Recruiting workers: Low unemployment rate leads to difficulty finding workers in some industries

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At first glance, a low unemployment rate seems like a positive trend.

In Zionsville, however, local companies and the Zionsville Chamber of Commerce are experiencing hiring challenges as a result of the low employment numbers.

Denise Pierce, owner of DK Pierce & Associates, a health care reimbursement company based in Zionsville, often recruits from the same employment pool as large pharmaceutical companies. To get in an edge, she offers incentives larger companies can’t.

“The environment we draw from are people that have had experience in the pharmaceutical industry,” she said. “So, we are really a small company competing against a candidate pool from large companies.”

In order to attract employees, Pierce has ramped up her firm’s benefits package, including offering medical, vision, dental and long-term care insurance.

“(Long-term care insurance) is sort of unique,” Pierce said. “Some might think that’s just for people who are old, but that’s also people who end up in an accident and have to stay under long-term care rehabilitation, or they’re young and have a heart attack. It helps cover for that catastrophe.”

In addition, each employee DK Pierce & Associates employee receives a $2,000 credit for a training program, and the company pays up to $4,000 for certain certification programs. It also pays 100 percent, up to $6,000 a year, for employees pursuing master’s degrees as long as they maintain an A grade. If they maintain a B, the company pays 75 percent.

Other benefits include work-from-home flexibility, which allows employees a set number of days to work remotely.

Zionsville Chamber of Commerce Executive Director Lin Moormann said Zionsville has the lowest unemployment rate in Indiana at 2.5 percent. The low number creates challenges, such as an untrained workforce or limited options, and Moormann said Indiana Workforce Development is taking steps to overcome those challenges.

“We need more workers in the area,” Moormann said. “The state workforce development, Indiana Workforce Development, has done a lot of different things and created a lot of cool programs. They’ve created grants to help train people who might not be eligible and need certificates or something like that, and they’ve created grants companies can apply for to help train these people.”

Area businesses are encountering the same challenges as Pierce’s company, competing for employess in the same small workforce.

“Zionsville, in particular, unfortunately we are not immune to that,” Moormann said. “We have the same type of problems. There’s a good mix of different businesses, and we are close to Whitestown, which has a lot of development going on, so we are pulling from that same employment pool. We are right in the middle of a real robust area filled with opportunities, so it’s been tough for a lot of folks.”

Moormann said in Boone County, the majority of employment positions are in the distribution area, such as truck drivers, store clerks and related occupations. The local  health care industry also is growing. 

In Boone County, jobs increased by 21.2 percent from 2013 to 2018, rising from 8,000 positions to 10,000.

“Boone County is really changing a lot,” Moormann said. “There’s just so much opportunity right now, but again we are all pulling from that same workforce pool.”

Denise Pierce said it’s difficult for Zionsville-based DK Pierce to find reputable employees because it’s a company that often recruits from the same employment pool as large pharmaceutical companies.

Potential Solution?

Zionsville Chamber of Commerce Executive Director Lin Moormann said a number of companies have asked her about the benefit of job fairs. She said they can be productive.

“I think job fairs are definitely an opportunity to get people in the door and tell them a little about what your company offers,” she said. “I do think because of the struggle to find good work, I think people have changed their ideas on how workforce culture should be. Unfortunately, there’s not one solution for all businesses, because what might work for a tech company may not work for a distribution company.”

When it comes to benefits employees are searching for, Moormann said flexibility is high on the list.

“I think flexibility with time is very important, and not just for millennials but also to people who have families,” she said. “That is really highly coveted. People want that right now. Something is going to be more important to one person than another. It’s about finding just the right mix to hire someone who is loyal to your company. That is essentially what we all want, is to hire good people who will stay with us.”

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