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South Valley Journal

Staffing shortages are everywhere but employees want more than just a paycheck

Oct 04, 2021 11:47AM ● By Mimi Darley Dutton

Help wanted signs are everywhere. Some businesses have already closed due to staffing shortages and others have modified their hours of operation. Local business leaders say today’s workers want more than money; they want good training, certification and education, and paid volunteer opportunities for causes they care about. (Mimi Darley Dutton/City Journals)

By Mimi Darley Dutton | [email protected]

“Help Wanted,” “Join Our Team” and “Apply Today” signs hang in windows around town and job vacancy postings are plentiful. Businesses who survived Covid are now at risk of closing because the customers are there but they’re short on staff. Some have already closed and others have modified hours of operation due to staffing issues. Local business advisors agree that the solution lies with employers changing their ways and thinking outside the box to appeal to new hires. 

Bill Rappleye of the Draper Chamber of Commerce says employers not being able to find workers is very typical right now. “They’re all struggling attracting people. The workforce went through Covid, too. It’s affecting us all in one way or another. It’s more depressing now than it used to be. It’s hard to be enthusiastic, especially if you have a job that’s not super interesting,” he said. “These businesses have to face that challenge. They might have to do innovative things, use the resources they have to turn it around in a different way so people can see a different perspective, like offering educational or career paths. It’s a changing paradigm…people are changing and their expectations are changing. Employees need to have something that attracts them. Employers have got to make that job look more enticing.” 

Rappleye said even young employees want support, not just a paycheck, and employers need to properly train new employees so they’re fully competent. He gave the example of a new employee having to deal with a disgruntled customer who’s upset that the item they want isn’t available because of a supply chain issue, a situation over which the young employee has no control. “If you don’t know how to take care of a problem at work, it’s going to frustrate you and you’re probably going to quit,” he said. 

He said today’s young people are bright, capable, and looking for training on management basics, certifications they could use elsewhere in their career path, or college or course work paid for by the employer. “The young people don’t get too motivated by the stuff we did 20 or 30 years ago. The work place has changed dramatically, so they want to grow and develop. I believe the businesses who can pull that off in some manner will succeed. They’ve got to have more value than just the dollar.” 

Rappleye isn’t a fan of online hiring or what he called “robot recruiters.” He said it’s got to go back to really scouring applications and looking for something that creates a personal connection between employee and employer. He also feels it’s about the workplace being like a family and understanding that employees are working for their families, so they need time off for family. In the case of a young, single person, Rappleye said that family is that individual employee, and they need time to pursue activities for their own well-being.

Rosanne Simpson is Director of Business Development for the South Valley Chamber. She’s seen some employers get creative on finding new employees, such as a handyman who looked to high school woodshops to recruit, or businesses who find refugees who are ready for and grateful to work. Another creative approach she’s seen is the reformed felon program. While it might raise the employer’s insurance, it might also lead to an employee who’s grateful for a job. 

Simpson mentioned Simply Thai in Sandy as one example of innovation that’s led to new success. The restaurant has customers check in and order at the counter, wait 20 minutes, then proceed to their table when their food is ready. “They don’t have all the wait staff, they just have food runners. It’s brilliant.” She also mentioned a West Jordan care facility that has great employee retention because of the culture they’ve created, even in an industry that has struggled to find and keep employees.

“Employees want to feel like they have a purpose. The employee is now interviewing companies more than before. Now it’s ‘who supports my values, my culture, who gives me educational opportunities and opportunities to serve?’ Simpson said data shows that people also want flexibility, such as a hybrid option of sometimes working from home, along with time to serve and volunteer without using paid time off. 

According to Simpson, the average employee is staying at a company for three years, so employers need to figure out how to streamline the training process, knowing that’s often the case. “If we think people aren’t going to be leaving after three years, we’re silly. This new norm is what it is. We have to change our perception,” Simpson said. 

Both Simpson and Rappleye pointed to Chick-fil-A as a strong example of doing business right. Simpson said the company’s sales increased 40% over 2019. Rappleye said the company spends a lot of time and money on training and allows general managers to have part ownership in their stores.

Simpson and Rappleye agree that today’s managers can’t be mean or inflexible because employees won’t tolerate that. “They can’t take for granted that employees are going to stick around. It used to be managers managed everyone the same, but you have to manage each employee differently. How they respond to motivation is so different for each employee,” Simpson said. 

“Managers have got to be allowed to innovate. That’s upper management that’s got to open that door. It’s a new time, and one of the things you have to do when you own a business is stay up to date and use that knowledge in your business,” Rappleye said.

Writer’s Note: The Draper Chamber of Commerce closed its doors Sept. 30. Draper City now works with the South Valley Chamber of Commerce which serves the communities of Draper, Sandy and Riverton and whose membership spans the Wasatch Front and beyond.