From the Chamber: Staffing struggles in businesses | SteamboatToday.com

From the Chamber: Staffing struggles in businesses

Kara Stoller
For Steamboat Pilot & Today
Kara Stoller
John F. Russell

Businesses in Routt County are thriving. But they are also struggling with issues like employee attraction and retention that make running a business in a mountain town, no matter the size, uniquely challenging.  

Having a fully staffed team is often an issue for local businesses. The unemployment rate in Routt County, as of December 2019, is 1.7%, compared to the state of Colorado unemployment rate of 2.4%. That’s the lowest for the state over the past 40-plus years.

I doubt there is one employer in our county who hasn’t been feeling the strain of needing more team members over the past year or more. Amid hiring and rehiring or going for months on end at a deficit of employees, it can be hard to invest in continuing education opportunities and employee benefits. Fostering company culture can feel like a far cry from where an employer can spend their resources when onboarding and rehiring are taking up so much time and effort. 

Knowing the challenges businesses are having with employee retention and attraction, our team has brought a renewed focus to supporting employers through this challenge. 

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As Henry Ford so wisely stated, “The only thing worse than training your employees and losing them is not training them and having them stay.”

Recent research supports his time-honored sentiment. A 2018 report from LinkedIn found 94% of employees surveyed would stay with a company if it invested in their continued learning and development. 

The Harvard Business Review stated lack of growth opportunities is a key reason for employee turnover, and a Gallup study stated that 87% of millennials say professional development is important in a job.

At the Steamboat Springs Chamber, we work to bring frequent continuing education opportunities to our members. We can tap into the incredible number of experts who live in the area, and employers can offer those experiences to their team at very reasonable costs. 

A recent example of a continuing education event we hosted was The Art of Professional Confrontation led by Craig Wasserman. Over 90 people attended and left with key actions items to proactively address issues, have difficult conversations and move forward positively and productively. 

Trainings such as these are avenues for employers to provide continuing education opportunities that better arm or reinforce employees with skills to tackle challenges. Additionally, an employer’s action of providing continuing education to an employee sends a message that the employee is valued.

Health care and benefits are other factors that play critical roles in employee retention and attraction. A 2018 survey conducted for America’s Health Insurance Plans, a trade association for health insurers, showed 56% of U.S. adults with employer-sponsored health benefits said that whether or not they like their health coverage is a key factor in deciding to stay at their current job. From that survey, 46% said health insurance was either the deciding factor or a positive influence in choosing their current job. 

Health insurance premiums in Routt County can be similar to a mortgage payment. Knowing that the ability for smaller businesses to provide traditional health insurance for employees is often not an option, in 2018 the Chamber made a health care coverage option available to our membership. The Small Association Leadership Alliance Healthcare Program is an alternative to traditional insurance for small businesses and entrepreneurs.

The Chamber staff has also been working closely with the First Impressions Council to find ways to better support working parents. In 2018, the Routt County Early Education Community Plan was created. Throughout 2019, subcommittees have been working on strategies to execute the community plan. Recently, the work of First Impressions and the community plan has been refocused on both immediate and long-term solutions. In 2020, among additional efforts, we will launch a new resource to help employers better retain and attract working parents. 

“Nearly 40% (of working parents) have actually left a job because of the lack of work flexibility options, and an additional 20% are actively looking (for new jobs with flexibility). From recruiting and retention perspectives, it is costly to any company for more than half of their working parent employees to leave or consider leaving,” said Sara Sutton Fell, founder and CEO of FlexJobs, a Boulder-based company.

A Deloitte study found that 94% of executives and 88% of employees believe a distinct workplace culture is important to business success. Additionally, Deloitte found that there is a correlation between employees who say they are “happy at work” and feel “valued by (their) company” and those who say their organization has a clearly articulated and lived culture. 

On May 21, the Chamber will host a three-hour comprehensive workshop designed to help business leaders take charge and own their organization’s culture. At the conclusion of this workshop, participants will be able to use tools to identify and evaluate their current company culture, clarify their organization’s cultural goals and create a strategy to make cultural changes. 

Employee retention and attraction will continue to be a challenge. How companies adapt is what will set them apart. Our goal at the Chamber is to provide innovative solutions so that businesses and community members can thrive. 

Kara Stoller is the Steamboat Springs Chamber CEO.


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