FORT WAYNE, Ind. (WANE) — Recently businesses in Fort Wayne and northeast Indiana have been struggling with staffing. However, several businesses are taking a new approach to hiring and retaining employees.

“I feel like everybody is in the same boat as us,” said Katie Holloway, HR director at Christian Care Retirement Community. “You drive down the street and everyone is hiring. We are a little bit different. As a retirement community, so it doesn’t matter if we are fully staffed on the floor or have two CNA’s on the floor, we still have the same amount of residents to care for.”

Christian Care is a senior retirement community located in Bluffton that provides care across multiple spectrums including independent living, assisted living, and skilled nursing care. Across the campus, Christian Care has 170 employees and 175 residents.

However, in November of 2020, the facility saw a surge of COVID-19 cases, and the National Guard was called in to help. Since then Christian Care has been short-staffed.

Holloway says that in recent months the shortage has gotten worse and is currently looking for CNA, housekeeping, and other positions.

“We can’t seem to find anybody who is either qualified or even applying for positions,” Holloway said. “It’s never been like this before.”

While talking with WANE 15 Holloway spoke to just how difficult it has been to find new staff members. Recently, Holloway says that 316 people applied online. This does not include walk-ins, emails, or calling to apply. Out of those applicants, 123 turned into scheduled interviews. However, 59 of those interviews resulted in the person not showing up for the interview or calling to cancel the interview while 47 of the interviews turned out to be candidates the facility was interested in hiring. Out of the 47, the facility was interested in, only became 21 employees.

The lack of new employees has caused Holloway to reach out to Purdue University Fort Wayne professor of organizational leadership Michael Kirchner. Holloway says that Kirchner has helped implement “because we care” discussions with employees.

That discussion includes one-on-one meetings as well as group meetings with employees to see what is going well in the facility and want needs to be improved on. Holloway says the meetings have been a huge success because employees she that she cares about improving the facility.

“I want to focus on retention,” Holloway said. “I don’t offer sign-on bonuses to new hires, I would rather give those bonuses to the ones who have been here for so long. We do short shift bonus so if someone calls off we are paying them to work short notice.”

Other companies, like Spherion Staffing, are doing similar incentive programs to hire and retain employees. However, the staffing agency is going one step further.

Spherion Staffing website with a look at all the prizes up for grabs.

Beginning in July Spherion Staffing of Fort Wayne launched a two-month incentive program to help businesses fill jobs in and around the Fort Wayne area. From July to September Spherion Staffing will be giving away more than 150 prizes ranging from MacBook Air Laptops, Apple Watches to flat-screen TV to Spherion employees active on assignments.

At the end of September, employees who went to work and have been in good standing with the company will be entered to win a brand new Ford Mustang sports car or the equivalent in cash.

“We have more than 600 jobs to fill,” said Molly Pentenburg, Spherion Staffing Market Area Manager. “The program is great and is actually working. We are thrilled with it. It’s great to get to call these people and say ‘hey just because you are coming to work you are going to win this prize.’ So that is what we are trying.”

Pentenburg says that the company is looking to do something similar after September is over in hopes of keeping employees.

How long will the staffing shortage last?

“Employment rates are back to pre-pandemic levels,” Kirchner said. “We are kind of scraping at the bottom a little bit. There just aren’t that many well-qualified and perhaps motivated employees out there.”

Kirchner says that besides having pay at a liveable wage companies need to look at their branding and if they are sharing their values publically. That could mean updating their website or Facebook page.

The PFW professor says that it is also important that employers are showing their employees just how much they care about them because it is less expensive to retain employees than bring new ones on.

“If you ask the question ‘do my employers know you care about them’ and if we can’t say yes to that question that gives us a real starting point to look inward and say what can some changes or practices that would hopefully improve employee satisfaction,” Kirchner said.

Christian Care or Spherion Staffing are both hiring. Companies looking for help and advice can reach out to professor Michael Kirchner by email.