North Bay human resources experts reveal latest trends in hiring, recruiting and employee retention

North Bay Business Journal talks with leaders in human resources and employment on how to keep employees happy and best practices for recruiting.

The following answers are edited for length.

Companies across the board have reported difficulty in hiring. Are you experiencing the same workforce shortage?

Fiona Day: BOLT (staffing) is experiencing the impact of the labor shortage, like most companies in the North Bay. That said, we have proven to be a priceless resource for companies that can't find the people they need, are struggling with low quality job applicants, and need to preserve some payroll flexibility during these uncertain economic times.

Fiona Day, human resources generalist, BOLT Staffing Service, 955 Broadway, Sonoma, CA 95476; 707-939-2800;

Fiona Day is a Sonoma native. She keeps BOLT, and BOLT's customers, compliant with all labor and wage laws. Since beginning her employment with BOLT, Fiona's biggest accomplishment has been overseeing the company's response to the COVID-19 pandemic - specifically related to the administration of Covid-19 supplemental paid sick leave.

Tami Douglas: The hospitality industry has definitely seen a shift in hiring (like most other industries) post-COVID-19, and there are absolutely challenges filling all positions. I think there is a shortage of both experienced and entry level candidates, as well as an increase in the number of individuals looking for remote work, which is not always an option in hospitality.

Tami Douglas, human resources director, Silverado Resort, 1600 Atlas Peak Road, Napa, CA 94558; 707-257-5408;

Tami Douglas is a seasoned Director of Human Resources with 23 years in hospitality, starting her career in Food & Beverage Management before finding her true passion in Human Resources. Tami has experience in Talent Acquisition (including International Recruitment), Training and Development, Safety and Risk Management, Employee Relations, Payroll and Benefits. In 2020, Tami was named the California Hotel and Lodging Association (CHLA) Women in Lodging Leader of the Year.

Brenda Gilchrist: Candidate flow is down from the 2010s for all levels, probably more at the lower levels including trades and wine production. Some of the more popular positions today, such as marketing, accounting and tech-related see a more robust candidate flow. We haven’t had difficulty making placements per se, though it might take longer.

Brenda Gilchrist, co-founder and partner, HR Matrix LLC, 528 B Street, Santa Rosa, CA 95401; 707-526-0877 x11;

Brenda Gilchrist is the cofounder and partner of HR Matrix, a leading HR consulting practice located in Santa Rosa. Brenda and the HR Matrix Associates assist clients, across all industries, throughout the North Bay and across the state. Most of the work is centered on helping clients assess, design, develop and optimize their HR systems, policies, programs and approaches to support operational and financial goals, while engaging and supporting employees.

Christine Hunter: In 2023, we are seeing strong candidate flow and employees interested in working, like pre-COVID years. Candidate experience varies; however, we are seeing a lot of job hopping on front-line resumes. Many of these resumes show a candidate’s work history lasting between 90 days and six months. When asked about job hopping, candidates say they are looking for a good fit.

Christine Hunter, senior vice president for human resources, Central Valley, 1804 Soscol Ave., Napa, CA 94559; 707-225-1990;

Christine Hunter has a 20+year track record of success in driving business and culture transformation, leading change in support of multi-year business strategy through Organizational Development and Human Resources initiatives. She achieves results through inclusion, accountability, and empowerment, earned by engaging the right people to clarify problems, design solutions, resolve issues, and execute.

Jan Knight: We have seen a shortage of candidates over the last several years. However, we are constantly recruiting so we can help as many people find great jobs as possible. We staff for clients all across North America, and it’s imperative that we continue developing relationships with talent at all levels.

Jan Knight, executive account manager and direct-hire specialist, AppleOne, 5341 Old Redwood Highway, Suite 220, Petaluma, CA 94954; 707-544-3769;

Jan Knight has been with AppleOne since March 2006. Knight is responsible for full-desk, full-cycle direct hire and temporary recruiting, specializing in placing professionals in finance, accounting, clerical, human resources positions.

Kashi Moore-Stallworth: We’ve noticed a shortage in the more experienced talent pool and have had to get creative with our candidate searches. It is no longer the day where you can post a position and wait for candidates to apply. Our best candidates have come from internal referrals and/or passive searches on various recruiting platforms.

