How to Attract and Keep Employees in 2021

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by Advice Chaser
by Advice Chaser
person holding handle of faucet

If you run a business, especially if it’s in the leisure or hospitality industry, you might be struggling to attract and keep employees right now. Just over a year ago, many restaurant and hotel businesses laid off most of their staff due to COVID shutdowns. Over that year, those workers have either survived on unemployment or moved to other industries. 

Now, you want them back, but they’ve moved on! How can you tempt workers back to your business and convince them to stick around?

Respect the Risks They Take

For many employees, returning to work has put them at risk of contracting COVID. Hospitality workers have had some of the highest COVID mortality in the nation, with line cooks topping the list at 60% increased mortality in the past year. Even for workers who contract a mild case, missing work has often meant missed wages and hospital bills. It’s no surprise no one wants to take this risk for an employer that doesn’t offer sick days or health insurance.

Another factor making hospitality work undesirable is the job of enforcing mask mandates. While these rules come from above, store and restaurant workers are usually the ones who have to police them. Most customers comply, but every day workers have to deal with a few people who pitch a fit or even threaten them. “For every 10 people who are so happy you are taking a risk to serve them, you have one who talks to you like a child and throws a fit when asked to wear a mask,” one hospitality worker told Washington Beer Blog.

How can employers alleviate and counterbalance those risks to keep their employees? First, respect. A sign outside reading “Heroes Work Here” means nothing without respect and appreciation from management. A simple “thank you for putting up with this” goes a long way. Never treat your employees like children; they’re dealing with unprecedented difficulty at work and deserve acknowledgement for that.

Second, nothing shows respect like a raise. Many successful businesses, including Costco, Walmart, and Target, have offered hazard pay to frontline workers. That helps show appreciation as well as compensating employees for the increased difficulty and risk of their jobs this year.

Be Flexible

The biggest share of people leaving the job market these days belongs to mothers. A staggering 2.2 million women have left the workforce between 2019 and 2020. Women who were happy to work when school was in session have had to leave their careers to care for their children. Good childcare is hard to find, and the hourly cost often exceeds minimum wage.

Working mothers benefit the most from flexible hours, wherever possible. Demanding full availability may discourage potential employees who would otherwise like to work for you. Instead, consider hiring several part-time workers to cover different shifts, and have a generous parental leave policy. Since no children can yet be vaccinated, children may lose out on days of school or childcare because of a COVID exposure. Even responsible workers may have no choice but to call out to care for them.

“It means a lot for a boss to say that if I need to go get my kid early, school closes suddenly, etc., I can attend to it at no cost to my employment,” working mother Lela Moore told Advice Chaser. “I’m not going to exploit it, but just having it there keeps me invested.”

It’s a Worker’s Market

Because of the number of people who have left the workforce or switched to less risky careers, those who still want to work in the service industry are valuable assets. Market forces dictate that these workers can demand much more in wages and benefits than they could before.

When buying or selling a house, the state of the market determines who has the power. It’s the same in the labor market today. Your potential employees know they are valuable assets and aren’t facing the same competition for jobs as they once were. Someone you offer a job may have several other offers at the same time—even if you’re hiring a waiter or line cook. So consider how you can sweeten the deal to outshine your competition. Are your wages higher than the fast food chain down the road? Do you offer better benefits? Is there more room to move upward in the company?

The Takeaway for Keeping Your Employees

The straight truth is, between now and September, the labor market is likely to remain tight. This is your chance to demonstrate to your employees why you’re a better option than your competition. Workers will not forget the employers who fired them in March 2020 and then whined they couldn’t keep staffed in May 2021. They also won’t forget who made it possible for them to continue earning a living even in a difficult time.

There’s a bright side to all this, however. With vaccinations reaching over half of Americans now, the economy is starting to boom. Economists hope for a “post-COVID summer” with massive profits for restaurants, hotels, and the entire leisure sector. Any investment you make in your employees is likely to pay off.

If you’d like to improve your benefits package or run a cashflow analysis to consider raising wages, a business financial advisor can help. Contact us to be connected with an expert today.

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