To hire or not to hire? Businesses have options

Phil Castle
Business Times

A panel presentation at the Business Incubator Center explored ways in which employers can find additional help, but without necessarily hiring additional staff. The panel included, from left, Gilbert Lujan, supervisor of the Mesa County Workforce Center; Nina Anderson, owner of Express Employment; and Grady Busse, owner of Action Publishing. (Business Times photo by Phil Castle)

Even as thousands of people look for work in Mesa County, employers still face challenges in finding the right person for the job.
Sometimes, other options offer advantages over direct hiring, according to a panel presentation at the Business Incubator Center in Grand Junction. Virtual assistants, contractors and staffing services all provide additional labor to businesses without additional staffing.

Gilbert Lujan, supervisor of the Mesa County Workforce Center in Grand Junction, said the latest monthly unemployment rate in the county remains at 9.5 percent and more than 9,000 people are registered as job applicants at the center. Still, many of those applicants present “obstacles” to employment, he said, including criminal records and problems with transportation to and from work.

Grady Busse, owner of Action Publishing, said finding qualified workers constitutes a “huge challenge.” Busse oversees a Grand Junction company that manufactures more than 1 million custom day planners, notebooks and other products for academic and commercial markets. Because of seasonal cycles, the work force there swells from 18 full-time employees to total staff of 85 during peak production.

Nina Anderson, owner of the Express Employment staffing service in Grand Junction and president of the Western Colorado Human Resources Association, agreed that there’s a “perception gap” between the number of people looking for work and the number of qualified applicants for a given position. Moreover, applicants receiving unemployment insurance benefits are reluctant to take a job unless it offers more pay than what they’re receiving in benefits, she said.

Business that need additional help have other options besides increasing staffing, the three said.

Anderson said business owners and managers that need help in processing paperwork or completing other office tasks should consider hiring a virtual assistant. Virtual assistants work out of their own homes using telephones, e-mails and the Internet to complete tasks and projects for their clients. They usually bill on an hourly basis. “You’re only paying for the hours that you use them,” Anderson said.

Busse said he uses independent contractors to handle information technology and Website development at his company.

Anderson said service contractors also can handle such tasks as payroll and janitorial duties.

The use of virtual assistants and contractors raise a number of issues, however, Busse and Anderson said. Business owners and managers should be sure to use contracts that include confidentiality and noncompete clauses as well as agreements that clearly state independent contractors are working in that capacity.

Anderson said businesses that don’t need a full-time employee could consider sharing an employee — a receptionist or bookkeeper, for example.

Staffing services offer businesses an opportunity to “try before you buy” in trying out a perspective employee before hiring them on a permanent basis, Anderson added.

Lujan said the Mesa County Workforce Center offers employees and employers alike a range of services, including an on-the-job training program that subsidizes half of the cost of wages during a training period. Programs also offer funding for training, internships and courses, he said.

Busse cautioned business owners and managers against trying to solve problems by hiring new employees. Rather, owners and managers should first look at ways in which to get more done with existing staff.

Busse has implemented at his company lean manufacturing techniques designed to eliminate waste in materials and time.

The production floor at Action Publishing was reconfigured — along with the duties of the employees there. While equipment operators concentrate on just that, other employees dubbed “water beetles” fetch raw materials for the operators. The change has increased the pace of manufacturing while reducing errors, Busse said. The techniques also have reduced stress related to concerns about making mistakes.

If a business owner or manager decides additional staffing is needed, they should make sure sales will support new hires, Busse said. “You need to know your business well enough to make that decision.”

Owners and managers must closely monitor income statements to not only know the current financial condition of their businesses, but also accurately forecast the future financial condition of their operations, Busse said.