FORT WAYNE — After more than a year with COVID-19, employers are finding that good help is hard to find, and keeping the help is even harder. That’s why many employers are taking new steps to keep and retain employees.
“This last year has been challenging for all of us,” said Michael Kirchner, professor of organizational leadership at Purdue University Fort Wayne. “We are talking roughly 50% of adults, our workforce is dealing with mental health challenges and added layers of stress. I think we are seeing why recruitment is such an issue for organizations and why retention is such an issue in organizations. It’s because we have some other basic needs that aren’t necessarily being met.”
The Indiana Department of Workforce Development states that Indiana’s unemployment rate is still under 4%, which is less than the national average. However, more and more employers are placing help wanted signs and looking for recruits.
Experts say that due to the pandemic workers are reprioritizing their values and what’s important to them.
“I’m optimistic,” Kirchner said. “We are headed back toward normalcy. As organization leaders, it’s our reasonability to be empathetic to what everyone is going through and why work isn’t necessarily the first thing we are thinking about. I think that credits opportunity for organization leaders and human resource professionals to be thinking about what are ways in which we can accommodate our workforce.”
Kirchner says the employers around the area are starting to accommodate the workers more. They are becoming more flexible with start times or end times and with how work is being done and when.
Another way businesses are starting to accommodate workers is by giving them time during their workweek to focus and improve on their own career development. Maybe that’s attending a class or a lecture on how to improve. Kirchner says that flexibility shows employees that their employers value them and recognize their contributions and in the long run helps retain those employees.
Companies accommodating and being more flexible can help employees stay at a company, without raising a worker’s pay. However, Kirchner says that the worker’s need must be meant, meaning they are able to afford an apartment or house, food, and other basic necessities.
Several businesses around Fort Wayne, like McDonald’s, Arby’s, and Chipotle have raised wages to try and attract people. Which raised the question of how many companies are still paying minimum wage.
Indiana’s current minimum wage $7.25, and data shows that only 1% of workers are making minimum wage. Out of that 1%, half of those making minimum wage are under the age of 25 and a majority of those people are either high school or college students or have a disability.
However, even though wages are being raised several employers are still having trouble hiring employees. Kirchner says that more often than not employers want to be wanted and feel appreciated.
One trend experts are seeing is that employers are making their employees feel appreciated by giving them better health coverage, more specifically mental health. More insurance providers are offering counseling in their insurance packages.
“We’ve all gone through a difficult time period with COVID,” Kirchner said. “We’ve gone through different stresses and at times we have focused a little bit on ourselves and the challenges we’ve faced. I think it’s important we take the time to look at the world through the other person’s lens. That level of empathy will help us all moving forward.”