Notebook: No End In Sight

Notebook: No End In Sight

The business challenges you're managing heading into Winter 2021-22 are here to stay, and they may be getting worse.

September 17, 2021

There are no quick resolutions to the business obstacles the snow and ice industry -- and service industries in general -- face heading into Winter 2021. And this is a sobering fact that bears itself out in recent research.

For instance, the labor crisis has not improved, and it may be getting worse, according to a recent hiring poll conducted by Alignable, an online small business referral network.

In a late-summer survey of more than 4,000 small business owners, 66% reported having a "very difficult" time finding employees to fill open key revenue producing roles, many of which are necessary to drive revenue and rebound in 2021 an beyond.  

In July, only 50% of all small business owners indicated they were having trouble finding help. That figure jumped to 59% in August, and in recent weeks it has gone up another 7% to 66%.

And labor's impact on productivity can be traced throughout the supply chain, including include automotive, construction industries. For example, in July, 62% of manufacturers reported having trouble finding help, and that percentage jumped to 72% in August, and 83% for the first half of September.

In an attempt to alleviate shortages and strengthen retention, 47 percent of employers reported raising salaries across the board. However, in what is perhaps the most depressing statistic, more than a quarter of survey participants (26%) indicated that, at this time, they were simply giving up on finding the necessary labor to fill their ranks.

An interesting caveat: Despite these struggles, Alignable's research found the No. 1 way employers have found people to hire (37%) is through personal referrals and networking.

On a related side note, I came across a press release issued by the National Retail Federation announcing its first large-scale forum to address supply chain issues and share solutions.

The health of the supply chain is like the canary in the coal mine. Multiple issues can impact the supply chain's healthy flow. For example, the ongoing COVID pandemic directly affects the available workforce at international ports. If goods can't get loaded or unloaded or even transported across the globe, then the supply of products -- everything from electronic components to truck parts to skid-steer loaders -- grinds to a halt.

Closer to home, many professional snow and ice contractors have had to deal with the inability to secure the equipment, parts and materials necessary to manage their winter commitments.

What I found to be the most telling -- and perhaps the most discouraging -- is that the NRF formum is scheduled for June 2022. This is a clear sign no one anticipates these issues will be a thing of the past by next summer. Most likely, we'll be needing new ways to deal with these critical issues into the foreseeable future.

Mike Zawacki is editor of Snow Magazine.