Tough Call: The labor/wage question

Tough Call Labor Wage

The labor market is tight, competing employers are upping wages, and you can’t fill positions. What would you do?

The summer of 2021 is playing out much as you’d anticipated: sales remain strong, and in many cases, demand for many materials continues to outpace supply. Thankfully, your team is doing an amazing job navigating this highly unusual situation, and your customers understand that the price hikes and shortages are out of your hands. Still, a fresh challenge moves to the front burner every day, and today’s burning challenge involves bringing on more part-time help.

Traditionally, finding hourly workers during the summer months has never been a problem. Between high-school kids and college students wanting to earn as much as they can while school’s out, you’ve never struggled to find enthusiastic, hard-working people to help out in the busy summer. But in this year, which is anything but traditional, even that’s tough.

Since there are precious few applicants for cashiers and yard help, your HR director has been working hard to try to fill these unskilled, but still critically important, positions. So far, with little success. “We’ve always paid more than minimum wage for these positions, and never had a problem filling these spots. But the competition this year is fierce. The local grocery stores and big retailers are all paying at least $15 an hour, which is well over our city’s minimum wage of $12.50,” she explained. “The only solution I see is to offer even more, but then our part-time, hourly workers will be earning almost as much as some of our full-time folks.”

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You know that the labor market is tight, but you have a hard time justifying what you consider full-time wages for part-time positions. Yet your full-time crew is stretched thinner than ever. Up until now, they’ve been good sports about doing what needs to be done, but you don’t know how long that will continue. You can’t afford to burn them out, but you can’t imagine paying nearly $20/hour for a temporary job that requires little skill or training. What would you do?

  • TRY HARDER. Have your HR director work harder to fill these positions, including paying to boost the ads on social media, offering a cash bonus for referrals, etc.
  • JUST DO IT. Accept reality and increase the part-timers’ pay to whatever level you need it to be to get the quantity and quality of hourly workers you need.
  • DO IT YOURSELF. Instead of giving in and throwing money at this problem, roll up your sleeves and do it yourself. Show your team that you’re not above doing what’s needed.
  • MORE OVERTIME. Encourage your existing team members to earn extra money by working more They get to earn more, and the jobs get done right. Win-win.

What would you do?

SOMETHING ELSE? If you’d take a different plan of attack, email your suggested solution to If we publish your reply, we’ll send you an LBM Journal mug.


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