Pivoting Needed To Address Labor Challenges

Pivoting Needed To Address Labor Challenges

There are three issues seemingly front of mind for all governments and businesses these days – labor force shortages, supply chain delays and the rising cost of everything.

In this seasonal resort destination, staffing issues have traditionally been limited to the end of the peak season when college students and teachers leave critical service industry positions vacant in mid-August. In this new normal, there seems to be a labor crunch year-round. Vacancies are abundant in all industries with many decision makers facing the realities of being understaffed and juggling responsibilities.

While supply chain and inflation concerns are national issues, the local focus point – where some traction can be made – seems to be on the employees. National issues typically require reactive measures on the local front, but labor challenges remain an area where proactive changes – such as hiring and retaining incentives – can help address the struggles before they morph into emergencies.

In Ocean City last week, for instance, the Mayor and Council unanimously approved several incentives to attract and retain bus and tram drivers. Ocean City before the pandemic employed 150 bus drivers and last year the number was 90. Similar shortages have plagued the Boardwalk tram system to a lesser volume degree. Approved incentives included a $500 bonus (initial recommendation was $300) for any town employee referring a transportation department employee who works at least 200 hours from May to October; a $500 bonus for all transportation employees who work 400 hours during the 2023 season; and a smaller $250 bonus for eligible bus and tram drivers who work from Springfest through Labor Day weekend.

These incentives appear to be a sign of things to come, as Council President Matt James asked the human resources department to evaluate other incentives or pay increases to ease the seasonal employment challenges. The beach patrol appears to be the city’s next target.

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As another example, in Berlin, efforts to recruit new employees to fill existing vacancies surface at each government meeting. During this week’s meeting, the Mayor and Council agreed in a 4-1 vote to reward their current staffers with a one-time, unbudgeted $500 bonus before the holidays. This comes after a $50 gift card was given to all staff before Thanksgiving to help with their holiday dinner expenses.

A weak labor force, extended wait times on products and rising costs for everything combine to create a troublesome economy with uncertain times ahead. As 2021 closed, the concerns were the same. As 2022 inches near its end, these are everyday worries.

Operating a government and running a private business come with different rules and practice. However, in today’s world, both the public and private sector will be working through the same challenges of recruiting, retaining and rewarding employees. We expect these human resource issues to be huge budget factors for both.

About The Author: Steven Green

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The writer has been with The Dispatch in various capacities since 1995, including serving as editor and publisher since 2004. His previous titles were managing editor, staff writer, sports editor, sales account manager and copy editor. Growing up in Salisbury before moving to Berlin, Green graduated from Worcester Preparatory School in 1993 and graduated from Loyola University Baltimore in 1997 with degrees in Communications (journalism concentration) and Political Science.