Help Desk column: Overcoming the Western Slope’s tight labor market
You’ve heard the buzzwords that try to capture the chaos in today’s workforce: the Great Resignation, Quiet Quitting, Career Cushioning, Productivity Paranoia, Rage Applying and a whole host of other terms. Not to mention the constant refrain “No one wants to work anymore.”
The current labor market is complex: based on November 2022 state data, there are approximately 2 jobs available for every unemployed person in Colorado. The December 2022 unemployment rate for Garfield County was 2.6%; Pitkin County 2.6%; and Eagle County 2.0%. The demand for labor still far exceeds the supply. People willing and able to work are, for the most part, already working.
There are several reasons for the tight labor supply. According to the state demographer’s office, Colorado’s population is aging; there are more retirements; birthrates across the country are slowing, deaths are increasing; and future growth will be concentrated in the metro areas.
These trends will be with us for a while, affecting how we recruit and retain our workforce.
According to the Pew Research Center, the majority of employees quit a job for the following reasons:
- Low pay
- No opportunities for advancement
- Felt disrespected at work
- Childcare issues
- Not enough flexibility
- Benefits weren’t good
- Want to relocate
- Working too many hours
- Working too few hours
Given the state of the labor market, what can businesses do to improve their recruitment and retention success?
Quite a lot.
There are four main areas businesses can evaluate and look for opportunities for improvement in recruitment and retention rates. A competitive wage is key, but there are many things businesses can do to attract and retain employees.
What is your company known for? Are you considered a good place to work? Do you have low or high turnover?
Are your job descriptions detailed and give a good idea of the type of work required? Do you include hourly or salary information? Do you have an employee referral program? Do you have a comprehensive onboarding process that lasts more than one day?
A new employee’s experiences in the first 30-90 days influences whether they stay or leave.
Lack of advancement opportunities is often cited as a reason employees leave. Do you have a training program for your staff? Are their opportunities to learn skills (conferences, workshops) that can help employees advance in your company? Do you have a mentorship program?
Retirements are accelerating as older workers elect to retire. Do you have a succession plan to fill these senior roles? Consider asking senior leaders to share their experiences with the team through workshops, lunch and learns, videos. Can you accommodate employees who may want to work part time as they transition to retirement?
These are just a few strategies businesses can employ that can positively affect their workforce. There are a number of training programs and business support services in the region that can help.
If you are interested in learning more about Retention and Recruitment strategies please join us from 10:30 a.m. to noon on March 7 for a webinar hosted by the Colorado Workforce Center. Find more information at
Carolyn Tucker is the Regional Business Services Coordinator for the Colorado Workforce Center and provides labor market information, business education opportunities and other support services to the business communities in Eagle, Garfield, Lake, Pitkin and Summit counties. She draws upon her career in the ski, hospitality, professional sports, workforce development and energy industries to assist businesses with their workforce needs.
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