Employers stepping up their game to entice workers

Chamber official says three main factors playing into shortage

Heidi Ratti has more than 80 openings at XPO Logistics in La Salle.

Within a reported labor shortage, Ratti, the senior vice presidents of human resources at XPO, said her company is focused on making sure it has the workforce to meet the requirements of its customers.

According to Ratti, these initiatives have included streamlining hourly pay, investing through merit increases and sign-on bonuses. Ratti said the company has focused on hiring and promoting from within as a way to strengthen their workforce.

Ratti’s company is not alone in the Illinois Valley, or across the country for that matter.

Executive Director of the Illinois Valley Chamber of Commerce Bill Zens talks with businesses and industries regularly dealing with the labor shortage, and he said there are three main factors that have played into this issue.

Zens mentioned many in the older working population have elected for earlier retirement.

“They saw that they can actually retire and be OK or start my pension now and I don’t have to work another three to five years,” Zens said. “I can get out early and here’s a reason to get out.”

Zens also mentioned he has seen the exit of many women from the workforce because of the pandemic. The reasons for this population vacating jobs varies by the individual person or family, but many focus on childcare.

“It’s been kind of a secondary one that no one thought was going to happen, but because of kids being out of school and schools not knowing for sure what their schedules are, there was a major exodus of females in the workforce,” Zens said. “They haven’t necessarily all come back.”

The final reason Zens acknowledged was individuals leaving their former jobs for personal reasons during the pandemic.

“You had people leave, they were gone for whatever reason, and then they decided ‘You know what, that job wasn’t super fulfilling. I think I’m going to start a coffee shop or craft business or whatever it is,’” Zens said.

While just getting applicants may be a struggle Ratti said many businesses are looking for the right applicants that want to be around for a longer period of time.

“I think the most important piece is attracting the talent you want, not just to stay for 30 days or six months,” Ratti said. “It’s who these people are that you want to attract for a longer term and you have to do that through a variety of ways and that includes investing in them.”

XPO has implemented new rewarding and recognition programs for employees in an attempt to get creative amongst the shortage of drivers and other workers. Ratti believes these initiatives and their truck driving training schools have helped the company grow from within while continuing to attract new talent to the organization.

Zens stated that the percentage of business startups during the pandemic was one of the highest new business launching times in a very long time.

These new opportunities, or in some cases necessities, have all played a part in the current disconnect between employer and employee, according to Zens.

“The relationship with employers, I don’t know if it was necessarily impacted, but COVID has had multiple impacts that you might not have thought about,” Zens said.

With these new issues or opportunities that prospective employees are dealing with, attention has also turned to what employers, especially locally, are doing to attract and maintain their existing and new workforce.

Zens also mentioned the actual act of hiring a new employee may seem simpler on the outside than how it actually works for most businesses.

“Businesses need people, but from being in the corporate world for so long and running my office for the time I did, the cost to onboard doesn’t make sense just to jump into somebody to have to fire or let them go or have them leave in three months.”

Zens said the on-boarding process can be an expensive one for the business. This creates the want for businesses to bring on people to stay for a longer period of time rather than have a shorter term solution.

This, along with application systems that only pass along inquiries that hit certain buzz words, can lead to a frustrating experience for individuals that are looking to find employment, according to Zens.

Zens said here are people in the Illinois Valley looking for high quality employment and organizations, such as his, are looking to connect qualified employees with potential employers.

“There’s opportunity,” Zens said. “We did a career fair last month and we had everything from entry levels to part time to skilled labors roles. The market is there and it’ll be interesting to see, between us Princeton and Ottawa, where those roles go if they are still open in another month.”

Zens mentioned the traffic on the chamber’s job posting website has increased from around 600 hits in September to around 2,600 hits in October.

“People are looking,” Zens said. “We’ve got hands available and we’ve got roles available and now it’s just connecting them all together is the situation that we are in locally.”