Chamber Corner – June 28, 2021

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Article Contributed by
Todd J. Tranum
President and CEO of the Chautauqua County Chamber of Commerce & Executive Director of the Manufacturers Association of the Southern Tier

You Can Recruit and Retain Good Employees

Written by Todd J. Tranum, President and CEO of the Chautauqua County Chamber of Commerce & Executive Director of the Manufacturers Association of the Southern Tier

“The deck has been completely shuffled” for employers and employees. That statement by Jim Parker, CEO of Digitell, sums up where a lot of businesses find themselves as we all work to bounce back from the pandemic. Despite the shuffle, there are plenty of ways that local businesses can still attract and retain good employees.

Parker was one of the panelists this past week as the Chamber of Commerce and Manufacturers Association hosted a Tuesday Talks webinar on Workforce Needs and Development. Our other panelists were Dale Gier, President of Producto Corporation; Melinda Mack, Executive Director of New York Association of Training and Workforce Professionals; and Katie Geise, Executive Director of the Chautauqua Workforce Investment Board. We sincerely thank them all for their time and valuable input.

While it is true that it’s been challenging for many local businesses to hire their necessary workforce in recent months, it is also true that Chautauqua County faced a workforce shortage even before the pandemic struck. Current figures show 2,085 jobs available in Chautauqua County, while the total number of unemployed is 3,500. Many of the reasons people have not returned to work are the same reasons they found it difficult to work before the Coronavirus, especially transportation and childcare issues. In addition, Katie Geise says many of those seeking jobs right now are asking a crucial question: “Is it safe for me and my family if I go to work?”

For those who are seeking employment, many are taking the time to look for different types of work and are also enhancing their skills. Geise noted that over 100 local people have been using the Coursera online training programs offered by the New York State Department of Labor to improve their skills or learn new skills. That indicates that people are interested in career development in new ways.

Opportunities do exist for all types of companies to recruit their necessary workforce, and those new opportunities may include some structural workplace changes, more creative outreach, flexibility, and different offerings for potential employees. Among the top tips presented by our panelists for hiring and holding onto a workforce are:

  • Make a facility tour part of the interview.
  • Have recruits talk to current employees and have your current employees mentor your new hires.
  • Seek interns from local colleges and high schools.
  • Start an employee referral bonus plan – offering incentives to current employees who refer new hires.
  • Keep your wages competitive and offer a benefits package such as a matched retirement plan, healthcare, or time off – and be sure to demonstrate the value of those benefits packages.
  • Post the salary range so all can see it before they apply – it will help you get only truly interested applicants.
  • Look for shared work opportunities with other companies. If you can’t hire someone full time, maybe you can create a flexible schedule to share that person with another employer.
  • The traditional way of recruiting are not effective in the new economy – look to online resources for recruiting and use social media effectively to gain interest in your company.
  • Make sure your business is in touch with workforce development professionals – both at
  • Chautauqua Works and through local colleges and training programs.
  • Network with other businesses to talk through your challenges and seek new tips.
  • Look for ways to be flexible with hours and shifts so you can meet the needs of your employees and their families.
  • Make your business a great place to work and then market your workplace culture.
  • Stay open to programs such as internships or on the job training opportunities. Don’t expect that every new employee will come prepared with the skills they need right away.

This is not designed as a roadmap for all employers, but these tips may be applicable to a variety of workplace settings. If you need more information or are seeking some support as you build your workforce, you can reach out to Chautauqua Works at (716) 661-9553.

Vaccination Remains the Key to Rebuilding Strong Communities

Chautauqua County has seen some extraordinary progress this past week in the battle against the Coronavirus pandemic. That progress is due to vaccinations. The most recent statistics from the Chautauqua County Health Department show that 51% of eligible residents have received at least one dose of a COVID vaccine. New York State lifted many COVID restrictions only after 70% of the eligible state residents had received at least one dose. So now Chautauqua County needs to work to catch up with that state rate in order to better protect our residents. The vaccines are safe, effective, and free, and nationwide statistics demonstrate that more contagious variants are spreading in areas where more individuals are unvaccinated. We continue to encourage all local residents to get vaccinated in order to protect yourself, your family, our community, and our economy.