I'm in a Labor Shortage Mood …

Labor-shortage-drumbeater Roger Herman would be proud that: 
 
-Today’s Financial Times reports that in Australia, “some mining investment projects have been mothballed through lack of suitably qualified engineers.”
 
-At the Texas oil rig company Beacon Maritime, “the lack of adequate labor is a factor in accepting new contracts … The company wants to more than double its labor force … but recruiting is coming up short for welders, fitters, apprentices, carpenters, plumbers and electricians,” according to the Beaumont Enterprise.
 
-California raisin growers, in the agricultural valley areas, are short of the employees they need.
 
-Meanwhile, in the California desert areas, “growth in residential building has stretched the local labor supply thin. Local contractors also have been hard-pressed to find qualified laborers, planners and managers for projects … A result is that some housing projects have faced building delays,” according to the Desert Sun.

Monday Shopping Amidst a Tight Labor Market

Weekend miscellany:
 
Lockheed is branding itself as a supporter of the troops.
 
The Weekly Standard says that Nov. 28 is “cyber Monday, the day on which people who couldn’t find what they wanted in the stores, and people who don’t have high-speed Internet access at home, but do at the office, log on to let their fingers do the walking. Only the Scroogiest of bosses objects, especially at a time when the unemployment rate is low and the labor market increasingly tight.”
 
Delta has said a pilot strike would be “murder-suicide,” and “industry analysts say they may be right on the mark.”

Hiring People Who Can Stuff it

Mary Clingman was once discussing the bushes in the neighborhood with another woman. A man came by and asked for directions. Clingman watched while the woman, rather than merely providing him directions, actually led the guy all the way to where he needed to be.
 
After witnessing such “customer service,” Clingman, director of the Butterball Turkey Talk-Line, hired the woman to talk turkey with thousands of confused cookers each year.  
 
ConAgra’s Talk-Line’s celebrating its 25th anniversary. From November 1 through Christmas, the turkey-talkers take more than 100,000 calls, and have taken 3 million through the years. 

 

Though the Talk-Line has become as much of a mini-American-institution as a 10-minute description of a Starbucks order, it wasn’t a foregone conclusion. The enthusiastic Clingman says that at the beginning, in 1981, “way back when, 800 numbers were new, we really didn?t know if people would call such a number. But they did. It has become a tradition.”

 

The average tenure of these ConAgra employees with telephones surgically attached to their ears is 10.7 years. They’re contractors who “have other jobs they just tweak their little schedules to come in and help us out,” Clingman says. 
 
Clingman finds them through word of mouth–e.g., while talking about the bushes. They have to have a passion for cooking, for food, and the majority have some home economics or dietetics background. Most importantly, they have to be emphatic. “You really have to have empathy,” Clingman says, “and be willing to talk eight hours straight, and help them cook a turkey. Each gal will take 2-300 calls in a day.” 
 
Yes, the 1-800-Butterball employees are all “gals.” (“We don?t have any men, we don?t have any of those,” she says.) Most callers are women, too, though the percent of men calling has about doubled, from 11 percent in the early years to 21 percent now.
 
When Clingman has a candidate she thinks could be a good turkey-talker, she takes them to lunch. It’s easier, however, just to keep the people she has. “The more experience we can get into our people, the better job they do–customers are not going to stump you with whatever situation you find yourself in.”
 

 

 

Craig on Base

Weekend miscellany:
 
–Craig Newmark tells me in an e-mail re: Google Base: “I think they’ll help us get our listings to an even larger market.”
 
–According to TheStreet, Ford will “eliminate 4,000 salaried positions, or about 10% of its North American total … the cuts will come from attrition, layoffs and the cancellation of some contract and agency positions. The bulk will occur during the first quarter of next year.”
 
–Monster and the U.S. Chamber of Commerce (a business lobbying group sometimes mistaken for a government agency) “announced a two-year alliance to provide top quality hiring solutions to U.S. Chamber members. Monster was selected following a competitive search that included several other national recruitment solution providers.”
 
–Back to Craig … sometimes it’s interesting to read the “jobs wanted,” as opposed to the job listings on Craig’s list. One poster in Orange County says (I’m shortening it) … “I have no money but I got a job, they require professional dress complete with blazers. I am a single mom and need this job but am lacking the attire … if anyone could help me out with a gift card/certificate, i would appreciate it so much. If you need anything in return, i’d be more than happy to give you what i can spare.” 
 
Even though the grammar wasn’t perfect, I don’t know how any reminder that there are things we take for granted could be more eloquent.

United Will Have its Pick of Flight Attendants

United Airlines cancelled its recruitment advertising for flight attendants because it got so much media attention that the jobs applications flooded in.
 
Robin Urbansky, a United spokesperson, told me that it sent a press release out over PRNewswire and talked to local reporters ahead of launching the jobs on its website; as a result, the first application came in 20 minutes after going live.  
 
“We wanted to try to raise the awareness that this was the first time United has hired since 9/11,” she says, adding that United got so much interest because of “what this hiring symbolizes for our industry and more notably our company.”
 
Candidates who make the first cut then interview with Spherion, which decides whether they have at least six of 11 necessary competencies. They then interview with United, and lastly take part in a “group interactive activity,” about which Urbansky had little to share. United received more than 16,700 online applications in the first three days and is interviewing 5,100. Jobs are also open in administration, management, operations, maintenance, and customer service.

Timber and Fire

Something today for labor-shortage junkies …
 
Two-thirds of loggers in Idaho, Montana and Washington are 40 and over, according to the AP. A new University of Idaho study warns that before long this could make it tough to find enough employees, and thus harder to thin out forests, increasing the danger from fires.
 
Harry Lee, professor emeritus at the Univ of Idaho, tells me that the industry has “gotten more mechanized,” causing some companies to lay people off. This has given the false impression that the whole industry is failing and won’t need people in the future.
 
Lee says that some people retire at the same age as they might in another field, but that “this labor force, maybe they retire a little earlier  … lots of times it becomes a health issue.”

Butler's Hiring

What United’s looking for in its 2,000 soon-to-be-hired flight attendants: A passion for service; a passion for safety; flexibility; good interpersonal and communication skills; teamwork; cultural sensitivity; integrity; dependability; conscientiousness; and a professional image.
 
Meanwhile, Ask Jeeves is on an “agressive” hiring binge, according to Inside Bay Area. It has already expanded its staff by 30 percent this year. It wants techies and some marketers.
 
Citigroup’s hiring by the hundreds in South Carolina, mainly using employee referrals, for call-center and other customer service jobs.