BY ISAIAH JOHN AGUON
As local businesses are working to recover from the hits taken during the COVID-19 pandemic, some are finding it a challenge to hire workers to fill vacant positions.
“In our market, we are seeing it’s getting more competitive,” said Jenynne Guzman, president of Guam Temps Inc.
A number of businesses have held job fairs, and “now hiring” flyers are shared online and in print on establishment windows and counters across the island.
One other challenge employers have repeatedly commented on was the Pandemic Unemployment Assistance Program, a benefit that during the height of the pandemic helped workers who either lost their jobs or lost working hours. Even as businesses started to call employees because they were reopening or increasing working hours, employees were hesitant.
“We did see that being an issue for us too,” Guzman said. “We saw that people were applying but we are not sure if they are putting in an application to show that they are trying.”
One of the requirements for federal benefits was applying for jobs to show there was an effort being made to gain employment. Now with PUA and other federal government aid programs like the extra allotments for the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, or SNAP, winding down, Uncango told the Journal that the number of people applying for jobs are returning to pre-COVID-19 numbers. But the challenge of reeling in employees remains.
Triple J Enterprises Inc. is another employer facing similar trials.
“The competition for talent has become quite fierce, post pandemic,” said Yolanda M. Padrones, the director of human resources for Triple J. “For Triple J, we have also explored other non-traditional recruitment strategies to include partnering with schools and trade organizations to grow talent through internships, apprenticeship programs, specialized boot camps, as well as high school placement programs.”
In addition to attracting talent, much investment has been put into retaining talent, and for good reason, Padrones said. Triple J, which has an auto sale company, rental car company, gas station, and operates Outback Steakhouse on Guam, has 387 employees as of March 2.
“To attract talent, employers have looked at creative ways to recruit candidates to include job fairs that offer incentives to apply, on the spot hiring, and sign-on bonuses,” she said. “Some employers have re-evaluated hiring employees at the higher end of salary ranges or improving total compensation by offering more meaningful benefits. Some other strategies that employers have taken include optimizing the onboarding experience and revisiting employee engagement.”
Padrones shared with the Journal the shift in worker expectations or behavior has led to what has been coined many things to include “the Great Resignation or the Great Reshuffle.”
“Employees in search of a healthy work life balance and growth opportunities have been more open to explore other job options, even if it means a completely different role,” she said. “That said, employers have adjusted by re-evaluating their policies in favor of more flexible work schedules, remote work, and open to accommodating employee needs, while also closely evaluating compensation and benefit strategies to increase overall employee satisfaction and engagement.”
The key to companies addressing this evolving staffing shortage is how they adapt, Padrones added. “Strategies that focus on creating, improving, or maintaining, a highly engaged, inclusive, safe, and effective workforce are likely to weather the storm,” she said.
To help local employers fill open positions, the Leon Guerrero-Tenorio administration last year held a job fair the Rihga Royal Hotel Guam, formerly the Sheraton Laguna Guam Resort, on July 1, 2022. It offered more than 500 job opportunities.
Guzman said, like Triple J, there’s a variety of reasons they’ve come across in terms of filling positions.
“The labor pool is limited here because a lot of people leave the island for better opportunities,” she said “But they don’t realize that there are opportunities here.”
Christie Uncangco, recruiting account manager at Guam Temps, said that the military buildup has also heightened job search activity, particularly in Dededo.
“We have been receiving a lot of inquiries lately from companies doing projects in the Marine Corps Base Camp Blaz,” she said. “It looks like the buildup is moving fast. We have been receiving inquiries regarding the manpower that we could provide there.”
Guam Temps was established in 1988, by Maureen Newman, the founder and current vice president, to supply temporary staff to a variety of clients in Guam. Guam Temps helps up to 50 employers a year with recruiting services. The staffing agency currently has 10 active clients.
One of the things it is doing is encouraging employers to use social media and connect with people where they are. Uncangco said not all employers are comfortable advertising outside of their website or on popular job search sites, like Indeed.
“They come to us because we have a wide range of external resources seeing that most candidates usually use, (including) their website or Indeed, but they don’t go out of range to meet different groups of people on other social media platforms,” Uncangco said. “From my experience, they don’t receive a lot of applicants or candidates from their websites or Indeed.”
She encourages employers to “definitely use social media because within the last couple of years, social media has been a great advantage to both candidates and clients.”
“And social media is big because everyone is on there,” she added. mbj