How tweaking your hiring approach can attract, retain workers

By |  March 9, 2022
Getting workers back into a pit or quarry in 2022 is sadly easier said than done. Photo: isabela66/iStock / Getty Images Plus/GettY Images

Getting workers back into a pit or quarry in 2022 is sadly easier said than done. Photo: isabela66/iStock / Getty Images Plus/Getty Images

Crushed stone, sand and gravel producers are not alone in finding themselves short of the one thing they need to thrive and grow: workers.

Bank of America recently estimated that 4.6 million workers exited the labor force during the pandemic, but only half are expected to rejoin.

Finding qualified workers remains a challenge in the aggregate industry. Businesses are being forced to offer higher pay and more benefits to staff up and take advantage of the much-anticipated improving economy. Unfortunately, they are competing locally with a slew of big businesses across the country that have been hiking wages and offering enticing bonuses.

The cure

How to coax those badly needed workers off the sidelines remains a problem. Consider just a few of the strategies in play as everyone in the aggregate industry searches for workers – and aims to keep current workers from quitting.

Imagine offering a reward to employees who bring a job candidate on board. Recruiting bonuses, also known as employee referral programs, foster a sense of trust in existing employees to refer good people who they will work well with.

Of course, in order for bonuses to be most effective, there should be similar requirements to determine the success of the referred worker before the bonus is actually paid. The requirements for many programs often include working a set length of time, meeting certain standards and sustaining growth over a certain period.

So-called “signing bonuses” – just like those in professional sports – are becoming more common. A signing bonus is money a business gives an applicant who accepts a job offer.

Depending on the local labor market, aggregate producers may have to offer signing bonuses to attract employees and convince them to accept jobs. Bonuses, however, should not be paid all upfront.

There are two common options. The first and easiest is to pay the signing bonus in installments, such as one-third upon signing, one-third after six months and the balance at the end of the year. The second option is a forgivable loan in which employees receive the entire bonus upfront but sign a promisor note that can be forgiven in stages.

Benefits to attract and retain workers

Survey after survey seems to show that money alone will not attract new workers and keep existing employees on the job. Benefits are also critically important.

No aggregate producer can be an employer of choice without a benefits package. Employees are looking for a sense of security and, in many cases, retirement packages. Helping employees maintain their health and build a stable retirement shows job applicants and existing workers that the business values them.

Job seekers and employees also currently treasure flexibility and the opportunity to balance work with other life responsibilities, interests and issues. Job training, educational assistance and employer-provided vehicles used for business are among the popular – and often necessary – working condition fringe benefits many small businesses offer.

Job training and educational assistance

Seeking outside-the-box workers often means job training, and many employers are finding ways to use a job seeker’s previous experience to place them in new careers. There are also job training and educational cost-assistance programs used to attract job applicants. These are welcomed by existing workers.

On-the-job training provided by employers is a tax-free hiring incentive, as well as an invaluable perk for current employees. Educational assistance and tuition reimbursement are welcomed fringe benefits, as well.

Producers with a formal, written educational assistance plan aren’t required to immediately fund the plan, but only reimburse an employee’s educational expenses – up to $5,250 per employee, per year and tax free. Educational assistance doesn’t just include tuition assistance, but payments for books, equipment and other expenses related to continuing education.

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