STAFFING WOES ? THE ANSWERS ARE EASY: FAIR PAY AND RESPECT
Since the start of the pandemic in early 2020, the world has been turned upside down and us with it. We expected a couple months of quarantine and then back to work and life. Right?
Here we are 18 plus months later still tripping through every sector of the economy and life with starts and stops
trying to figure out the new world, including job hiring and retention.
Quick serve and sit-down franchise owners continue to navigate the hiring conundrum daily trying to balance supply chains, health/safety and staffing. News stories are consistent across the country. Jobs are open, but year over year and labor participation in the United States is at one of the lowest points since the late 1950s—
at under 62% of adults.
Franchise owners trying to fully reopen restaurants assumed, as the rest of us did, that when extended unemployment benefits ended in September, workers would come flooding back to jobs. That didn’t happen.
Instead, we continue to see signs for jobs everywhere. What’s happening? Where are all the workers?
They are out there. Indianapolis headquartered LGC has been in the staffing industry for almost 20 years and has offices in 40 cities across the country. Our team continues to ask our hourly gig workers what they want, and we’re supporting sourcing restaurant managers at quick serve and sit-down locations.
Bottom line, hourly managers and workers think differently now and have the upper hand since they’re in demand. We asked our office leads nationwide what they’re seeing, hearing and feeling.
Here’s what we learned.
• Despite staffing shortages, job openings continue to grow.
• Managers are receiving applications, showing the desire to find work is here.
• In some cases, applicants simply are not finalizing the hiring process.
• Here’s the key: Success in hiring and staffing is being seen in states where benefits ended early and wages were increased. The effect took up to 60 days to realize.
• And workers want respect, appreciation and balance.
Recent research confirms this. A white paper published in August by researchers at Columbia University, Harvard University, the University of Massachusetts Amherst and the University of Toronto, says states ended federal benefits early saw larger job gains among the unemployed. Employment jumped 4.4 points relative to jobless individuals in states that kept benefits flowing. The report uses data through the first week of August. Sounds great right? But it translates to just one in every eight unemployed people going back to work.
If you’re team needs to increase hiring, respond to how hourly workers live and work.
Think about how you hire. Several national news outlets have printed stories about job seekers who say employers are unresponsive. With a lot of job openings human resources professionals don’t have enough time to respond to everyone. On average for every job opening, an employer receives over 100 applications. Just 20% of those are interviewed, according to Forbes. Many companies are using talent management software with AI technology and recent articles show it’s weeding out the wrong (talented) applicants. And it’s simply not accessible for some hourly workers who do not have the same access to technology as a white-collar worker. They may access computers at community centers, for example, and find it easy to job hunt in person.
If that happens and a job applicant comes in off the street to apply, what’s the process? Does staff know when an applicant is in the building what they should do? If not, it’s a lost opportunity to bring someone on your team who can fill gaps and serve customers. Communicate the hiring process to your staff, especially if there’s a help wanted sign posted on your building.
As noted in the statistic above (just 20% of applicants get interviewed due to the number of applicants), there just aren’t enough people to find more people.
Partnering with a staffing firm provides extra staff and a flexible option to be able to respond to job applicants personally and professionally. Often staffing firms have gig workers who can go to work quickly fill staffing gaps that include managers along with hourly line staff.
Staffing agencies have experienced staff waiting to find and confirm their next gig. And companies, including LGC, use websites and apps to post open positions that can be filled quickly. Once a job is filled, how are you retaining staff?
Think about culture and respect in the workplace. Clients finding success staffing up and hiring are providing better wages and workplace environments. We’ve all read the stories and heard from employees that flexibility is now a priority. Technomic’s new research in the Crisis on the Front Lines Multi Client Study says 85% of workers responding cited work-life balance and professional management as the most important factors in a job.
The same study shows 66% of respondents view independent restaurant operators positively as employers compared to 55% say the same for chains. In fact, 20% say their perceptions of chains as employers are negative or very negative. Ouch! What is your team doing to fix that perception?
Get back to the basics. Employees want simple things: a solid living wage, a positive working environment, appreciation and respect. The Technomic’s study says nearly 35% of workers said their tips and additional wages did not bring them up to their state’s minimum wage; and nearly half (47%) said they were not compensated for overtime.
Have your team’s back. A September report from One Fair Wage shows a startling reality from the point of view of hourly workers.
• Three quarters (75%) of tipped workers said gratuities have decreased and more than half (54%) reported an increase in hostility and harassment related to enforcing COVID protocols. A report from Black Box Intelligence echoes the data and goes a step further:
• More than two-thirds of current and former restaurant workers said disrespect from customers is a factor in the industry’s labor shortage. We’ve all read the stories about workers trying to enforce COVID protocol and being harassed by customers.
• Almost half of those workers cited emotional abuse from their managers as a factor in the decision to leave the industry. In fact, 15% said they were sexually harassed by managers or coworkers, and another 15% said they were sexually harassed by customers.
The current employment and economic environment are not going to correct themselves in the short-term. A solid management team should know what they can control. The answer is easy. Pay a fair wage and treat staff as you’d like to be treated with respect, appreciation and dignity creating a workplace they won’t want to leave now or in the future.
George Lessmeister is CEO and founder of LGC Hospitality, a hospitality staffing firm that works with franchisees including quick serve and sit-down restaurant owners. The company is headquartered in Indianapolis operating in 40 cities across the country.