Retention strategies are key as employers tap into a market with few job seekers

Amid record unemployment, it’s hard to find employees in Montana, not just the Flathead Valley. Yet work continues locally to promote strategies that can help businesses retain the employees they already have.

Montana’s unemployment rate is the fifth lowest in the nation, falling from 2.7% in January to 2.6% in February, according to the Montana Department of Labor and Industry. Flathead County’s unemployment rate is just over 3.8%.

John Caldwell, a workforce consultant with the workforce services division of the state Department of Labor’s Kalispell Employment Service, said the situation is such that employers are beginning to understand more and more how important it is to keep the people they have, due to the lack of people who are unemployed and looking for a job.

“Employers are really starting to realize that when they lose someone, it’s hard to fill that position. We always hear about the cost of turnover, don’t we? And the cost of turnover is very high, especially these days,” Caldwell said.

A recent Pew Research Center survey Determined low pay, a lack of opportunities for advancement and feeling disrespected at work were among the top reasons people quit their jobs in the past year. The same Pew survey found that people who quit and are now working elsewhere are more likely than not to say their new job offers better pay, more opportunities for advancement, better work-life balance and more. of flexibility.

Lorraine Clarno, president and CEO of the Kalispell Chamber of Commerce, said more than a decade ago it was already expected that growing retirement among the baby boomer generation, to a rate of about 15,000 retirees per day by 2018 or 2019, was going to affect the labor market.

“What we didn’t know was that at the same time we would have a global pandemic that really transformed the way people understand what’s important to them, and some people really adjusted their lifestyles and all kinds of extra stuff,” she said. said, adding that the difficulty in finding employees is not a problem that will go away anytime soon.

Clarno and Caldwell both mentioned company culture as an important retention factor for companies. In Caldwell’s eyes, culture is a complicated thing to develop.

“It’s not an overnight process,” he said. “It’s basically building a good brand, and it will also help you with your recruiting efforts.”

He said it’s the first thing he talks about in his efforts to help educate businesses and offer advice. According to Caldwell, some strategies for creating a strong company culture that can help with employee retention include creating an employee recognition program and also encouraging open lines of communication.

“I think any employer in Flathead or anywhere else, if they don’t dive deep into all the culture and benefits stuff, they’re really going to miss out,” Clarno said. She sees culture as a combination of things that can include offering employees a different menu of benefits and flexible work choices, including remote working. A continuous feedback loop is also something that’s increasingly important for employees, according to Clarno.

On a larger scale, there are local companies like Nomad Global Communication Solutions, which specializes in voice, video and data communication technologies and employs over 100 people. Nomad has a culture team working on the issue, and the company has openly shared some of the strategies it uses to retain employees, including equipment deals, consistent feedback, and regular pay raises.

Dorothy Meyer, Workforce Development and Community Outreach Specialist for Nomad, has been with the company for about six months. During this time, she learned that employers need to be able to put themselves in the shoes of employees to better understand what they are looking for. In the Flathead Valley, for example, this means thinking about issues like housing and childcare and how the business can help.

Meyer has spoken on the subject at chamber of commerce events in Kalispell and Evergreen over the past two months. When Nomad was initially approached by Kalispell’s chamber, there was some reluctance that the company could give them a hand. However, they ultimately decided that sharing their strategies was in line with the company’s core values.

“If we’re able to help another company with the same issues as us, then we’re doing better because we’re doing the right thing,” she said.

Engaging in these conversations and bringing them out into the open is part of how Clarno sees the chamber helping solve a problem it can’t solve on its own and companies can’t ignore.

“Staying stagnant and doing what you’ve always done isn’t going to work,” she said.

For more tips on recruitment and retention strategies for Flathead Valley businesses, Job Service Kalispell has prepared pamphlets with links to additional resources. For retention strategies click here. For recruitment strategies click here.

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