Hawai’i’s workers struggle with low pay, low-level jobs

In this past Sunday’s Advertiser, reporter Dan Nakaso added to our Ho‘ohana deliberations this month on labor and recruitment by sharing the dilemma of

“two college-educated, full-time workers who are frustrated with Hawaii’s job market … for them, low unemployment statistics are meaningless if they can’t earn enough to leave their rented, 3-bedroom house in Kaimuki and buy their own home somewhere on O‘ahu … Billie and Randy represent the frustrated human faces masked by favorable, statewide unemployment numbers.”

Good article, and good job by Nakaso in trying to explore the whole picture more fully.
So where does this leave us?
Take in the highlights. By that I mean to carefully scrutinize the article for the good stuff: the stuff with promise and potential. The stuff that tips you off to your opportunity as an employer out to make a difference. I found 4 things we can work on:

1. “People need to stop counting the large number of jobs and start talking about the quality of jobs.” —Alex McGehee, executive vp.  Your opportunity: work on job quality. This means much more than just pay. Have your doubts? Ask employees who love their jobs why they’re so happy—they’ll tell you.

Believe me, they’re out there. They’re even in your own company already. You’re reading this as a member of the Ho‘ohana Community wanting to do better, aren’t you? Well then, you have them.

2. “Employers looking for specialized skills in areas such as information technology still see a gap between their needs and a workforce largely based on tourism.” —Dan Nakaso.  Your opportunity: offer training in the specialized skills you seek, and the chance to immediately put these newly-acquired skills to work.

3. “ ” create new, high-paying professions that would reduce the number of people working multiple jobs.” —Alex McGehee. Your opportunity: create those professions—combine two jobs into one, by squeezing out the duplicity and wasted time between them. Pay accordingly—which normally will be far less than if you simply added together the salaries and benefit packages you would have paid for two people.

I’ve got to add my 2 cents more: I see this opportunity first-hand in nearly every company I work with, study, or am a customer of. Employers are throwing away dollars on the idle time of their staff.  Furthermore, that staff does not want to be idle, bored, apathetic, and unengaged: jobs like that are just no fun.

4. “[big box retailers] tend to have entry-level positions with little advancement, despite what their commercials say.” —Lawrence Boyd, labor economist. Your opportunity: offer the incentives for advancement, and create a working environment that will make them happen.
If your actions respond to these things, filling the void with opportunity, the word will spread quickly, and the employees you want will flock to your doors.
We have a golden opportunity to RE-INVENT work in Hawaii. Are you up to the challenge? Let’s do it!