Power Idea from Deb Mazzaferro, Senior Alliance Partner

There’s been much lamenting in the news about the lack of job seekers as the economy roars back from the COVID pandemic lockdown. In our consulting practices, we hear how difficult it is to fill jobs.

Twenty + states have decided to reject Federal funding that allows an extra $300 per week in unemployment benefits that many believe are keeping people from taking jobs.

Is it true that people would rather not work? NPR did a spot on Stockton CA’s Universal Basic Income experiment. If you are unfamiliar with UBI, Andrew Yang wrote a great book on it. Both disprove the premise that if you give people free money, they won’t work.

First, let’s consider some reasons people may prefer not to return to work:

  • Pay is certainly one reason. The Federal minimum wage is $7.25 / hour. That means a 40-hour work week is worth $290 before taxes. Annually $15,080. About 2% of hourly workers earn this. The Federal poverty level for one person is $12,880.
  • The average hourly wage in the US is nearly $30 / hour. For an industry-by-industry chart click here.
  • Childcare costs on average $10,000 per year.
  • Commuting time varies greatly by city and state. In my city, having a car means your drive time is under 30 minutes, but public transportation can be 1.5 hours.
  • People are under-skilled. Many better paying jobs went unfilled prior to the pandemic. Job training during the pandemic is filling these better jobs with retrained workers, leaving their old food service and hospitality jobs without takers. This is demonstrated in this PBS Newshour featuring this Rhode Island program.
  • Fear of catching COVID. Even with the vaccine available, people are afraid to work next to others who haven’t been vaccinated. As of this writing, only 43% are fully vaccinated in the US. This Mayo Clinic website will give you up-to-date figures.
  • Lack of benefits. Many hourly wage jobs don’t include health insurance, paid vacation, sick pay, retirement contributions or family leave. The smaller the company the less likely they can afford to provide these benefits.

So, what can employers do to attract and keep a healthy, engaged team?

  • Consider your employees a vital part of your success. They are a part of your community, not a commodity.
  • Create job descriptions and stick to them. Don’t pile on the responsibilities unless your employee agrees to the upgraded tasks.
  • Require vaccinations. This has recently been deemed legal and helps people feel safe at work.
  • Research local community centers or government agencies that provide individuals with basic skills to enter the job market. You may be able to hire on a temp basis… giving you a chance to try out workers who you might not otherwise consider.
  • Find childcare facilities near you. Most families look for childcare near their homes, but if the child is near the parent’s work it is easier to interact during the day and in case of emergencies. Parents and children can commute together. Even better, set up a day care center in your business. Parents can eat lunch with their children!
  • Advertise locally for new employees. Establish relationships with churches and schools within 30 minutes of your facility. Some people may not be looking for work, but their pastor or teacher may steer them your way. In Florida, there are nearly 500,000 unfilled jobs but only 152,000 on the unemployment rolls.
  • Research your local government programs. With COVID relief funding many cities and towns are going to be launching programs to improve services for their employers and underserved communities. You can be part of the conversation on what you need from the start of these programs.
  • Happy employees spread the word about great work environments. Have a strong onboarding process with a check list. Create mentoring programs. You have current employees who do great work, have them mentor new employees on how to navigate the work environment and how to get ahead.
  • Create incentives and bonus pools. Set up clear goals for your team to accomplish. When you have an outstanding month or quarter, share the bounty. It can be as simple as pizza day or an extra paycheck. Be sure to outline the criteria for such rewards and keep people informed of the company progress.
  • Offer incentives for creative ideas. Have a suggestion box. Reward good ideas that save the company money.
  • Provide “Healthy at Work” Employees will lose fewer workdays if they stay healthy. Physical and emotional wellness equals a happy and cohesive workplace.
  • Have computers set up in the break room for employees to order online, saving them time at home. Allow employees to receive packages/groceries at work.
  • Flextime can cut commute time by allowing employees to start and stop at non-peak times of the day saving time and frustration.

There are many creative solutions to employment hiring and retention. Be creative, hire a consultant, join a local business group, tap your Chamber of Commerce or SBDC (Small Business Development Center).

Deb Mazzaferro is a small business coach generalist who has aided 200+ client companies over 20 years. Her proprietary two-day workshop is a deep dive into your company’s positives and pain points helping your executive team to regroup, reach consensus and achieve new heights. Deb is an Alliance Partner at HPISolutions and President of her own firm.  You can reach Deb through info@hpisolutions.com.


  • hpiadmin

    From eyerishtea: “This was great! I’ve been arguing with friends that it really isn’t just free money keeping people out of jobs! You explained it well and the ideas for attracting people were good ones. Hope many bosses read this and use the ideas. Well done.”

  • Tracey L Wiseman

    Your article gives an employer a ‘package” of actions that will attract new hires and retain them. Thanks for a concise listing of “to do’s” for this challenging time we are operating in. Good job

  • Pat Fling

    Good article Deb! I am glad you cracked open the myth that people don’t want to work. Now sell that to Florida’s Governor who believes this. I have found that networking enabled me to vet and recruit new employees in a pain free way.

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