The words of city of Greenville Human Resources Director Sheri Wells resonates with people these days — finding good people is hard.

During a presentation Tuesday afternoon, Wells said job turnover is becoming a concern for management. Just how much of a concern? Well, it warranted internal conversations about signing, retention and referral bonuses to help with recruitment efforts.

In the last year, 83 people have left their jobs in Greenville — some involuntarily. The underlying trend, according to Wells, is money. She wasn’t happy about some of the departures, going as far as saying that some decisions were not smart, but this is a reality for many employers in the wake of coronavirus.

As we’ve opined previously, Gov. Greg Abbott likes to point the finger at federal unemployment benefits, but this is starting to look like a more complex problem. If the city of Greenville is having a hard time, which offers competitive salaries and benefits, then there appears to be a broader issue than just unemployment benefits.

Abbott’s main line of problem-solving revolves around finding the simplest reason for something and blaming Democrats. It’s convenient but not honest, which is not surprising for politicians.

Greenville faces turnover and a wave of retirements. At least from anecdotal evidence, the other challenge is the coronavirus pandemic made a lot of people re-think their career choices.

Consider those who earn tipped wages: their minimum wage is $2.13 per hour. There are strict rules to prevent employers from taking advantage but are still weighted in favor of the employer. The pay is among the lowest in the United States. It also explains some of the reluctance to return to work.

Of course, restaurants have been hit hard by the pandemic. Nearly every restaurant in Greenville is looking for workers. Some are bumping up salaries; others are offering benefits, including tuition reimbursement. Fast-food chains appear to be leading the way in this effort. Historically reliant on entry-level workers, fast-food restaurants are now working on retention by boosting salaries.

For years, Texas made it easy for companies to thrive — sometimes at the peril of employees. Texas ranks 28th in median per hour salary of $19.06 and toward the bottom in an annual mean wage of $52,400.

Texas is in the top 20 in affordability, but if you’re paying attention to the housing market, that’s likely to change. The buying power of that annual mean salary is lessening.

In Greenville’s situation, salaries are part of the recruitment equation. With an expected boom in housing and manufacturing, Greenville will need to keep up with surrounding cities. Greenville’s manufacturing sector is already on the right path — offering some of the highest wages in the state outside of the oil and gas industry.

We don’t have a complete answer for the hiring issues, we do believe Abbott is half-right, but the situation is far more complicated. Texas’ rapacious growth is part of the issue, with companies flocking here and snapping up workers as fast as they can hire them. Some of these companies have upped their hiring game to be competitive when they open for business in Texas.

The answers will come through employers recognizing the value of good employees, working to keep them and innovation. That means we may see a vastly different workplace at many businesses, which is a good thing.

— Herald-Banner

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