The Hidden Factor in Employment
By Donna M. McIntyre-Johnson
Posted on 4/24/07
Faced with changing demographics and an increase in competition
for talent from other service businesses, my company has worked
hard to communicate who we are and what we have to offer to
people outside our general area. We responded to the challenge
of finding smart, friendly, hospitable individuals by amplifying
our recruiting scope and making it easier to apply.
Once limited to advertising in local papers and posting a
sign on the roof, our recruiting efforts now include online
resources touching folks as far away as Iowa and closer to
home in Racine and Kenosha. We invested in a better company
website that could communicate our openings and our benefits.
We partnered with schools and became more involved in our
area’s workforce development efforts.
We continue to post, fax, mail, verbalize, and network our
way to new employees. And we hope that job seekers will do
the same. We accept application by email, post, in person,
by fax or by referral. Low tech, high tech or no tech, we
can make an application available to a job seeker.
Unfortunately, getting the word out that we exist and that
we have positions available are only parts of the employment
equation. Transportation concerns are another big one.
I hear it voiced on the phone every day from job seekers.
“I’m really interested in the job you have posted
- Where exactly are you located?
- Are you on the bus line?
- I can’t work Sundays because there
is no bus.
- I can only work first shift because of the bus.
- I can’t come in early or stay late.
- I can’t get home if I get off late.
- Why do I need a driver license for that job?
- Are you saying that I might not get a bartender license
because I couldn’t afford to pay my fines?
No license and/or no car mean that a good portion of job
seekers are relegated to jobs within a certain distance from
home. For many Milwaukee job seekers with limited transportation
that means that Waukesha is unavailable to them. Some with
cars will risk driving when they are not licensed just to
get an interview but realize upon arriving at the hotel that
they can’t take the chance of driving every day.
As an employer, I feel this barrier in the number of people
I talk to who say they are not interested when they find out
where we are. For every three or four people I speak to who
applied online and who live outside the Waukesha area, only
one is likely to travel to us to work. Only 50% of the people
from Milwaukee, who make an appointment for an interview,
show up. I hear about all the hardships: fines for speeding
that equal three days pay for a $7 per hour worker, gas prices,
blown engines on old cars, unpaid parking tickets compounding
daily, families too poor to pay for driver’s education,
repossessions after layoffs. Worse yet, usually there is no
one to go to for help or guidance. No live person at the end
of many automated systems to tell a person what to do.
Typical examples of how the lack of transportation and licenses
impact our business and job seekers’ lives include these:
We hired Nera as a cook in our waterpark. She had some cooking
experience. Her personal references showed her to be friendly
and a hard worker. As a recent immigrant from a war torn country,
her English was limited but she was attending classes for
that. We included a family member in the hiring process to
make sure that all of Nera questions were answered. We decided
that we would include pictures in our training so that there
might be less production issues. We discussed the schedule
we needed filled. Both Nera and her supervisor were excited
about her starting. But it never happened. One day before
Nera was due to report, she called to withdraw. Her family
member called us back to say that she was very sorry but because
they didn’t have a car and because we only had shifts
available that worked later than the bus ran, Nera had to
quit. She went on to say that Nera was heart broken because
this was the opportunity she was looking for. After exploring
her public transportation options, Nera had phoned everyone
she knew at church and school to see if anyone could commit
to picking her up from work each day until she could save
for a car, but no one could. They were all juggling work and
school too. Both Nera and our company lost something that
Dan would love to join the Country Springs Hotel banquet
service team. He enjoys the work he does with us through the
temp agency. He does a great job and we appreciate his smile
and hard work when the temp service sends him to help us.
Just one problem, Dan can’t get to work without being
part of the temp service team. Dan lives in Milwaukee and
a few bad choices several years ago have made it cost prohibitive
to get his license and a car. The only way he can get to work
is if he takes the Milwaukee bus to Brookfield Square and
someone from the temp service picks him up and drops him off
at the client’s location. Sometimes weeks go by between
work assignments because businesses have their own servers
to use first. He’s tried doing other types of steadier
work through other temp company’s but after several
occasions of being left stranded a county away from home in
the middle of the night by a temp service van driver that
decided not to show up, he’ll stick to daytime banquet
work where he has a better chance of getting help if a problem
Transportation issues, whether bad luck or self imposed,
create a barrier to employment that isn’t discussed
enough. As an employer, we can work hard to let people know
that we have jobs open and how to apply, but a job seeker
has to be able to get here to start the process. It is very
difficult for us to lose an employee or job seeker because
they can’t come to work.
Donna M. McIntyre-Johnson is Director of Human Resources
at Country Springs