Kashi Moore-Stallworth, vice president of human resources and training, Redwood Credit Union, 3033 Cleveland Ave., Santa Rosa, CA 95403; 707-576-5245;

Kashi Moore-Stallworth has more than 20 years of success in providing executive and mid-level coaching, professional mentorship, and sponsorship to diverse groups of business professionals. At RCU, she’s responsible for initiatives that help ensure the organization is able to achieve success through its people.

Jennifer Vidkjer: Companies, including Tekberry, are facing difficulty in hiring for both less and more experienced candidates due to several factors; the lingering effects of the pandemic, a mismatch between the skills needed for open positions and the skills of available job seekers, and competition from other employers for the same pool of workers.

Jennifer Vidkjer, senior vice president, Tekberry Inc. a Soal Technologies Company, 1275 Fourth St., #5069, Santa Rosa, CA 95404; 844-835-2377;

Jennifer Vidkjer focuses on innovative workforce solutions, operational efficiency, and client relationships. She is based in the San Francisco Bay Area and has over 20 years of experience in the industry. She currently serves as Senior Vice President at Tekberry, a national staffing company, where she has been since April 2018. In this role, she is responsible for driving operational excellence and fostering strong client relationships.

Bridgette Provancha: I would say both levels of candidates, it’s a very competitive market right now and we need to stand out as an employer of choice.

Bridgette Provancha, human resources manager, Star Staffing, 3820 Cypress Drive, Suite 2, Petaluma, CA. 94954; 707-762-4447;

Bridgette Provancha has spent the better part of the last 20 years touching human resource functions in one way or another, with most of that time in Talent Acquisition. She loves being in a role that allows her to have an impact on both individuals and teams all while ensuring the overall health and well being of her company by implementing strategic decisions and by creating best practices and supporting and building a culture that values people.

Tiffany Vigil: Side by Side's biggest hiring challenge has been securing clinical master's level staff, especially bilingual employees, to provide therapy services to our youth. We have implemented a master's level training program for counseling students to join our team and gain college credit while providing services to our youth. We are proud that some of our interns have stayed on as clinicians with us after graduation, creating a new recruiting pipeline.

Tiffany Vigil, human resources director, Side by Side, 300 Sunny Hills Drive, San Anselmo, CA 94960; 415-457-3200;

Tiffany Vigil brings more than 10 years of clinical and human resources experience as Director of Human Resources at Side by Side, serving Bay Area youth. She strives to create an environment where work practices are fair, safety is valued, and employees' strengths are recognized while also growing the organization to deliver on the strategic plan. In addition to holding a Marriage and Family Therapy license, Tiffany has a bachelor's in psychology and a master's in counseling from San Francisco State University.

Erin Viloria: The hiring gap is closing. We see the workforce stabilizing, although we are not quite back to pre-covid hiring levels. There are national shortages with our more highly skilled roles such as Clinical Lab Scientist; however, it can be challenging to hire even in some entry-level positions.

Erin Viloria, human resources director for North Bay hospitals, Sutter Health, 2200 River Plaza Drive, Sacramento, CA 95833; 800-493-1372;

Erin Viloria consistently focuses on shared values and serving employees’ interests, while balancing organizational goals. She most enjoys the opportunity to connect with diverse groups of people, assisting her HR team, internal clients and staff to be successful in their roles. She believes that variety in background, style and thought brings richness to teams and organizations.

Melanie Wise: Despite economic challenges, we’re seeing the continuation of a tight labor market. For example, in March 2023, Sonoma County unemployment was 3.6% vs. 4.8% in California. This underscores that in our area, the demand for specific skills, experience, and occupations still exceeds the supply of available, interested, and qualified workers.

Part of that equation reflects the low participation rate of employees who are actively looking to change jobs. In our current economic environment, many employed people are less willing to explore new opportunities for three main reasons including concern about joining a new company and then being let go, meeting compensation expectations, and continued ability to work a flex schedule.

That said, we have seen an increase in candidate flow since the beginning of the year, particularly generalists or candidates with broader skill ranges.

