Sparked by a global pandemic, “job security” has been a buzzword for more than a year. However many Iowa employers are finding talent scarcity is creating concerns in the Iowa employment sphere. In a recent survey conducted by Bank Iowa, nearly 50 percent of business leaders responded that finding the right talent to hire is the biggest challenge they face today.
Many employers have anecdotally reported a large decrease in applicants over the past year, some citing as much as an 80 percent reduction. Todd McDonald, owner of ATW Training Solutions and New Horizons Computer Learning Center in Urbandale, IA, said that while applicant numbers have been have remained steady for his companies, applicant’s qualifications don’t always align as well as they used to, making it a challenge to find the right individual for the job.
“Potential candidates have been reluctant to apply, and that could be for several reasons. Unemployment benefits, safety concerns and reconsidering the importance of certain work experiences could all be factors,” McDonald said.
Elite Eyecare in West Des Moines has found patience to be one of the only practices to overcome their recent hiring struggles, which include limited applicants and no-shows for interviews.
“When we settle, we find immediate help. But not the right talent,” Amanda Carr, Practice Director for Elite Eyecare, said. “Finding the right fit takes time and experience.”
Some studies claim that unemployment payments are actually crippling employer’s ability to find workers. According to AgWeb, the current labor ‘shortage’ is more of a perception than a true labor shortage.
Jayson Lusk of Purdue University told AgWeb, “Even though wages and earnings have increased, particularly in grocery and retail sectors, we’re not seeing that pull in more workers. The data on employment currently (actually) shows a decrease in the number of workers in manufacturing, grocery and retail.”
“The data on employment currently shows a decrease in the number of workers in manufacturing, grocery and retail,” Lusk said.
Steve Shearer, owner of Chocolate Storybook, manages both factory production and the retail front of his business in the food industry in Des Moines. He’s found it extremely difficult to staff his business. To combat this issue, Shearer has offered higher wages when hiring as well as increased wages for current employees.
“Unemployment payments are one of the biggest competitors for hiring businesses at the moment. Eliminating unemployment could help tackle this issue, but in addition to that, childcare assistance, flexible work schedules and more PTO for workers could help gain control of the hiring challenge,” Shearer said.
These types of challenges may be unique to certain areas of the country. According to The Wall Street Journal, jobless claims have fell to a new pandemic low nationally. WSJ reported that “higher vaccination rates, fiscal stimulus and easing business restrictions are converging to support stronger spending across the U.S. But job growth isn’t keeping pace.”
Businesses struggling with employment challenges might consider taking a cue from tried-and-true marketing practices. Build your culture as fervently as you build your brand. Audit your employee benefits like you measure an ad campaign. Increase your hiring budget to attract more applicants in the same way you might reach a more qualified customer. Put social media tools to work to engage potential applicants in the same way you engage customers and prospects.
Other considerations might be to change your paradigm on hiring practices of the past. We may need to be more open to nontraditional work histories or to find potential silver linings in applicants. They may not be the perfect candidate, but do they have the drive and enthusiasm it takes to be someone you can mold into the perfect employee?
While the worst may be behind us, all of us have experienced change and managed to adapt along the way. Perhaps shifting mindsets on candidates and our hiring approach needs to change as well.
It’s something Gabriel Glynn, owner of Des Moines start-up company, MakuSafe, is familiar with.
“The pandemic opened our eyes to the possibilities of having a more remote workforce. Finding talent locally has been generally easy because of referrals from our existing employees, but when we broadened our search outside of Central Iowa we were able to find some talented folks looking to join our team and work remote,” Glynn said.
Kennedy Van Rossum is a marketing manager at Bank Iowa in West Des Moines. With more than $1.7 billion in assets, Bank Iowa ranks as one of the leading independent ag banks and the second-largest family owned bank in the state. To learn more, visit bankiowa.bank. Member FDIC.