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Luring workers

Scott N. Miller
Vail, CO, Colorado

EAGLE COUNTY ” In a valley short on workers, where does a new business look for help?

More and more, new businesses in the Vail Valley look to employees at existing shops for help.

Business owners whose employees are being recruited aren’t happy. Those opening new businesses believe it’s just good sense to look for employees who are already trained, and, most important, already live in the area.

The new Big O tire store in Eagle-Vail reportedly called most of the tire shops in the upper valley to recruit employees.

“I think it’s pretty underhanded,” said Greg Douglass, the store manager at Meadow Mountain Discount Tires in Eagle-Vail. “But none of our guys went because we take good care of them.”

While Big O tried to recruit employees from other tire and auto repair stores, it didn’t have a lot of success.

“We ended up with one guy from another store,” said Randy Beckner, manager of the Eagle-Vail store.

But, Beckner added, the store did find several people already working in the valley, including four people who last worked for Eagle County.

Eagle County pays well and has perhaps the best benefits package in the area. What prompted four people to leave that organization?

“We’ve got an awesome program and a good work environment,” Beckner said.

New horizons

Jen Law of HR Link, a human resources consulting company in Edwards, is working with a client to convince a specialized office person to change jobs.

“If she moves, she’ll have more professional development opportunities with similar benefits,” Law said. “Right now, there’s not as much pay on the table.”

Law said her company is starting to see more and more recruiting between local companies. “This is kind of a specialized niche,” Law said. “My client wanted someone who already lives here.”

Looking for people already working in the valley has other advantages.

Law said in working with her client, she asked people she knew if they knew anyone who might be a good fit for her client’s company.

“Talking to people is a like a built-in reference,” Law said.

Hollis Dempsey, one of the partners in HR Plus, an Eagle-based consulting company, said she hasn’t seen much employee recruiting among her clients. Yet.

“But it’s coming,” Dempsey said.

It also makes good sense for a business to try to hire someone from another company, she said.

“If you own a restaurant and you and your wife go out to dinner and have the best service you’ve ever had, how are you not going to recruit that person?” she said.

While Douglass thinks his competitor played dirty pool, Law said there’s a line ” perhaps a fuzzy one ” between competition and unethical behavior.

“If you do things that get you talked about in the community, if you’re doing something unethical, people are going to know about it,” she said.

In Vail, a third-party recruiting company hired by the new Arrabelle at Vail Square project at Lionshead started calling local hotels.

According to a statement by Vail Resorts, the Arrabelle’s parent company, the outside company was told to stop calling local lodges once Arrabelle officials heard about the tactc.

As a result, Vail Resorts says only 16 percent of the staff at Arrabelle came from other lodges in the valley.

Retention pressure

In a valley in which virtually anyone who wants a job has at least one, pressure on business to keep people is just going to mount, she said.

“I think you’ll see businesses start becoming more competitive in wages and benefits, and really start to pay attention to retention,” Dempsey said. “It’s going to get to the point that if businesses aren’t competitive, and don’t have a retention plan, they’re going to lose out.”

That’s where companies like Law’s and Dempsey’s come in, to develop plans for companies that don’t have their own human resources departments.

The answer, both Law and Dempsey said, is to find out what other companies are offering in the way of benefits, pay and opportunity for advancement.

Besides pay, benefits can include providing flexible schedules for family or recreation time, Dempsey said.

“Benefits like that are becoming as important as pay,” Law said. “Once you have a family, it’s not just about the paycheck.”

For Beckner, part of the attraction of the Big O program is that people can come into the company and receive training in several kinds of auto repair.

“We teach people, give them a trade and a skill no one can take away,” Beckner said.

But the reason Big O only got one person from a competing store to make the leap is pretty simple, Douglass said.

“I think we’re one of the best stores to work for in the valley,” he said. “We treat our guys right.”

That, Dempsey said, is going to be important for any business owner who has good people and wants to keep them.

“Employers need to learn that employees aren’t possessions,” she said. “You need to make sure you’re doing the best for them you possibly can.”


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