Melanie Wise, vice president of human resources, Nelson Connects, 19080 Lomita Ave., Sonoma, CA 95476; 707-935-6113;

Melanie Wise is responsible for directing her organization’s people functions, including strategic human resources planning and implementation. She is responsible for mitigating risk as pertains to the laws, policies, regulations, and advisory authorities and organizations that impact Nelson Connects and its employees.

What is your company doing to ensure employee retention?

Fiona Day: BOLT takes pride in its retention, with the average tenure at the company well exceeding five years. We do this by providing regular in-house training sessions (once a week!), enrolling key employees in third party professional development programs, prioritizing internal promotions over external hiring, focusing on a helpful company culture, paying above-average wages for internal staff, and implementing a brand-new 401k retirement plan.

Tami Douglas: We create and foster a work culture that people are proud to be a part of. We have a “Culture Committee” that plans monthly team member events. These include everything from the annual holiday party to Golf Putting Contests, Tennis Clinics, BBQ’s, and more. We have constant communication and knowledge sharing with our team members through Town Hall Meetings and Round Table Discussions. We focus on personalizing our engagement with the team. We are committed to learning and development. And yes…we have some pretty awesome work perks!

Brenda Gilchrist: More employers are allowing remote work/flexible work schedules, benchmarking compensation data (due in part to the CA Pay Transparency Act) and investing in employee development/training and succession planning.

Janice Gourley: A great example is we got our team out of the office last week for an afternoon. We went to the “Escape Room” and broke up into 3 teams to have a little fun. We all then went out to dinner to celebrate escaping.

Janice Gourley, operations manager, Coldwell Banker Brokers of the Valley, 1775 Lincoln Ave., Napa, CA 94558; 707-258-5200;

Janice Gourley has worked with Coldwell Banker Brokers of the Valley for more than 20 years.

Christine Hunter: Central Valley has a multipronged approach to retention. Our approach includes competitive pay, employee engagement activities, recognition, training, onboarding, and career maps. On pay, we assess wages a few times a year and manage wage adjustments outside of our scheduled wage increase budget to remain competitive. In 2023, we added interview training and career maps for positions in the Operations function, which is the largest function within our business. Our turnover data shows we lose the largest number of employees within the first 90 days, so this activity is aimed at understanding what is occurring during these crucial months and to reverse the trend.

Jan Knight: AppleOne offers an in-depth training program for our internal employees so they’re equipped for success right out of the gate. We also offer a remote or hybrid schedule to give our team members the most flexibility and assist in our company’s sustainability goals, and provide excellent benefits and a generous PTO program.

Kashi Moore-Stallworth: We offer flexible work schedules and review our compensation and benefit offers annually to ensure, at minimum, we are competitive in the market. Our managers are trained on our rich leadership principles to help foster an environment where our team members feel engaged, connected, and more importantly thrilled to work for RCU.

Jennifer Vidkjer: We encourage all our clients to offer competitive compensation and benefits, provide opportunities for growth and development, and listen to and address employee feedback and concerns in a timely manner.

Tiffany Vigil: Side by Side has implemented employee-retention strategies, including competitive non-profit benchmarked salary, excellent benefits including 100% employee-paid medical insurance, and a supplemental EAP that offers free counseling for our staff. We also have a DEI staff council to support diversity, equity, inclusion, and belonging to make space for creating more welcoming environments and a more robust support system for our staff.

Additionally, we offer flexible work arrangements, including hybrid-work schedules for those positions that can be performed partially remotely.

Erin Viloria: The everchanging complexities of covid were all encompassing for administration and caregivers. We are now able to shift our focus on increased connection to our staff, including lots of gratitude and recognition. Sutter is celebrating May as Gratitude Month. Across our system, we recently concluded a week-long show of thanks and appreciation with celebratory events that included meals, snacks and other goodies.

At Novato Community Hospital (NCH), for example, a Wellness Committee made up of physicians, staff and administrators is focused on well-being and the overall health of our team. The committee has created a new employee gym and Zen Den, a quiet place for staff to relax and decompress.

Karen Warren: Here are some strategies we employ and advise other companies take into consideration:

·Build rewarding careers. Take time to understand what each team member aspires to then help them set those plans in motion. Also consider opportunities to upskill existing staff.

