Pandemic Curse

High unemployment has not meant easy hiring

Tracy Bond
Great Valley Pool
Frazer, Pennsylvania

We try to hire as many people as we can get in the spring. We are always looking for unskilled helpers to assist our technicians with openings and closings. We hope they gain skills and progress into a service technician. Depending how good they are, they may be able to do a service route by mid- to late summer. College kids and children of our customers are good sources of summer help. While they are usually not able to assist with opening and closing season due to school, we have found them highly dependable and well able to follow instructions, which seems to be a rare commodity. We will usually get them for one to three summers, but this is not a good source of long-term employees, as they are studying for careers in the business world. We usually hire one to two people for our retail store as well.

We usually hire five to 15 helpers, depending on labor availability. Many times, we are forced to use temporary labor from employment agencies, but the quality of help is not that great and there is a markup on the market labor rate. Occasionally we will find a gem through the agencies, but that doesn’t happen often.

In the early stages of the pandemic, many people were afraid to leave the house. This included our existing employees who were reluctant to come back from winter layoffs. The labor market never really rebounded. We thought it would be easier to hire people due to the higher unemployment rate; however, it was as challenging a year to hire as ever.

The hardest part of finding and hiring good workers is finding and hiring good workers. The younger generation is not inclined to specialize in a trade, even less for a seasonal trade. We offer medical and dental benefits, voluntary insurance, paid life insurance, 401(k) with profit sharing, a bonus program, PTO, paid holidays, and we ventured into a holiday decorating business to minimize the time employees are laid off. However, this has done little to improve the market for good employees.

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We will continue our recruiting and hiring efforts, and hope to get lucky from time to time. We treat our employees well to avoid losing them to other professions or our competition.

Jules Johnson
Operations manager
Mission Pool & Spa Supplies
Mission Viejo, California

We are a small mom-and-pop operation, so we typically hire for the store and office at the beginning of the season. We hire pool and repair techs if someone quits or gets fired, or if we gain additional accounts beyond what our crew can handle. In our county, it has been nearly impossible to find applicants period, let alone qualified ones. The hardest part of hiring good workers is that we just don’t know until we get them in the field. Some talk a good game in the interview, then end up not knowing water chemistry, equipment or don’t have reliable transportation.

This season, we will start looking to hire earlier. It takes so much time and effort to locate candidates. There weren’t many layoffs in our area due to the pandemic; we aren’t even getting applicants right now because everyone is working. Everyone is still booming business-wise, so there aren’t many fish in the pool to choose from.

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