Small enterprise homeowners are nervous about hiring new employees at the beginning of the summer time
Alison Schuch, owner of Fells Point Surf Company.
Courtesy: Alison Schuch
As summer rolls around, Alison Schuch, owner of Fells Point Surf Co., has lost about 10 workers at her two beachfront retail locations as a perfect storm of reasons leads to a post-pandemic staffing crisis.
The lack of affordable summer housing, low availability of childcare places, inflation and the rebalancing of work and personal life in recent years have meant that the pool of applicants differs from what it once was.
“It was just difficult to reconcile the expectations of the team and the needs of the company and the needs on both sides,” said Schuch, “and then also the expectations of the customers – because you had to close earlier.” Because we didn’t have enough people
“Customers want what they want. Convenience has become a hugely important factor because you can go online and get whatever you want,” said Schuch, who runs Fell’s Point Surf Co. locations in the Fells Point area of Baltimore, Maryland and Dewey Beach, Delaware , as well as sister store Tangerine Goods in Bethany Beach, Delaware.
With summer hiring season in full swing, small business owners like Schuch have lingering concerns about filling vacancies to meet consumer demand. Job quality was the top concern for nearly a quarter of National Federation of Independent Business (NFIB) members surveyed in May, according to the small business advocacy group.
The quality of work has fluctuated between the #1 and #2 most important issue for NFIB members over the past few months. The industries where companies are feeling the labor shortage Construction, transportation and manufacturing are among the top challenges, but retail and restaurant owners also report challenges.
In May, 44% of homeowners reported vacancies they couldn’t fill, while 38% said they were looking for skilled workers, according to the NFIB. While owners have concerns about future business conditions and a possible recession, they are still trying to hire staff and raise wages to attract workers.
Brendan McCluskey said he feels the lack of talent to hire at his Baltimore construction company Trident Builders. In his opinion, the search for qualified workers is currently one of the biggest problems in a highly competitive environment, and the shortage is driving up wages.
“We’re on the verge of real growth opportunities, and [the concern is] Will I be able to staff there?” McCluskey said. “I’m trying to get to the next level and almost the next weight class and that would allow us to stabilize our earnings, grow, invest in people, invest. You honestly just make more money in systems.”
Comprehensive immigration reform would also help close the gap, according to some industry advocates, such as the National Restaurant Association. The group has called on Congress to take action to strengthen visa policies and the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program, reduce waiting times for asylum seekers, and create the Essential Workers for Economic Advancement program. EWEA, introduced in a House bill last month, would allow workers to come to the US to fill “market-driven” roles on three-year nonimmigrant visas.
“There is no one-size-fits-all solution to the industry’s recruitment challenge, but even incremental changes in immigration policy would be significant progress,” said Sean Kennedy, executive vice president of public affairs at the National Restaurant Association, in a statement.
“The hospitality industry is growing its workforce faster than the rest of the economy,” he added. “We expect an additional 500,000 jobs to be created by the end of the year, but with one jobseeker for every two vacancies, operators are struggling to fill vacancies. Augmenting the workforce with legal expatriate workers would be a win-win for desperate employers who need employees and individuals looking for training and opportunities.”
Back at the beach shops, Schuch said she’s noticed a slight drop in consumer spending as shoppers appear to be paying closer attention to their spending. However, she hopes to be able to continue to think long-term in view of the personnel challenges.
Employee satisfaction comes first.
“We are only as strong as our weakest link and I want us all to be strong and for people to be happy to come to work,” she said. “I think people are probably the most important thing that keeps me up at night right now.”