against the long-term consequences,” he said. “If you don’t see these things as viable long-term solutions for your business, it may not be worth taking these steps. It may be better to just be unemployed for a while. This is another decision that companies always have to wrestle with. “

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