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River Cinema maintains strong employee retention and satisfaction amid tight labor market – Grand Forks Herald

EAST GRAND FORKS — While many businesses have struggled with recruitment and retention following the COVID pandemic, River Cinema in East Grand Forks has experienced the opposite — a throng of young, enthusiastic employees.

For Roxy Honkola, who first worked at River Cinema from 2011-14 and returned in 2018 after a four-year hiatus, working in theater is a family affair.

“My grandfather is the one who built this place,” Honkola said. “I moved here right out of high school, and theater sounded like a fun place to work. My brother worked here before me and I really liked it so I was excited to give it a try.

Owner Penny Stay, who took over the business from her parents in 2020, employs mostly teenagers and students. Stai said hiring young workers is a fairly typical trend in the cinema industry and praised their work ethic.

“Most of my staff are 16-24 years old,” Stai said. “I really enjoy working with the younger group. They are very hard workers – responsible and reliable. Many of them will eagerly volunteer to cover shifts when their co-workers can’t come in.”

Honkola appreciates the flexibility Stai offers its employees, now that it has its own family.

“Penny lets you come in and you tell her what your schedule is, and then she works with you on it,” Honkola said. “I have a daughter and she is very accommodating that she doesn’t schedule me for nights and weekends.” I used to be a bartender, and that kind of schedule would be impossible as a bartender.”

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(L-R) River Cinema employees Jaice Kasprovicz, Damian Moore, Melah Evenson Perez, Harley Kolbo, Savannah Schaefer and Grayson Kuznia take a photo break Thursday, Jan. 5, 2023, in East Grand Forks.

Eric Hilden/Grand Forks Herald<бр/>

Stai is aware of the importance of having such a loyal and hard-working team in the current labor market.

According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, Grand Forks County’s unemployment rate for November, the most recent month of data, was 1.6%, more than 2% below the national rate of 3.7%. Such a low unemployment rate can make it difficult for employers to attract and retain employees. Stai says it’s something she didn’t have to worry about.

“When COVID hit, many businesses were laying off staff. “We have retained all of our employees after reopening,” Stai said.

Barry Wilfahrt, president and CEO of the Grand Forks/East Grand Forks Chamber of Commerce, said such a strong job market is beneficial for the region’s youth.

“When I was growing up, getting a job as a high school student was very competitive,” Wilfarth said. “Today, the market is 180 degrees different. Our metro area has one of the five lowest unemployment rates in the US, so young workers have plenty of job opportunities. Balancing it with other responsibilities like school is important for young workers.”

Stai credits its ability to attract and retain employees to benefits and flexible schedules.

“We offer our full-time employees paid time off, half off meals on days they work and free movie tickets for themselves and one guest,” Stai said. “We can also work around their school schedule by offering night and weekend shifts.” I think the positive work environment speaks for itself – most of my employees stay for at least three to four years.”

Stai also said that her current employees are also a good resource for recruiting and hiring new ones.

“Most of my new hires are referrals from current ones — friends, family, roommates,” Stai said.

As for continued growth at the theater, Stai says each year since the start of the pandemic has been stronger than the last, and he expects attendance to return to pre-pandemic levels by 2024.

“A lot of the reasons behind our delay in getting back to 2019 numbers have to do with the backlog of film production,” Stai said. “Instead of the usual 90 big releases, we have about 36. Many of the animation components are behind.” We hope for more new editions in 2023, with the hope that by the end of 2024 there will be a pre-pandemic number.”



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