Companies emphasize versatility and cross-training in times of labor shortages | What works

Already open fewer hours due to staffing issues, Throwback Brewery in North Hampton sometimes has to take tables out of service to ensure it has enough staff to serve customers.

“I haven’t seen a market like this for finding workers or not finding candidates since we opened” 11 years ago, co-founder Nicole Carrier said at a job fair uncrowded in Portsmouth last week.

What works

She would like to hire six additional people, including cooks.

“We have training in dishwashers to become line cooks,” Carrier said. “We would like to do more of that.”

She is looking for “people who are Swiss army knives, who can do all kinds of things”.

These days, more employers are training current workers to fill other roles or hiring candidates who seem capable of handling multiple roles, according to interviews with employers at four trade shows. recent jobs.

While waiting for job applicants to stop at a job fair next to Manchester-Boston Regional Airport’s baggage claim area, Donna Nixon shared that Wiggins Airways is training some office workers to assume the duties of other employees as required.

“We do a lot of cross-training,” said Nixon, president of Wiggins Airways.

But “we can’t train pilots and mechanics,” Nixon said, although she wishes she could.

A day later, Debbie Reed occupied the front lines in her hunt for workers.

President of Bill Dube Ford Toyota was helping staff with a virtual job fair live from her office in Dover.

“The other day I started shredding” documents usually done by another worker, Reed said in a video interview.

“Everyone here, their departments are understaffed,” she said in a follow-up interview.

Reed said the dealership tries to do a lot of cross-training, including showing employees how to enter new vehicle arrivals into the dealership’s computer system.

Workers are “pretty receptive to it,” Reed said. “It keeps them busy.

“We scan all documents internally. We may have to outsource that,” Reed said.

Training workers for multiple jobs is smart, according to Barry Roy, regional president of Robert Half, a recruitment agency with three offices in New Hampshire.

“People who leave a company leave that company short-staffed,” Roy said. “People have to be versatile.”

With higher wages, companies “may need to get the most out of their current employees for their business” and its bottom line, Roy said.

But cross-training and requiring people to do more tasks can cause some employees to quit if they “feel burnt out,” Roy said.

Growing employment

This summer, New Hampshire is expected to regain the number of private sector jobs lost since the pandemic. But the state’s workforce — those who are working or actively seeking work — remains more than 21,000 below its all-time high in November 2019, according to Brian Gottlob, director of the Office of Economic Information. and the state labor market.

“The largest declines in labor force participation were seen among older residents and younger adults,” Gottlob said by email.

Many seniors may have felt financially comfortable retiring with fattening retirement accounts and higher home values ​​until recently.

“With higher inflation and declining (financial) asset values, some of these older workers are not as assured of a comfortable retirement and we are seeing some retirees returning to the workforce,” Gottlob wrote. .

Improved unemployment checks and multiple stimulus checks in recent years may have allowed people in their 20s without mortgages to temporarily exit the workforce, Gottlob said.

The shortage of jobseekers is good news for people like student Tyler Holmes, who attended the Portsmouth job fair at Great Bay Community College.

“It’s great for me personally because I get a lot of attention,” said Holmes, who lives in Exeter and attends the University of South Carolina.

“A lot of openings. I’m very happy.”

More than 37,000 online ads for jobs in New Hampshire were posted in March and April – about 10,000 more than the same time last year – and there are 81% more openings in 2019 than before the pandemic, according to Emsi Burning Glass and New Hampshire Employment Security. .

Many employers are rethinking how to fill vacancies.

According to Eliot Davis, director of human resources, high school students hired for the summer in two retirement communities in the Taylor community in the Lakes region will be trained for several jobs.

“Last year, we only hired gardeners,” he said in an interview at a virtual job fair for high school students.

“This year we want them to learn some household chores and maybe some cooking chores. If we need them, they can do individual residential activities,” Davis said.

“If a person is more interested in becoming a plumber, carpenter or maintenance worker, we can let them overshadow that,” he said. “Our plan is very broad, but we hope that students will have an idea of ​​what they want to do as a career.”

At the end of the summer, maybe a graduating senior can decide to stay and work full time, Davis said.

The strategy is to get the workers in the door and hope they stay longer.

More cross training

Over the past two years, at least some of The Beach Plum’s four seafood restaurants have trained people for multiple jobs, such as line cook, cashier and ice cream scooper.

“It was a good idea,” said Lorraine Petrini, director of marketing.

To show how much the job market has changed, The Beach Plum started hiring 16- and 17-year-olds with no experience as line cooks last summer, she said.

In the past, the restaurant appealed to people with “good experience,” Petrini said.

At a virtual job fair for banks and credit unions, Katie Blake found at least two job seekers who looked promising. She could hire at least half a dozen people in New Hampshire, where the Ledyard National Bank has offices in Concord and the Upper Valley.

Still, “we’re looking at cross-training in different departments,” said Blake, regional manager of the retail department, who was replacing a human resources employee on vacation.

Amber Goodwin, branch manager of PeopleReady, a staffing agency, said she knew of a Seacoast lumber company looking for employees who could prepare orders for shipping and know how to drive a forklift.

“There are so many holes” in many companies’ workforces, Goodwin said.

Expenses management

A global shortage of computer chips used in vehicle manufacturing has led to reduced inventory for auto dealers across the country.

Reed said they were selling “fewer cars but with a higher profit margin to compensate for the lower volume,” Reed said.

The concessionaire paid more for the workers.

“We’re seeing people demanding higher wages,” Reed said.

Earnings for service technicians who repair vehicles have “exploded,” increasing by 25% to 30% in two years.

“If you could bring me 20, I’d take them all” and put them on the payroll, Reed said.

She had to raise prices to fight wages and other costs.

“I think they’re on the couch,” Reed said. “Everywhere you go, you try to go out for dinner, and they don’t have enough help.”

What’s Working, a series exploring solutions for New Hampshire’s workforce needs, is sponsored by the New Hampshire Solutions Journalism Lab at the Nackey S. Loeb School of Communications and is funded by Eversource, Fidelity Investments, the New Hampshire Charitable Foundation, Dartmouth-Hitchcock Medical Center, the New Hampshire College & University Council, Northeast Delta Dental and the New Hampshire Coalition for Business and Education.

Contact journalist Michael Cousineau at [email protected] To read the stories in the series, visit

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