Widespread staffing issues hit Butler County businesses

Customers shop inside IKEA Thursday, Nov. 11, 2021 in West Chester Township. NICK GRAHAM / STAFF
Customers shop inside IKEA Thursday, Nov. 11, 2021 in West Chester Township. NICK GRAHAM / STAFF

Credit: Nick Graham

Credit: Nick Graham

Some are increasing pay and benefits to keep or draw workers

In this post-pandemic world, Butler County business leaders say employees are in the driver’s seat so they need to evolve to attract and retain workers and hire enough staff to handle the holidays.

It’s always a push to fill the job postings in time for the holiday shopping rush, but this season comes as workers gain leverage to pick the job they want, while thousands of year-round jobs remain open and hiring competition ramps up.

Greater Hamilton Chamber of Commerce President and CEO Dan Bates said the pandemic made workers realize they want greater flexibility and work/life balance and are now seeking employers who provide it.

“The employees have more power than they’ve ever had and I think that’s something we haven’t adjusted to yet,” Bates said. “Those who aren’t working, how they are affording to live I have no idea, but to me it’s just a big shift. I’m not trying to paint negative or positive, to me it just is. So now we have to take a step back and say how so we deal with it.”

Bates said when he has talked to his executive committee about this problem they all said culture is key, “if you don’t have a positive engaging, supportive culture where your employees feel they are an important part of your success you’re not going to keep them.”

The number of monthly job resignations jumped in August to 4.3 million nationwide, with people especially likely to quit in retail and restaurants.

The number of people quitting their jobs working at restaurants, bars and hotels in August was up 21% from July, according to the U.S. Department of Labor. Quits by retail workers were up by 6%.

Alex Boehnke, with the Ohio Council of Retail Merchants, said workforce issues are top of mind for retailers in the state, who often hire thousands of extra workers this time of year.

“They need to have folks on staff to be able to meet that increased demand that we expect. We expect it to be a good holiday shopping season,” Boehnke said.

Bates said just about everyone here is having trouble finding seasonal workers. The Journal-News reached out to a couple Hamilton businesses and they didn’t want to talk about it. Sherry Hoskins, owner of Petals & Wicks, a local “candle and scent bar” that makes natural candles and body products, said she has been search far and wide for two or three seasonal workers and there have been no takers, or those who applied weren’t qualified.

“In the past we didn’t have any trouble getting seasonal help, people were looking for it...,” Hoskins said adding there is only one solution. “We’ll have to work more hours and less time off for all of us, we want to expand our hours but unfortunately we can’t until we get more help.”

ExploreRetail hiring binge hits sharp competition for seasonal workers

The big retailers are struggling to hire help as well. Kroger is trying to hire about 2,000 people in the Dayton and Cincinnati divisions to fill positions.

UPS added a perk that those hired will get their job offer within 30 minutes after applying. UPS is hoping to add 100,000 holiday workers to support the anticipated annual increase in package volume through January.

Some of the big retailers, such as Target, trimmed their seasonal hiring goals compared to past seasons, the Associated Press reports.

Many retailers have raised wages or dangled new perks like signing and retention bonuses, employee discounts, tuition help and more. Ozlem Atman, market manager at the IKEA in West Chester Twp., told the Journal-News the hiring landscape is better now, a year ago she had more than 50 openings and today she only needs about 16 employees.

“I’m seeing a positive improvement and I relate it to our benefits package and total rewards program,” Atman said. “It’s appealing and a little bit more competitive than the other retailers.”

Beginning in January the minimum hourly wage will jump from $11.75 to $16 and they will offer five weeks paid time off for both full and part-timers. Full-time employees who helped the company survive the pandemic will also get a one-time $900 bonus. Her store also surpassed its goals so employees will get a month-and-a-half’s worth of their paycheck as a bonus.

The minimum wage for non-tipped employees in Ohio this year is $8.80 but will increase to $9.30 next year, Bates said perception has bloated the number making it difficult for smaller establishments.

“Even though the minimum wage is not at that, with all the publicity everybody thinks they should start at $15 an hour,” Bates said. “It’s all this shifting and the employers couldn’t really prepare for it because they didn’t see it coming. So now if I have to pay my people more to get them or to keep them then I’m probably going to have to hire fewer people, because I’d rather have one good person than to people who are going to leave as soon as they get offer a dollar more an hour. It’s just all these challenges kind of coming together.”

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