Hiring and Retaining Entry Level Employees

 In 2019

If you’ve hired employees and/or lost employees to competitors during the past year, you know the challenges of the current labor market, and hopefully have taken some proactive steps to address those issues. But for those employers attempting to hire – and keep – entry level employees, the challenges are particularly daunting.

Turnover in industries with high numbers of entry level employees (retail, food service, healthcare) has always been high. But some of the current statistics are eye-popping:

• The retail industry reported 75% first year turnover in 2017
• 90% of entry-level TSA screeners at SEATAC airport left prior to completing 1 year of service
• 37% of home health aides in the Seattle area left during their first 3 weeks of employment

And to not just pick on Seattle, there were 2,917 entry level jobs posted in San Francisco last week – with starting salaries of $15.00+/hr.
Entry level employees want many of the same things in a job as other employees. Often, though, their needs are different. They may work multiple jobs and may have housing, transportation, scheduling, and child care concerns that other employees don’t. In 2017, the Rockefeller Foundation conducted a comprehensive study of a group the researchers identified as Opportunity Youth – people aged 18 – 24 who were entering the workforce without a 4-year college degree. Participants in the study cited these items as their biggest “wants” from their jobs:

1. A livable wage
2. A fair, respectful manager
3. Work/life balance
4. Skills training that is job-specific
5. A consistent schedule

The high number of open jobs and a pool of candidates that isn’t increasing in size means that a lot of companies are competing for the same workers. Successful recruitment and retention often requires some out-of-the-box thinking to address these needs and wants. Here are some examples that I particularly like. Note that some of these ideas come from large organizations and some from very small ones:

• A large grocery store chain based in the NE invests in significant training and education for their frontline, entry-level employees, especially those facing barriers to economic opportunity. The rewards – increased retention, reduced recruitment costs, and a place on Fortune’s “Best Places to Work” list.

• A hospital and skilled nursing facility situated next door to each other in a small city adjusted their shifts to align and persuaded the local bus company to send buses at the end of the shifts to pick up workers and bus them to the central transportation hub. Employees had less outdoor wait time (important in a cold-weather climate) and arrived home earlier, increasing family time and often reducing child care costs as well.

• A pizza franchise owner in a small but fast-growing western city gives ALL employees paid holidays and a week of paid vacation after one year of service. There’s a cost to this, but it is more than offset by increased retention and reduced recruitment costs. And yes they are open on holidays – the owners and their family staff the stores on those days.

• A small manufacturer located in a rural area purchased a large van to pick up workers at the transportation hub in the nearest city and drive them back and forth to work. Because public transportation wasn’t running when their shifts ended, second and third shift workers were often dropped off directly at their homes.

And a couple of not-so-successful ideas:

• A small restaurant in my hometown of Phoenix that served breakfast and lunch decided to stay open and serve an “occasional” dinner on no preset schedule. The entire staff of cooks and servers quit during one week, and, unable to find replacements (Indeed.com currently shows 11,079 food service jobs available in the area – and no, that number is not a misprint), the restaurant closed the following week.

• A skilled nursing facility (also in Phoenix) changed their first-shift hours to end at 4 pm. A lot of employees left as a result. Why? The previous shift hours ended at 2 pm, giving employees time to get home before their school-age children. It’s not easy to find replacements for these jobs either. Indeed.com currently shows 647 Nursing Assistant jobs available in the area.

Bottom line – be aware of the unique needs and wants of your entry level employees. Doing all that you can to meet them will lead to successful recruitment and retention. And if you need any help with your compensation needs, give us at Affinity HR Group a call!

By Susan Palé, CCP – Affinity HR Group, Inc.

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