IBR Panel: Workplace culture must change in Idaho’s labor market

Chloe Baul//March 2, 2023

IBR Panel: Workplace culture must change in Idaho’s labor market

Chloe Baul//March 2, 2023

Removing barriers for recruitment, hiring practices, workplace culture and employee retention are top priorities for many business leaders as Idaho’s labor market remains tight.

Five panelists explored current challenges facing Idaho employers at an ongoing Breakfast Series event sponsored by The Idaho Business Review Feb. 28 at The Grove Hotel.

Moderator Carsten Peterson, a partner with event-presenting sponsor Hawley Troxell, opened with a discussion about the current workforce climate, according to Jani Revier, director at the Idaho Department of Labor, the current workforce participation rate is at 62%. Idaho Workplace culture

“Idaho is booming, but despite the fact that we’re building and we’re adding a lot of jobs, we still have an extremely tight workforce and we’re anticipating a tight labor market for the foreseeable future,” Revier said. “One reason we’re seeing that is the workforce is changing, baby boomers are our largest generation, and they’re retiring so the younger generations have to fill that gap.”

Stephanie Parker, Founder of the recruiting firm TalentSpark, said employers can tap into underutilized talent and potential by looking into hiring individuals who have traditionally have not been engaged in the labor market. 

“Look for employees who are over 60, because that is a growing market,” Parker said. “And of course, veteran and military spouses are some untapped and underutilized pools that we are seeing our clients and employers in the area beginning to develop programs to engage that workforce to try to fill primarily those hourly roles.”

Caty Solace, chief communications and operations officer at STEM Action Center, said finding skilled workers starts with education. Idaho Workplace culture

“Our sweet spot is really in that area between employers and education. We’re trying to inspire that kind of energy and collaboration in that space,” Solace said. “Educators can be your first line in seeing those folks who might be a good match for you down the line. We have a couple of programs that I think are really good at connecting employers and education.”

Construction continues to grow in the valley, despite challenges in the local labor market. Tyler Sisson, director of organizational development at ESI construction, highlighted the value of building a positive company culture and making it a primary tool in recruiting.  

“Before the pandemic we were just under 600 employees, now we’re at 804 as of last Friday,” Sisson said. “Compensation, benefits, work hours – all of things and culture wins the day. If you know what your culture is, and you can articulate what you have to offer in your interview and in your marketing, you’re going to get the right people.”Idaho Workplace culture

Toni Carter, chief inclusion and collaboration officer at Idaho National Laboratory (INL), mentioned the laboratory’s success in finding and retaining employees. She said employees can fill positions by seeking talent across cultures and demographic groups, and making those jobs accessible to everyone.

The reason why we’ve been so successful – we’ve grown at about 8 to 10% in the last six to eight years – is because we’re tapping an untapped market that hasn’t been tapped before,” Carter said. “In South Idaho, Native Americans and tribal groups, people of color, and particularly our Latino groups, are around 30%. These demographics haven’t translated into most of the businesses that are reflected in Idaho.”