Flathead Employers Work to Find Labor Solutions

Workforce industry leaders shared recruitment and retention strategies at the Kalispell Chamber luncheon on Feb. 15

By Maggie Dresser
A job fair at the Gateway Community Center. Beacon file photo

To address the local workforce shortage in the Flathead Valley, officials at the Kalispell Chamber of Commerce, Convention and Visitor Bureau invited industry professionals to share solutions for recruiting and retaining employees at a luncheon on Feb. 15.

As employees exit the workforce to seek early retirement, head back to school or stay home to care for their children due to a lack of childcare, employers locally and nationwide are struggling to keep a full staff and operate at full capacity.   

Aside from wage increases, John Caldwell of Kalispell Job Service says a quality company culture is becoming important and he suggests offering a flexible schedule for employees like four tens or split schedules to accommodate their personal lives.

At Nomad Global Communications Solutions in Columbia Falls, Workforce Development Specialist Dorothy Meyer says managers began offering flexible schedules including four tens and 9 a.m. to 2 p.m. shifts to work with parents.

“We are taking a deep dive into how we look at recruitment,” Meyer said.  

The leadership team at Nomad is thinking outside the box to recruit and retain employees, Meyer said, and creating an inclusive and accommodating company culture that priorotizes a work-life balance has become a key factor.

While Nomad offers regular wage increases, they also offer perks like gear deals and consistent feedback to their employees and managers alike, which helps keep employee happiness on the radars of bosses.

“Company culture matters,” Meyer said. “It’s an employee’s market. They want a place that cares about their work-life balance.”

Caldwell identified the most common reasons employees are quitting their jobs, which include inflexible work arrangements, no opportunity for advancement, burnout, feeling undervalued, underutilized or disengaged, and a poor company culture.

Frequent wage reviews are important, Caldwell says, and some companies are offering quarterly pay increases instead of annual raises, daycare and housing stipends and retention bonuses.

Monitoring employee stress levels is also important to retain workers, Caldwell said, and Kalispell Job Service offers training opportunities for employers to run their businesses efficiently to prevent a short staff from burning out.

Strategically appointing staff members for appropriate positions and teams has helped Dan Vogel, assistant director of food and beverage and Xanterra Travel Collection in Glacier National Park, to maintain healthy working environments and he offers consistent communication and feedback for his employees.

“I have all five working generations,” Vogel said. “I have 75-year-olds working next to 18-year-olds. It is a marvelous palette of colors and personalities and each one of those generations is different. The very best match is a millennial and a baby boomer. Look at your staff … different age groups perform in different ways and you need to handle them differently.”

Caldwell suggests 360-degree feedback and offering a rating system to recognize if an employee needs more training or if they need to shift into a different role that is more appropriate for their skillset.

“The new phrase for 2022 is the Great Retention,” Caldwell said.

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