I may have mentioned in a previous column that my husband Bart is co-owner of a bar/restaurant in our lake town. Since Bart and I married, I have helped with marketing the business. The summer months are especially busy because our small lake town fills with visitors, and seasonal residents return to enjoy their lake homes. Therefore, we are always in a hiring frenzy in the spring to ensure the new staff is trained before the busy summer. Because the service industry tends to attract folks who are looking for extra income or are just starting out in life, the bar’s staff is constantly changing.
My husband and his partners have always paid well over minimum wage even for staff members who receive tips. Employees who do well receive multiple raises during the year because when someone is good, the owners and manager want to keep him or her. However, it has always been difficult to hire new staff and, unfortunately, 2022 takes the prize for most difficult hiring year yet.
We live in a town of approximately 1,100 people—not to mention, because it’s a lake town, there are three bars and three dedicated restaurants in town, so we’re all competing in the same small hiring pool. Over the years, we’ve tried newspaper and radio advertising; flyers in our town, surrounding towns and in our bar/restaurant; gift certificates to patrons and staff who recommend someone who is hired; and social media marketing. Our latest social media blitz features testimonials from former staff members about what a great place our establishment is to work. They all have their own opinions about what they enjoyed—from the obvious tips, to making new friends when they were new in town, to flexibility with scheduling, to the ribbing from regular customers and more. Despite using all of these avenues this year, as of this writing, we received only two applications when we need to hire a minimum of six people.
In this issue of retrofit, not only are we covering hospitality and entertainment projects—whose owners and managers hopefully are having better luck than my husband keeping their businesses fully staffed—but we also tackle the labor shortage that is seriously affecting the construction industry. Jim Schneider, our “Trend Alert” columnist, did a stellar job outlining the complicated causes that have led to where the industry finds itself, as well as some solutions, with assistance from key industry experts.
For example, Kermit Baker, chief economist with the American Institute of Architects, identifies three main issues—demographics, recruitment and marketing—affecting the construction labor shortage. Demographics itself encompasses two more problems: a shortage of immigrant workers due to increasingly strict border policies and a dramatic lack of women in construction.
Baker’s thoughts are supported by insight from Ken Simonson, chief economist with the Associated General Contractors of America; Jason P. Lien, P.E., executive vice president of EnCon United, producers of precast/prestressed concrete systems; Jennifer Ford-Smith, chair of the EPDM Roofing Association and head of marketing and product management for Johns Manville; and Andy Holub, vice president, pre-construction and special services director for Clune Construction, a national general contractor. Read Schneider’s story now.
As for the staffing shortage at my husband’s business, he and I plan to take some shifts ourselves, in the hopes that Bart and his partners won’t have to make the difficult choice of closing. However, I’m a much better editor than server, so I plan to stick with my day job!