News From Terre Haute, Indiana

August 25, 2013

Employers competing against the unemployed

Heather Strohm
Special to the Tribune-Star

---- — There are three unemployed people for every job available. Recently I had the opportunity to attend a small business caucus hosted by Indiana Reps. Jim Lucas and Terri Austin. During the discussion the subject of how small businesses can effectively compete with unemployment was explored. Unemployment or joblessness occurs when people are without work but are still actively seeking a job. As you already know, we are facing an extremely high rate of unemployment as we dig ourselves out of a recession.

The problem in not only the Wabash Valley but throughout much of the country is matching the talent and skill set of the employees with the positions available. In much of the country a significant gap exists between what employers need and what the employees have to offer. In addition, it is often found that although a position is available there are some individuals that will forgo the opportunity to work and just continue to collect unemployment because in their eyes it is free money.

The State of Indiana is $1.6 billion dollars in debt to the federal government all due to the extension of unemployment. It has turned into a David and Goliath story, as the government continues to extend the length of the program as well as the amount of regulations that small businesses must comply with and the amount of time business owners spend on defending unemployment claims that are not legitimate.

So the questions are how can employers compete effectively with unemployment and how can they position themselves to attract the skilled workers they need. I have listed a few steps below to initiate the process.

1. If you find that you have a position open and an applicant would like to delay the start or decline the position since they are collecting unemployment then you should report that individual to the Work Force Development office in your community. The applicant will be reviewed and probably have their benefits pulled for declining a job that was offered and available to them.

2. Create or review your job descriptions for the positions you have available. Although you may not necessarily be able to compete on wages earned, your company can compete on flex time, perks like casual Fridays, telecommuting and more. These can attract and retain employees, especially depending on the generation.

3. Be realistic. Most employees today tend to give their best three to five years and then begin looking for another job.

4. Create a way that the employees feel like they have an impact and they are not just punching a time card. Have meetings and activities at work to illustrate how they are providing their service and what it means in the bigger picture to the organization.

5. Each community has elected officials to help be the voice of their concerns. Leverage the relationships and influence your elected officials have if an incident or concern arises both at the state and federal level. That is why we elected them.

6. And finally, tighten your job search so that more qualified prospects are attracted.

Unfortunately, the high unemployment rate will take some time to come out of since it is directly linked to our recession. But you can review your job positions and adjust them to reflect a greater impact as well as tighten them up to attract more viable candidates.

Heather (Penney) Strohm is the regional director for Indiana State University’s Indiana Small Business Development Center.