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 November 19, 1999

Employers broaden search for workers

Anyone who has ever tried to hire a worker in Boulder County doesn’t have to be told there’s a labor shortage.

But now, economic experts are predicting that the labor shortage is rapidly becoming a labor crisis. Tucker Hart Adams, the state’s economist at US Bank, says Colorado’s employment problems could single-handedly slow down growth and affect stock market performance.

Boulder County companies are responding to labor problems in unique ways. After all, in some cases, the county’s employment woes are unique.

High housing costs and a consequent demand for high salaries have long forced companies to look outside Boulder, and increasingly the entire county, for unskilled workers. But now companies that are recruiting professional workers are not only looking outside the county, but also outside the state and sometimes outside the country.

“Just like everyone else, we’re feeling the pinch to hold onto and recruit new workers. We’re trying to locate pools of workers outside of Colorado,” says John Tayer, community relations manager at Roche Colorado, a pharmaceutical company in Boulder.

Roche recently advertised in newspapers in the southern states, hoping to lure workers to the Front Range. “Our location is an asset,” Tayer says.

Roche also is turning to the Internet to find workers. Tayer says the company recently signed up for an experimental venture with the New York Times’ Web site, which lists job contact information and a link to Roche’s site.

Tom Deany, executive vice president of human resources at Boulder’s netLibrary, says workers from as far away as Yugoslavia have responded to netLibrary employment postings on big Internet job boards like Monster.com.

netLibrary recently signed up for Monster.com’s three-month trial period. For a fee of $4,500 to $4,800, netLibrary can post all its job listings and scroll through online resumes from Monster.com’s almost 2 million users.

Deany says a recent job posting on Monster.com brought in about 50 replies. Although responses came from all over the globe, Deany says a substantial number were local.

Norwest Bank also looks outside the U.S. labor force for workers. The bank frequently hires refugees who have graduated from the Spring Institute for International Studies’ WorkStyles program. WorkStyles counsels new arrivals to the country about the American job market and common workplace customs.

Many local companies rely on the Internet to attract workers, but limit their job postings to their own Web sites.

Of course, all the advertising in the world isn’t going to lure workers unless a job offer comes with a good salary and benefits package.

“When every storefront you walk by has a help wanted sign, you’ve got to be at least competitive from a wage standpoint,” Deany says.

Small companies that might not be able to afford large salaries are making up for that with expanded benefits.

Leanin’ Tree Inc. in Gunbarrel offers a $500 signing bonus for machine mechanics, along with free health insurance and a choice of a four- or five-day work week. Roche subsidizes an on-site concierge service that performs services such as delivering lunch, picking up laundry or taking a worker’s car to the repair shop.

“It helps deal with mid-week errands that you can’t do because you’re working,” Tayer says.

Roche also offers health-club memberships and workplace parties and events.

But in some circumstances, excellent benefits aren’t enough. That’s when companies have to get creative.

“We’re constantly revising and brainstorming,” says Amy Maranowicz, human resources generalist at The Bank in Boulder. “It’s a tough market. We run pretty much the whole gamut.”

In the very competitive banking industry, The Bank has found that in order to fill some jobs, it’s necessary to look beyond applicants with banking experience.

“We target skill sets,” Maranowicz says. “People who work in manufacturing or quality assurance can have attention to detail. We hire a lot of people from health care. We have our employees look for anyone who shows exceptional customer service.”

The Bank’s employees have an incentive to bring in new workers: They get a cash reward for new hires that they find. netLibrary also offers $100 to $150 per employee referral.

But while companies continually search for new ways to find employees, they also rely on the tried and true methods.

“Newspaper advertising works well for us and so does networking,” Deany says.

Especially at the senior level, netLibrary relies on good old word-of-mouth to find talented candidates, focusing on board members and other companies that use the same venture capital firms.

Anyone who has ever tried to hire a worker in Boulder County doesn’t have to be told there’s a labor shortage.

But now, economic experts are predicting that the labor shortage is rapidly becoming a labor crisis. Tucker Hart Adams, the state’s economist at US Bank, says Colorado’s employment problems could single-handedly slow down growth and affect stock market performance.

Boulder County companies are responding to labor problems in unique ways. After all, in some cases, the county’s employment woes are unique.

High housing costs and a consequent demand for high salaries have long forced companies to look outside Boulder, and increasingly the…

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