Hiring climate getting tighter

More difficult to find, keep good employees, survey says

The downside of the industry rebound and recovery in the overall economy is making it harder to find qualified employees.

And nowhere is that tougher than in the service department, according to the latest Boating Industry survey.

The survey was conducted via email in March, with surveys deployed to readers of Boating Industry magazine and enewsletters, including dealers, manufacturers and others working in the industry.

While about half of all respondents said the difficulty of hiring and keeping new employees is about the same as it was a year ago, 45 percent said it is more difficult. Nearly one-fifth of readers said it is much more difficult and less than 5 percent said it is easier than it was a year ago.

Service jobs toughest

That level of difficulty, though, varies greatly depending on the type of employee companies are looking to hire.

The shortage of service technicians has been an industry topic for years, so it’s not surprising that service department jobs are the toughest to fill. Of those who have a service department, 54 percent said it was very difficult to find and keep employees in those jobs. Only 18 percent said it wasn’t difficult at all.

Manufacturing openings are also proving to be a challenge, with 35 percent saying it is very difficult to find and keep those employees and 85 percent saying it is at least somewhat difficult.

When it comes to sales, customer service, marketing or marina staff, about a quarter of respondents rated those positions as very difficult (see full chart p. 15).

The easiest jobs to keep filled are for office and support staff, with only 11 percent reporting that it is very difficult to find and keep employees in those jobs, and 46 percent saying it is not difficult at all.

Click image to view larger (Source: Boating Industry survey, March 2015)

Click image to view larger (Source: Boating Industry survey, March 2015)

Majority looking to hire

More than half of those surveyed – 54 percent – have either added staff or are expecting to do so sometime this year.

Of those that are adding employees, the service department is the top target. Seventy-five percent of companies that have a service department plan to add employees there, nearly three times the level of any other department, except for manufacturing.

Of those that do have manufacturing operations, 47 percent have added or either plan to add headcount this year.

Just over a third of companies plan on adding to their sales team, while 29 percent plan on hiring additional customer service personnel. More than a quarter plan to add office/support staff, and 9 percent are hiring marketing staff. Twenty-eight percent of marinas are hiring for 2015.

When they make the decision to hire, companies are using a variety of methods to try to find the right people. Employee referrals are the top choice, with 66 percent of companies using those as a hiring tool. That was followed closely by online job sites, with 56 percent of readers advertising job openings there.

About a third of companies are using social media and newspaper advertising to look for employees, and 30 percent work with trade schools or other training programs.


Click image to view larger (Source: Boating Industry survey, March 2015)

Once they’ve started the hiring process, companies are looking at a number of factors, but the most important is personality. More than 70 percent rated that as very important in making a hiring decision and 95 percent said it was at least somewhat important, easily eclipsing other factors. Only 1 percent said it wasn’t important at all.

Previous boating industry experience and references from current employees were next, with both rated as very important by 27 percent of respondents and at least somewhat important by 77 percent.

About 20 percent said education or certifications were very important in making hiring decisions, with 69 percent saying they were somewhat important. Only 10 percent rated previous experience outside the industry as very important.

Investing in training

Click image to view larger (Source: Boating Industry survey, March 2015)

Click image to view larger (Source: Boating Industry survey, March 2015)

In this and previous surveys, many companies cited the importance of employee training in retaining a quality team.

Many companies are planning on increasing their education budget this year – 27 percent said they plan to spend more on employee training this year. Sixty-eight percent are spending the same, but only 5 percent plan to spend less.

There’s a large spread in how much companies are spending on employee training, but most – 63 percent – are spending at least $500 per year per employee. Twenty-eight percent are spending more than $1,000 a year. Only 9 percent are spending less than $100 a year.


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