Workforce Shortage in Montana Has Small Businesses Thinking Outside the Box

Montana’s unemployment rate was an impressive 3.8% in April of this year, lower than that of the national rate of 4.3%.  However, the Montana Department of Labor and Industry (DLI) is now facing the issue of a workforce shortage. The DLI anticipates that this shortage will put Montana’s unemployment rate below 2% by 2025.

So Why Is There a Workforce Shortage?

For starters, Montana’s number of retirees (those aged 65 and older) is projected to grow by 7,000 people each year, while the working age population (those aged 16 to 64) is only expected to grow by 475 each year. Simply put, Montana does not have enough people in the working age group to fix this shortage.

On top of this, another reason for the workforce shortage is due to low wages. In the past, employers generally had an adequate pool of candidates looking for work, and were therefore able to pay employees less. Now however, with a lack of applicants, employers are beginning to reconsider what they’ve paid employees in the past, and whether it’s still enough.

While some state legislators have proposed raising the current minimum wage from $8.05 to $10.10, lobbyists have continued to shut the idea down due to concerns that the increase would be too cumbersome for small businesses.

It’s Not Just About the Paycheck

Despite the working age group being so small and some employers having a difficult time filling open positions due to low wages, it isn’t all about the income for some. In fact, many new employees, and specifically millennials, want meaningful jobs where they know that their work will have an impact.

Typically, millennials measure job satisfaction based on flexible work schedules, a collaborative office culture, relaxed dress codes and validity from their employer. Because millennials are more likely to switch careers than other generations (due to feeling a lack of job satisfaction), employers are finding it more difficult both to attract and retain these employees.

What’s Next?

Many Montana government job descriptions are now being tailored to include responsibilities and the influence in the workplace that an employee would have. To reduce turnover and hold onto employees, some employers are beginning to offer flexible schedules, thus drawing in a larger pool of both interested and qualified applicants.

As many smaller companies begin to struggle with the workforce shortage, employers are encouraged to market themselves and their open job positions to appeal to the younger generation. Many businesses may have to reconsider how their positions are structured, and what they can do to entice and keep millennials who enjoy working in collaborative, honest, and fun environments.

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