Employers Battle Tight Job Market

Employers Battle Tight Job Market

Free Resources Available from Chamber
As businesses return to something resembling pre-pandemic operations, many are finding themselves shorthanded.  A variety of considerations — the availability of supplemental unemployment benefits, child care demands, health concerns related to COVID, and more — appear to be constraining workers from returning to the job market. Although the impact of these factors may be temporary, employers should take advantage of Chamber resources to help fill their openings.

Restaurant owner Kevin Weasler, Culver’s of Northbrook, has been working to grow his workforce since opening in June 2020.  Launched during the pandemic, his business operations evolved from drive-through only to now offering indoor dining, drive-through, and online orders. Ramping up those services required extra staffing, but attracting adult applications has been challenging.

“This is the tightest job market I’ve ever seen,” notes Weasler. “We’ve had a fair number of applications from high school kids, but we’re seeing fewer for regular adult team members.  I would definitely be hiring more of them if they were applying.”  The company’s above-average pay scale, benefits package, and flexible scheduling have historically been strong attractions for candidates. “We offer a good working environment with opportunities for career growth.  Hopefully, this is just a temporary situation,” says Weasler.

Manufacturers see similar pressures. Maggie Khembo-Gary, Senior HR Manager for Bell Flavors and Fragrances, points to high demand for individuals with production skills. “One of the challenges in our niche industry is finding people with the skills to operate specialized machinery,” she comments. “Our high pay rates are a competitive advantage, and we’ve ramped up premiums for our second and third shifts.  We’ve also found that referrals from current employees are very helpful, so we’ve added incentives for them to suggest candidates that they know.”

Lucy Torres, Express Employment Services, has seen a shift in the expectations of potential employees. “We have seen a big change in the market in terms of available workforce,” she shares. “We still have job seekers looking for work, but they are now seeking more salary as we hear time and time again that they can’t manage raising a family or meeting general day-to-day expenses on a low salary. Many job seekers are also looking for a flexible employer. The pandemic has created an issue for families who have challenges with childcare, schooling hours, and medical needs.”

Your Chamber membership includes access to free job posts on northbrookchamber.org, which then appear automatically on the Chamber’s public Facebook and Twitter platforms. To create a job posting, log in to access the Member Portal or contact Communications Manager Carolyn Gessner for assistance.

Oakton Community College encourages businesses to take advantage of its free recruitment services to connect with students via Oakton’s College Central Network software.  Employers can register and post job opportunities with either Oakton Community College exclusively or with the CCJobNet partnership, reaching 13 area community colleges. Employers offering internships for Oakton students can contact Shannon McKenzie, 847.376.7165 or 847.635.1404 or mckenzie@oakton.edu.

Employers in the hospitality industry can share job openings at no charge via Chicago’s North Shore Convention and Visitors Bureau’s website.  A simple online form allows businesses to add hotel, restaurant, retail, and event services/supplies employment opportunities in North Shore suburbs. Participating communities include Evanston, Glencoe, Glenview, Northbrook, Northfield, Prospect Heights, Skokie, Wheeling, and Winnetka.

The expected end of enhanced Illinois unemployment benefits in September, coupled with increased state support of childcare for low-income families, may relieve some of the pressure on the labor market soon. In the meantime, Lucy Torres suggests that employers think creatively about how to meet the needs expressed by potential employees. “Be open to thinking outside the normal work schedule that you have in place,” says Torres. “There is more than one way to do something and in this competitive arena employers really need patience and understanding in dealing with employee requests.”