Marion County business owners must adapt their hiring practices to attract candidates in an ever-changing workforce that has been evolving for a decade, and particularly since the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic. two years ago, according to experts.
Households that once had two working adults have now figured out how to survive with one person working – or with both working, but one doing it from home. Workers are now looking for jobs that offer good benefits, better pay and flexibility.
“Some people want that flexibility to work from home,” said Kevin Sheilley, president and CEO of the Ocala Metro Chamber & Economic Partnership (CEP). The duration varies, with some people wanting to work from home one day a week, three days a week, or even the whole week.
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Rusty Skinner, CEO of CareerSource Citrus Levy Marion, said people lost their jobs when the pandemic hit in the spring of 2020. At first, laid-off employees were looking for a way to make ends meet. Eventually, families figured out “how to get by with a single working parent,” Skinner said.
Ultimately, workers are looking for different things, and business owners need to re-examine how their business operates.
The number of new jobs and the number of people working remained stable
When we compare the numbers of 2017 to those of 2022, it is clear that Marion is keeping pace. Skinner said 10,000 more jobs were created in five years and 10,000 more people started working in the same period.
“I think some people just don’t work for various reasons,” Skinner said. “I think that’s okay.”
Yet local officials see shortcomings. More than half of Florida residents between the ages of 18 and 64 are not in the labor force. In Marion, only 45% of people in this age group work. Nationally, the labor force participation rate for this age group is 61%.
Local officials are conducting a study to determine why some working-age adults are not working. Early retirement and affordable child care can be two reasons.
“You have people who aren’t looking for a job they once had, but are looking at other professions,” Skinner said. He said people are more patient to find a position that better matches their family dynamics.
The hotel industry is a good example. Many employees said, “‘I don’t want to go back to this profession,'” Skinner noted.
“A lot of things need to be sorted out” when it comes to Marion County’s workforce, he said.
Employers should assess hiring practices and job requirements
Skinner said employers need to look at their hiring practices and job requirements, some of which have been in place for decades and need a refresh.
During the 2008 national recession, companies cut jobs and added responsibilities. Skinner gave an example of a corporate accountant position. During the recession, an accountant may have been laid off and a receptionist brought in to keep the books.
Skinner told businesses that if they’re looking for an accountant today, they shouldn’t advertise for a receptionist with accounting duties. He said they need to advertise for an accountant because hybrid jobs will limit the talent pool.
Another problem: potential red flags.
“Are you turning people down because of something unrelated to the candidate you’re looking for?” Skinner asked. He was specifically talking about criminal records or tattoos being deal breakers.
“Don’t throw away a resume just because they have an arrest history, but look to see if that’s the type of offense that’s really going to cause a problem,” he said.
In the 1970s, Skinner graduated from college with several pals who all had long hair. He was a Vietnam War veteran and couldn’t find a job because of his long hair.
Skinner said he meets some of those same college friends, who now own businesses, and they say they turn down applicants because they have tattoos.
“Wait a minute, didn’t you complain in 1973 or 1974 that nobody would hire you because you had long hair,” Skinner said. “It’s like, wait a minute, what’s going on here? Companies need to take a closer look at the job requirements.”
Officials say employers need to be competitive, especially with wages
Another problem is that many companies keep their wages low. This means that skilled workers move into higher paying positions and low-wage companies end up with applicants without the necessary job skills.
“The job market has changed so much,” Skinner said. “There are so many different pieces that everyone has to adapt to. And we’ve found that’s a big deal.”
Skinner said he asks the company’s human resources employees if they know if their salaries and benefits are competitive.
“If they (other companies) pay three dollars more an hour than you pay, that’s $120 more a week,” Skinner said.
Owner of 2 restaurants says pandemic has changed the hiring landscape
Webster Luzuriaga, owner of Latinos y Mas restaurant and Ipanema Brazilian Steak House, both on South Pine Avenue in Ocala, said he was able to retain some of his dedicated workers, but had to hard to keep waiters, bus boys and dishwashers.
“It’s hard now to hire positions that you can train anyone for,” Luzuriaga said. “It’s hard to find now. I mean, if you have one or two, they don’t last you a few weeks and they’re gone.”
Luzuriaga said hourly pay rates were rising in many industries and employees now had high expectations. “They say, ‘I need to make $15 an hour now.’ “
“It’s hard to compete with construction jobs and warehousing jobs,” Luzuriaga said, adding that employees without skills now have higher expectations. “You get people (job applicants) with no experience who want to make more money.”
He added that small business owners cannot compete with larger companies, especially warehousing companies, which pay significantly more.
“The only real fact is that there aren’t many people available to work in the restaurant industry,” Luzuriaga said.
The crisis is over for most businesses, but challenges remain
Sheilley said most business owners say most of their positions are now filled and that “the crisis article I was hearing about a while ago has kind of stabilized.”
“As we continue to attract new residents, I think that certainly helps us because a lot of them are coming to take jobs and look for jobs,” Sheilley said, adding that Marion added 10,000 new residents. Last year. “A growing community helps fill vacancies.”
Yet workforce challenges remain. Skinner asks employers if they actively recruit high school graduates. “Are you trying to go out there and talk to the kids who are on programs related to your industry?”
Officials also said members of the workforce may not be flexible enough to learn a new trade. Skinner said, “Often people who have had a career for a long time, it’s very difficult for them to see how they can move on to another career.”
“I think it’s going to require adjustments on both sides of the workforce,” he noted.
Joe Callahan can be reached at (352) 817-1750 or email@example.com. Follow him on Twitter @JoeOcalaNews.