Farm livin’ is the life for me.
Land spreadin’ out so far and wide
Keep Manhattan, just give me that countryside.
hile this catchy tune is perfect for the
1960s sitcom, “Green Acres,” it’s not one that most job applicants are humming. Recruiting and retaining
quality employees is a struggle for most companies, but it’s an even bigger challenge in rural America.
Recent statistics and headlines don’t make it easier to entice highly skilled employees to come to rural areas.
This spring, a Wall Street Journal article, “Rural America Is the New Inner City,” analyzed data from
the latest Census Bureau statistics and discovered:
l Rural populations have declined for the past five years, with more deaths than births.
l Rural areas rank lowest in the country for college attainment levels.
l Three out of four rural counties have not fully recovered economically from the last recession.
Despite these discouraging words, rural America can be a wonderful place to live and work, particularly as high-speed internet and advanced telecommunications extend out past urban and suburban
areas. NTCA’s member companies are hard at work toward that goal, but they need qualified employees
to make that happen. There are numerous ways to find, recruit and retain such workers.
Recruiters, Contractors, Retirees
“We struggle with key positions—broadband engineers, IT staff, software developers,” said Peggy
Winebarger, corporate recruiter for SkyLine Membership Corp. (West Jefferson, N.C.).
Recruiting firms can help, but they often have a fairly steep price tag, usually ranging from 20%–35%
of the first-year salary of the position.
Before resorting to a recruiting firm, Dan Ryan, principal for Ryan Search & Consulting, advised
using online employment sites like LinkedIn, Indeed.com and Hoover Recruiting. Use these as networking tools by doing simple searches for skillsets. “If someone’s a match, reach out and ask, ‘Are you
interested? If not, do you know someone who might be?’” Ryan suggested.
One persistent area of need—IT professionals and software developers—can be addressed better
through contractor roles versus as employees. “IT people can work remotely and still be very effective,”
Ryan said. “Use online tools like Go ToMeeting to bridge that gap for in-person meetings.”
When a project requires hands-on involvement, Ryan suggested bringing in a group of contractors
on a temporary basis. “Pull together a group for a set timeline and then disband,” he said. “Talent is
scarce, so it makes sense to buy only what you need to get more bang for your buck.”
Another source of temporary or part-time help is local retirees, who can be brought in for busy periods,
recommended Sabrina Starling, a rural employment expert and author of “How to Hire the Best: The
Rural Business Owner’s Ultimate Guide to Attracting Top Performing Employees.”
SkyLine has had success with retirees. “One man came in and worked on a project and left,”
explained Angie Miller, human resources manager. “A year later, we brought him back for another project.
Eventually, we hired him as a full-time employee.”