High unemployment rates mean more jobless workers, but not all pest control firms see a better applicant pool as a result.
Rose Pest Solutions has done more hiring in 2012 than in the past several years, says Russ Ives, president of the Troy, Mich.-based firm. The hiring hasn’t necessarily been easier, but there certainly is a greater pool of workers to choose from these days. And in the Detroit area, there is a population of former automotive workers who are seeking job opportunities outside of the manufacturing industry.
Before, Ives says it was tough to compete with the benefits packages and wages those automotive companies offered. But that’s not so much the case today. And, it used to be that once the automotive slump picked up, those workers would return to their jobs. That’s also not true these days.
“Some of them end up staying with us because they either find elements of our work to be less tedious and more interesting than what they were doing, or some had been through so many layoffs over the years that they say, ‘I’d just assume stay right here where I have a job I can count on,’” Ives says.
The fact is, those automotive companies have trimmed their benefit packages and restructured wages. “So there is not nearly as much of a difference in compensation as there once was when the automotives had rich compensation packages,” Ives says.
For Ives, all this is good news because it grows his hiring pool in the Detroit metro area. But of course, the flip side of hiring outside of the industry is instituting a comprehensive training program, which Rose Pest Solutions does.
Meanwhile, that pool of workers without jobs across the country continues to expand with the high unemployment rate. In August, the state unemployment rate crept higher in 44 states, according to the Labor Department’s report on state unemployment. Compare this to June, when jobless rates were higher in 27 states. The Bureau of Labor Statistics recorded July’s U.S. unemployment rate at 8.3 percent, which is lower than the high in October 2010 when it reached 10.10 percent — but nowhere close to the level it was in 2008 and prior when rates were 4.6 and lower.
A Deeper Pool. There should be more workers out there to hire — more jobless individuals who are ready and willing to work. Statistically, this just makes sense.
“The ability to hire more qualified people is there,” says Jeff Leibel, founding partner of CounterPoint Consulting. “Getting the cream of the crop is another story.”
The available worker pool is better today than 10 years ago, Leibel says. But skimming the top workers from the group requires due diligence and a year-round approach to hiring. “Seasonal businesses have a perennial difficulty of finding people who are willing to work during a limited time of year and have the work ethic you want,” Leibel says, speaking to pest control companies in northern states where the service is more predicated by the weather. “Companies need to build a pool of people throughout the year and not just look at hiring in February.”
Getting an early start to seasonal hiring in December and January betters the chances of tapping into the most qualified workers, Leibel says. Plus, presenting opportunities for full-time employment sweetens the deal.
“It’s a preplanning issue,” Leibel says of many pest control operators’ hiring challenges. “You have to prepare…which gives you the opportunity to have the pick of the people who are coming into the marketplace.”
Riding the Rise. Ryan Bradbury, president, Viking Termite & Pest Control, Bridgewater, N.J., says the unemployment rate certainly has improved the workforce pickings in his area. The company has increased its workforce by 10 percent each year and currently has 185 employees on payroll.
“We think the quality of employee we have been able to bring in the last few yeas has been very strong,” Bradbury says. “Part of that is because our company continues to improve, so we have become a more desirable place to work.”
Bradbury notes that Viking was recognized by the State of New Jersey for providing jobs and improving economic vitality. So he attributes the better hiring to unemployment and the company’s reputation.
More Isn’t Better. Brent Boles, president, Schendel Pest Services, Topeka, Kan., sees hiring differently. In the Midwest, which has slightly lower unemployment rates than other states, hiring is not easier. “I haven’t seen better or more qualified candidates walk in the door because they are unemployed,” Boles says.
In other words, there may be more people without jobs — but there are not necessarily more people who fit the bill.
The same is true in Florida, where Hulett Environmental Services is based. In the last three years, the company has increased its workforce by 7 percent, says Tim Hulett, president. But finding dedicated workers is just as hard as it ever was. “Qualified individuals are just as hard to find — and we are pretty picky,” Hulett says. “We have not seen any additional qualified workers in our industry.”
Skimming the Top. A potential bonus of a high unemployment rate for business owners can be the ability to replace mediocre workers, points out Gary Curl, owner of Specialty Products Consultants. And letting high-performing employees in your organization know that you’re looking for great people is an effective way to find unemployed, qualified workers, he suggests.
“Everyone knows someone who is unemployed,” Curl points out. So by weeding out problem technicians and replacing them with referrals from hard-working employees, pest control operators can more efficiently sift through today’s greater pool of jobless people and select the best.
The payoff is better service, Curl says. “Then, when you get those good technicians on board, the quality of your service improves because you have addressed the problem (employees).”
The author is a Cleveland-based freelance writer. She can be reached at email@example.com.