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How Decorators Can Cope With Employee Shortages

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How Decorators Can Cope With Employee Shortages

s the nation experiences a staffing crisis, businesses are scrambling to fill much-needed positions to keep their doors open. Decorators are no exception and have had to find creative ways to cope with the employee shortage. “We’ve definitely experienced a labor shortage,” says Tanya Doyscher, owner of The Visual Identity Vault. “This seems to be a problem industry-wide.”

What’s Causing the Labor Shortage?

While many were quick to point to stimulus checks and unemployment benefits as the reason many didn’t return to pre-pandemic jobs, this has been proven to be a myth.

It turns out there’s no one single reason for the shortage of people applying for the 10.7 million unfilled jobs. Instead, experts point to a myriad of issues that converged at the same time. “It’s not that people don’t want to work – they’re just doing something else,” says Marshall Atkinson, business consultant at Atkinson Consulting and Shirt Lab Tribe

“The amount of business licenses has doubled since pre-pandemic. Many people who were laid off started their own businesses, including new t-shirt shops. College admissions are also up and a large number of older workers decided to retire.”
- Marshall Atkinson, business consultant at Atkinson Consulting and Shirt Lab Tribe

According to a Pew Research Center survey, workers who quit their jobs in 2021, included one of these three top reasons as to why they left:

  • Low wages (63%), 
  • Lack of a career path in the company (63%)
  • Not feeling respected (57%)

Smart Ways to Attract and Keep Top Talent

There are things about your company environment you should examine, to attract top-tiered talent and keep them happily working,  Take the time to identify these benefits and correct any deficits in how your shop functions, before you start interviewing and hiring more people.  

1. Does your shop feel like ‘the best place to work?

Survey your team to find out what they love most about your shop. Is it your fun, laid-back culture? Is it your competitive pay and benefits package? Do you offer a 401(k) match? Is it Barney, your shop dog? Is it the flexible schedule and generous PTO you offer? Do you offer childcare reimbursement? Do you allow employees to buy blank apparel or accessories at cost? Highlight those stellar points in your job descriptions and during job interviews.

2. What do your employees need outside of the shop? 

During the pandemic, working from home gave many employees the work-life balance they’d been craving their whole careers. If you have roles that can work remotely, consider offering that benefit even one or two days a week. Flexible schedules can help caregivers with children or elderly parents. Offering generous PTO time can also make employees feel you support their lives outside of work. 

3. What are other local shops in your area doing for employees? 

Atkinson recommends checking out the wages and benefits packages at competitor shops and even local retailers and restaurants.  

“It’s hard to attract good people if you’re not even on a level playing field with other employers. Sign-on bonuses are another way to help get candidates in the door.”
- Marshall Atkinson
, business consultant at Atkinson Consulting and Shirt Lab Tribe

4. Do you offer a career path to new hires? 

No one plans to stay in the same entry-level position for the next 20 years, so you should offer and map out a clear advancement path for new hires. That includes offering continuous training and opportunities to learn new skills that’ll help them earn a promotion. “How do you educate them?” Atkinson says. “Do you have a growth plan for your employees?”

5. What in-shop perks do you offer? 

Some shops have a coffee maker or a fridge with cold drinks. Others bring in lunch for everyone one day a week. Companies in hotter climates have put air conditioning in their warehouse to keep staffers comfortable.

How Shops Are Covering Labor Gaps

Doyscher’s shop has been fortunate to retain much of the same staff they had through the pandemic. “However, we’ve had several salespeople and production staffers cycle through because they haven’t made the cut,” she says. “To compensate, our small crew just works harder.”

Your shop might be in a similar position: You need to hire for certain positions and can’t find the right people. Or, you need to hire, but can’t afford to fill all of those roles right now. Here are a few ways shops deal with labor shortages when they still have lots of jobs to run.

1.  Address problems with processes and systems first, before trying to solve them with more people.

“A large mistake many business leaders make is throwing more people at problems,” says JP Hunt, co-founder and president of InkSoft.  “Often, designing or modifying processes and systems can be the correct and lower-cost solution.”  

Atkinson sees a lot of shops using more automation and tools to supplement for a lack of help. “They’re buying things like automatic screen coaters, instead of having someone do it by hand,” he says. “That machine investment helps you be more effective with your time. Plus, the ROI can actually end up being more than it would cost to hire someone.”

2. Cross-train and promote current staffers first. 

“Assigning employees to open positions and then backfilling is a faster and easier way to address open roles,” Hunt says. “The other upside is how ‘internal promotions’ can be positioned as a positive and goes far on team member morale.”  

3.  Train your new crop of managers. 

Atkinson advises selecting your managers from within. “Start by having them run a late-night or weekend shift,” he says. “Then, promote them when it’s time.” In fact, Atkinson worked with a shop owner who started training managers so that he could leave early on a Friday, and now can go camping for a month – leaving his profitable shop in his staff’s capable hands. “People will rise to the occasion if you let them,” he says.

4. Be open to part-time help. 

“A lot of shops find great help with college students or parents who are available to work when their kids are in school,” Atkinson says.

Creative Ways to Find New Employees

Here are a few tips for attracting awesome people to work at your shop.

Referral Bonuses: 

Start with the employees you have. They may have friends or family members with the same interests and same work ethics. Offer your employees a referral bonus. If you hire their referrals, you pay out the bonus once that referral has stayed employed with you for at least 30 days.

Promote Your Jobs Everywhere: 

“Don’t hide the fact that you have job openings,” Atkinson says. “Put it out everywhere!” Create a detailed job post, which includes a description of the role, compensation, benefits, advancement opportunities and the special perks your shop offers.  Use job boards, social media, your newsletter and emails, and your website to post your job opening. Hang up “hiring” signs in your windows and inside your shop.

“Do you make it easy for people to apply? A lot of screen printers don’t have traditional resumes. Give them the option just to include a cover letter or answer a few questions.”
- Marshall Atkinson, business consultant at Atkinson Consulting and Shirt Lab Tribe

Have a Party: 

Host a “Hiring Happy Hour” where your team welcomes potential applicants in a casual and fun environment. This is a much livelier version of the traditional “job fair” and more likely to show the camaraderie you want to emphasize about your shop.

Build Your Shop From Within

In today’s climate, training and promoting from within is your best bet. “Everything starts with you as the owner,” Atkinson says. “Are you about total control where your employees can’t make a move without asking you? Or do you push empowerment where staffers can find their own answers and you move three times as fast? The only way you can advance is to train and promote people, so you can step away and work on scaling.”

Jan 29, 2023