May 19, 2021
Lindsay McCutchen, founder and CEO of Career Start talks to RBJ’s Ben Jacobs, Associate Publisher and Editor, about the current labor shortage and what companies can do, what she learned during the pandemic, her outlook for the rest of the year, and more.
In the interview, Jacobs mentioned, “We’re hearing that businesses are having trouble hiring enough employees. Are you noticing that in the work you’re doing and is it better or worse in certain industries?”
“It’s all over and of course, I notice it because we’re a staffing agency,” McCutchen says. “The good news is for staffing agencies, a lot of companies are coming to us to look for help because they’re unable to attract individuals on their own, but we’re also struggling to find the right talent to help. Employers are doing a wide range of things to attract talent. It’s really making the market volatile. I’ve never seen anything like it before.”
When Jacobs asked, “Do you have any thoughts on why it’s been difficult to find workers to fill some of these jobs?” McCutchen responded with, “There’s a direct correlation between the time that the stimulus funding was issued and the timeframe when the shortage hit. It’s not just in Rochester, NY. It’s nationwide. What’s happened is well-intended money in the form of aid was given out. It’s not just stimulus money. So a population of entry level and mid-skilled workers is not going to work. In some instances, they’re making more money.”
New unemployment and stimulus incentives are replacing workers’ salaries and will keep them from the job market until incentives expire, making the candidate pool for businesses and staffing agencies even smaller causing this labor shortage. To combat this issue, businesses have had to increase their wages to fill open positions, which is in line with McCutchen’s response to Jacobs’ next question..
“From your perspective, what should companies be doing to give themselves the best chance at finding qualified employees?”
McCutchen responded, “You’ve got to pay people like you want them to work there. The days of paying someone $12.50 an hour to work in a factory are gone. People are not going to work for that wage. So in a sense, the labor shortage has put the power back into the people so companies are raising their wage…Sign-on bonuses are being offered. Companies are doing a lot of marketing and putting themselves out there telling the culture of their organization. Give employees the flexibility of working from home. It’s really the fight for the best employer right now. So a myriad of those things are the pitches that I see coming out in the market that are most successful.”
Businesses were shocked when they were forced to send their employees home to work in March of last year. There’s pros and cons depending on who you talk to. Some reported increased productivity and improved work-life balance, while others said their employees weren’t as motivated and, in turn, were missing deadlines.
“Are companies going to continue to allow employees to work from home, have flexibility in hours, etc.” Jacobs’ asked.
McCutchen is noticing that businesses have become less strict with their attendance policy and showing flexibility as it pertains to working at home vs. in the office. “..they’ve realized their employees are as effective, if not more effective working from home. You also see a shift happening where employees don’t even have to live in the same area as their employer…Then there’s some employers that are saying, ‘Nope. This is over. You come back to the office.’” She added, “They may or may not lose people. What’s important is the majority of people not returning back to work, from my viewpoint, are people that don’t have the luxury of working from home – the restaurant workers, the factory workers.”
When Jacobs asked, “What are the biggest lessons you’ve learned throughout this past year?” McCutchen replied, “We learned that it’s okay to work from home. It doesn’t pay to be a clock watcher. We learned it paid to have flexibility and diversity of the organization. For example, had we just been a hospitality staffing organization, we wouldn’t be in business, but because we had a diverse portfolio of both medical and manufacturing, we were able to not only stay alive, but really thrive. So, we learned that just making sure the business that you run is diverse enough to be able to withstand times like this.”
In addition, “We also learned to have a line of credit ready. You might not think you need it now, but you never know what’s going to happen. It seems like the pandemic was the blink of an eye. One day we were operating and the next day we weren’t.”
You can view Lindsay’s full interview with the RBJ here.