$10,000 signing bonuses and more await Iowa workers

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CLIVE, Iowa — Business has been really good at Christian Brothers Automotive in Clive, owner Bill Tiernan said, but that brings a challenge: He needs more workers. “For me, it means I have a need,” he said of his current situation.

Some Iowans chose not to travel much during the worst of the COVID-19 pandemic, others worked from home and still, others left the workforce entirely. That meant that drivers weren’t putting as many miles on their vehicles. But Tiernan said that has now changed and he needs more help in the shop. “$10,000 is the least that we can do,” Tiernan said of his new strategy to find qualified auto technicians.

He included the offer in a mailer to residents who lived near his business. The mailer offer discounts on oil changes and vehicle inspections on one side and a $10,000 signing bonus notice for advanced technicians on the other.

He needs three or four employees as soon as he can but may need another 12-15 when his business expands to a second location in Grimes next spring.

“They’re out there,” he said of potential job applicants, “We’ll find them.”

Signing bonuses, increased wages, work from home options and more flexible work schedules are all among the options Iowa employers are using to recruit workers. The worker shortage these days is challenging. The Iowa Workforce Development website lists 84,503 current openings across the state and 66,100 unemployed residents.

Nicolle Picray knows her company needs even more employees, about 100 of them. And that is just in Pella.

Picray is the public relations and brand communications manager at Pella Corporation, which is headquartered in Pella. She estimates that the company needs approximately 700 factory hourly hires for its facilities nationwide. The company takes pride that the average tenure of employees is 14 years.

But her company, like Tiernan’s, is feeling a double demand. Window sales surged as families improved, upgraded and expanded homes during COVID-19’s outbreak as they spent more time at home. But that requires more workers and the company has struggled to find enough.

“Pella is known for being a really great employer and it’s a good place to work,” Picray said about the company, which is one of the largest window manufacturers in the country. “But how do we get that message out and really encourage people to come and work here at Pella?” she asks.

One way the company is trying to do that is through a series of enhanced incentives. Picray said that Pella Corp. renovated space and helped bring a daycare program to town to make it easier for working parents. It offered $500 signing bonuses to new employees at the beginning of the year. Then it tripled that to $1,500 and also offered current employees $2,000 if they referred a future employee.

But staffing demand persists, just like it does at so many other Iowa companies as the recovery from the health pandemic drags on.

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