None of us could have anticipated the arrival of COVID-19, how long the pandemic would last, or the many ways it has impacted our world. As we continue to see the effects of the pandemic on our economy, history can serve as a reminder of how to survive the present.
Despite economic downturns in almost every decade of the last 100 years — the Great Depression, the post-war era, the recession of the 1980s, the Great Recession in 2008 and now the pandemic recession — many companies have survived by remaining adaptable as conditions continue to evolve and being supportive of employees as they face new challenges.
This isn’t the first time that businesses have been confronted with a labor shortage, and they are employing a number of tactics to address a need to attract employees and fill open positions. Offering on-the-job training, as well as an in-house training center, can bring to your business employees who may not currently have the skillset needed to perform that job but who are willing to learn and have the tools they need to provide customers with the service they deserve.
Hiring for character is also an essential part of the process, maybe even more so than hiring for skill. It is highly possible to teach someone how to perform a technical task; it’s much harder to teach the importance of quality customer service if they don’t have the right attitude for it — and that comes from within the individual. So as we all navigate the current worker shortage, this idea is something of a pillar. After everything we’ve all been through the past few years, it is essential that employees are treating your customers with respect.
While branching out hiring efforts to those who might not have previously considered a career in your industry, several things make a position attractive enough to create long-term career opportunities.
Once candidates learn more about a company’s culture and benefits, including flexibility and earning potential, they are more open to accepting a job that requires manual labor and has a learning curve. But employers shouldn’t use competitive benefits simply as a short-term hiring gimmick to attract employees.
Have policies and incentives in place before a crisis hits and hire people with the goal of helping them create careers that can both support them and their families and be fulfilling. It isn’t so much about powering through the labor shortage as it is about treating employees well from the get-go.
As many companies in sectors of the service industry will attest, nearly two years into the pandemic, the workforce is experiencing burnout. A labor shortage translates into a surplus of work for each employee, and it’s easy to be tempted into overworking your team to meet demand. However, companies must constantly work to find the balance between meeting customer needs and respecting the mental health and work-life balance of their employees.
This labor shortage will end, and the economy will continue to ebb and flow until it reaches a more reliable rhythm. It always does. And as we collectively navigate through the current situation, we’re confident that Columbus and its small businesses can work their way through in a way that supports our community. Because we always do. ●
Mark Swepston is owner and CEO of Atlas Butler Heating, Cooling & Plumbing