Finding good employees can be difficult, but local businesses are making headway

Published 8:00 am Saturday, July 31, 2021

Good employees might be hard to find, but they are out there. This article spotlights a few of them to applaud their performance and provide a ray of hope in tough times for staffing certain jobs.

The reasons employees are hard to find now go beyond the impact of boosted unemployment benefits, although that is definitely one of the factors. Wages can be low and stay low, a significant factor for parents in those jobs who will need to pay for childcare. However, paying higher wages is not feasible for many businesses.

Also, it’s important to note that starting pay and benefits for local fast food businesses are on the rise. One popular fast food eatery offers well above minimum wage, paid vacations for leadership and a program with Fast Pace Urgent Care.

The labor pool is smaller. Some of the employees who lost jobs when COVID closed down restaurants found other jobs. The problem is nationwide, but it’s compounded here in Southwest Louisiana where residents who filled essential services positions were displaced when they lost homes or apartments after the hurricanes. Multi-family housing took a hard hit and many of those properties remain in their damaged state 11 months later.

“The struggle is real,” said an owner of a construction company and flooring company.

However, these businesses find themselves appreciative of having some great people in place.

Imagination Studio is a T-shirt and gift boutique at 106 S. Huntington St. in Sulphur. Proceeds benefit the Sulphur Christian Community Coalition (CS3) Rise Up Youth Empowerment Program. CS3 Executive Director Paula Taylor says she has finally found her “dream team.”

“They’re young, eager to work and to learn anything that I throw out at them,” Taylor said. “They’re taking ownership. It’s not just showing up so they can get a paycheck.”

Taylor said it took a long time to find good employees but now that they’re networking with friends and spreading the excitement of Imagination Studio, others have expressed interest in working there.

McDonald’s District Manager Michael Boyer appreciates employees with a “can do” attitude like Brittany Hill.

“Brittany, the General Manager of Ryan Street McDonald’s has been someone that everyone loves working with,” Boyer said. “She doesn’t leave until the job is done and makes herself available to her employees if they have needs. During the flood, when an employee couldn’t make it home, she invited them into her home.”

Aaron Quinn, one of the owners of The Village Coffee Shop in Sulphur and Monica Jackson, owner of Roly Poly in Sulphur and Lake Charles say they have found a great group of employees and that creates an upbeat atmosphere that pleases customers and makes other young people want to work there.

“We put ourselves in their shoes,” Quinn said. “Everyone is having problems but we have a good, positive group.”

“Good employees are hard to come by,” Jackson agreed, “but we definitely have a great team. They enjoy their jobs and we enjoy them. I find the best employees have an inner joy no matter the circumstances and come to work not just to take but also to give a service and add positivity to the work environment.”

Jackson believes the responsibility of retaining employees falls on the owner or manager.

“Mutual respect and appreciation goes a long way with the right person,” she said.

Sarah Maffit is one of Jackson’s employees. She took the job because her parents suggested it.

“I was very nervous and shy when I first started,” Maffit said. “I first got the job so that I could begin to pay for sweets and hobbies.”

Seventeen-year-old Maffit is home schooled and does one subject before her shift and finishes the rest of her school when she gets off.

“I am currently saving to go to trade school for cosmetology,” she said. “My parents are really supportive of me and I thank them for helping me.

“One thing I always try to do is smile because smiles can be contagious.”