Area Businesses Experience Hiring Challenges

Area Businesses Experience Hiring Challenges

Recently the Village’s Industrial and Commercial Development Commission (ICDC), whose role is to help foster a healthy business climate in Northbrook, has focused its attention on the challenges area businesses are facing hiring and retaining employees. The eleven member panel, which includes Chamber President Tensley Garris along with a number of other Chamber business executives, recently invited representatives from a range of retailers to discuss their hiring experiences.

Specifically, the businesses were asked to describe their efforts to recruit and retain employees, their obstacles specific to Northbrook, and how the Village and Chamber could possibly help. All attributed much of their challenge to affluent demographics of the North Shore.

Shaun Nordgaarden, Waterway Carwash, noted that he recruits mostly younger workers which is a challenge in wealthier communities as students lead busy lives and often do not need to work. “We need to work harder and do more to find people,” he commented. While he finds on-line recruiting sites helpful, the successful partnership Waterway has formed with . He uses social media to show photos and videos of the enjoyable work atmosphere which in turn can be shared with others. Once new employees are on board, he says that being flexible with school schedules, sports, and breaks is important. “It’s worth the effort to be accommodating.” Currently Waterway has 75 employees, but is short of its need for 100 workers.

Similarly at Mariano’s, manager Phil Weber noted that his store also struggles to stay fully staffed. An added problem is transportation. Unlike other area stores, the Northbrook Mariano’s is not easily accessible by bus. “It’s very difficult here,” he commented. “We always have a hiring table in front of the store so it raises awareness of our opportunities.” He noted that with students returning to school one of the most difficult periods — September through April — is coming up. Mariano’s currently has 225 workers, but 290 is fully staffed. On average there are 100-125 workers every day; 23% are full time.

“It’s super challenging to hire here due to where we live,” commented Lauren Levy, Lord & Taylor at Northbrook Court. The other store locations have a different demographic and have better access to a train or bus line, so they have a much easier time finding employees. She cites the lack of good transportation options to Northbrook Court, and the fact that schedules at her store can’t be as flexible, as the major hiring obstacles. This month will begin the recruitment period for holiday workers. Currently, Lord & Taylor has 60 employees with 3 job openings.

HR Manager Sarah Burns echoed similar experiences at Macy’s at Northbrook Court, noting a significant decline in applications. With Chicago’s minimum wage increase to $10.50 an hour, the store recently decided to increase its starting wage and hiring minors. With 100 employees on site, there will be a need for an additional 30 workers after August, she predicted.

Offering perks is one way retailers lure and retain employees. Both Macy’s and Lord & Taylor offer up to a 25% discount on merchandise, special discount days and employee recognition for reaching sales goals. Mariano’s offers a 10% discount on merchandise, engagement activities including cookouts or pizza lunches as well as an “Ambassador of the Week” program that rewards employees with gift cards. The Waterway Perk Program offers discounts on gas to workers along with a tuition reimbursement program.
The executives said that in addition to exploring transportation improvements, and possibly holding a job fair, assistance building partnerships with area high schools and colleges would also go a long way to help with their recruitment efforts.

Also experiencing workforce challenges, local corporations and trade businesses have been invited to also share their thoughts with the ICDC. After listening to all of the presentations, the Chamber will partner with the Village to determine how to best be helpful. Additional comments about Northbrook hiring experiences are welcome from other businesses. Send an e-mail to or dschoon’ type=’text/javascript’>