Jeannie Seery with Rose City Manufacturing explains to Dominic Finch what her employer makes has to offer to new hires. JEFF GUERINI/STAFF

Fighting for workers: Area companies upping wages and adding incentives to attract employees

A healthy economy is sparking more raises, promotions and career changes as employers struggle to find workers.

“The number of job openings is actually higher than the number of people that are unemployed, and that gives people who are in a career, the chance to think about changing jobs, changing careers, making upward moves,” said Michael Lipsitz, an economics professor at Miami University.

The nation has added jobs for 99 months in a row, the longest streak ever recorded and 2018 wages had the largest annual increase in a decade, federal data examined by the Dayton Daily News shows. Ohio alone has added more than 100,000 jobs in the past year, according to the Ohio Department of Job and Family Services.

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Part of the gap between job openings and unemployed Ohioans comes from employers adding more jobs in a healthy economy. Meanwhile fewer people are entering the workforce than leaving as Baby Boomers retire, said Horton Hobbs, vice president of economic development for the Greater Springfield Chamber of Commerce.

“Because of a shrinking labor force, you’re seeing wage pressures that are impacting companies,” Hobbs said.

Day Air Credit Union recently raised its starting wage to $14 per hour to attract and retain the best employees, said April Higgins, human resource director at the credit union. The minimum wage increase has brought in higher quality candidates with more experience. It has also kept steady the number of applicants, where other businesses struggle to find workers, Higgins said.

“In today’s economy, (job candidates) have the upper hand, but we also want to make sure we’re getting the best of the best,” Higgins said.

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Pioneer Automotive Technologies of Springboro also recently announced it was raising long-term, hourly wages by 10 percent and would offer newly hired and contract employees up to six days of earned time off at its facility.

“Employers have to look at the work force differently today. They have to look at what’s motivates an employee to want to take a position,” Hobbs said.

Other area employers are also looking for new ways to attract and retain workers, including more flexible schedules, staggered shifts, better work environments and different training methods.

“We’ve all seen that (millennials) like to be involved in part of something,” said Mitch Heaton, vice president of economic development for the Dayton Development Coalition. “Ireally doesn’t take lot to get somebody engaged in what you’re doing.”

To make young talent feel like a part of something larger, many employers are offering opportunities for community engagement through downtown cleanups, programs like Big Brothers Big Sisters and activities like paying a few dollars to wear jeans on Fridays that will be donated to a charity.

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Dayton-area businesses are also offering incentives like trips and gifts for high performance and awards for milestones with companies. Employers recognize that oftentimes retaining employees is more affordable than training someone new when they leave, Heaton said.

“Before somebody goes and thinks the grass might be greener on the other side, it might be worth sitting down with your employer or your boss to ask, ‘what do you have in the works for me,’” Heaton said.

Healton said companies could have larger plans in the works or options for employees when their bosses want to keep them on staff.

An outside offer could also be used to leverage a promotion or raise from a current employer, Lipsitz said.

But some major economists have suggested a recession may be coming in the next year or two where job growth will slow and workers won’t have as many options, Lipsitz said.

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