Pittsylvania, Danville governments see labor gap, too
Businesses aren’t the only organizations finding it difficult to hire employees. Amid dropping state unemployment rates and a nationwide labor shortage, Danville and Pittsylvania County have been seeking new ways to interest people in working for local government.
Pittsylvania’s Board of Supervisors approved $1,000 employee referral and sign-on bonuses in July, says Holly E. Stanfield, the county’s human resources manager. “We knew we needed to do something different to attract people to this area.”
This summer, Pittsylvania County had about 30 openings to fill, mainly in the social services department and the sheriff’s office. The county’s unemployment dropped to 4.1% in May, while the national unemployment rate was 5.8%.
Additionally, the county launched an ad campaign aimed not at specific job positions, Stanfield says, but at “people who are eager to learn, work and make an impact utilizing their skills and talents.”
Meanwhile, Danville was working to fill almost 45 job openings, according to Sara Weller, the city’s director of human resources. The city was having trouble recruiting police officers as well as unskilled and skilled labor positions, including commercial drivers license holders, mowers and mechanics.
Danville adopted a new pay rate system last year, after conducting a compensation study in late 2019 “to ensure our pay rates are consistent with average market pay in other localities of similar size, which increases our recruitment and retention,” Weller says.
But Virginia’s minimum wage rose to $9.50 an hour in May, as part of the commonwealth’s phased approach to increasing the rate to $15 by 2026, pending General Assembly approval.
As a result, Weller says, “we’re working with the consultant to work up to that $15 to see what that looks like.”
To attract job applicants, the city also has increased the amount of annual leave employees earn and the number of paid holidays, she adds.
Both the county and city are using health and wellness benefits as recruiting tools. “We have an outstanding wellness program and do offer a wellness incentive,” Stanfield says. “If an employee gets an annual exam, which most insurance plans cover, we pay $125 if they participate in that.”
And in Danville, “we offer an onsite employee health center that provides primary care to all employees at fees ranging from free to $25,” Weller says. ν