·Embrace flexible work options. Onsite days have a defined purpose and goal: whether it be for training, team building or collaborative meetings. Flexible work provides workers with autonomy and work-life integration while still supporting the needs of the business.

·Prioritize communication: At Robert Half, our executive leaders deliver regular business updates and participate in Q&A sessions during quarterly live events. Employees also participate in biannual surveys to provide feedback on challenges and areas of opportunities.

·Support diversity, equity and inclusion (DEI) efforts: Companies can explore ways to incorporate DEI initiatives through employee network groups as well as new strategic hiring and retention programs to increase gender and racial diversity within an organization.

Karen Warren, district president, Robert Half, 111 Santa Rosa Ave #300, Santa Rosa, CA 95404; 707-512-4445;

Karen Warren oversees operations for the accounting, finance, administrative and customer support practice groups for the Bay Area locations of Robert Half. She began her career at Robert Half in 2004 and has held numerous leadership positions within the organization. She is prior board member for Dress for Success, a non-profit organization that helps low-income women enter and re-enter the workforce.

Melanie Wise: Our initiatives include increasing internal communication and feedback loops and consistently responding through action plans for set initiatives and standards. We’ve heard from employees that compensation and upward mobility are critical factors in their satisfaction and our ability to retain them. As part of our response, we’ve analyzed our compensation plans and completed company-wide career pathing by function. In response to employee feedback, we have increased our leadership training program and continue to focus on internal training and development. Diversity, equity, and inclusion have been highlighted in our retention and engagement conversations, and we have committed internal resources to help us continuously thread DEI throughout organizational activities and discussions.

Have you changed your recruiting strategies in the past six to eight months?

Tami Douglas: We have been fortunate to have some wonderful talent join our team in the past year. We have three main areas of focus:

  • Proactive and efficient recruiting processes. Understanding in advance what data suggests for staffing trends and using technology to expedite our processes.
  • The majority of our recruiting efforts are around team member referrals. We have a robust program that incentivizes current team members for referring family and friends.
  • Retain our current team members through engagement, development, and fostering an environment and culture that people want to be a part of.

Brenda Gilchrist: We continue to use active and passive recruitment strategies. For active job seekers, indeed has risen to the top of the job boards: almost all our active candidate traffic is sourced from Indeed. Employee referral programs remain a staple. College internships graduating to regular hires is also popular.

Christine Hunter: In 2023, we introduced a new tool called the Candidate Interview and Evaluation Guide. This Guide is a component of the new Interview training mentioned in the previous question. The Guide was introduced to create a standard set of interview questions for competencies, behaviors, and company values (culture). Additionally, the Guide improves our interview consistency and reduces unconscious bias in hiring decisions. As such, our turnover for Q1 in 2023 is 4% less than Q1 in 2022.

Jan Knight: We operate under the idea that the candidate is the center of the universe. This idea always governs our strategies. We’re in the business of helping people find great job opportunities, and the best way to make that happen is to constantly network with clients and candidates, provide coaching and resume workshops, and connect great people with great job opportunities.We've also recently added 'sourcers' to our team who source resumes for our recruiters and help improve the efficiency of our operations.

Kashi Moore-Stallworth: We have modified our recruiting strategy to include our new Napa administrative campus. This additional state-of-the-art location is also our third branch in the Napa region. Offering administrative and branch support allows us to better serve our members, while tapping into the incredible talent pool in the Napa corridor.

Jennifer Vidkjer: As the economy is constantly evolving, hiring needs and job-seeking trends will shift among employers and job seekers alike. As such, our recruiting strategies remain fluid to quickly align with and meet the latest demands. Companies should leverage social media, online reviews, and other platforms to showcase their culture, values, and benefits, and stay flexible as new technologies and platforms emerge and gain traction. Additionally, offering flexible work arrangements, such as remote work options and flexible schedules, can be an attractive perk.

Erin Viloria: We are getting creative in our recruitment strategies, especially in regard to social media and other online methods to reach the best, qualified candidates. We are offering internal referral bonuses for our hard-to-fill positions, as well as sign-on bonuses and for some positions, retention bonuses. At Sutter Lakeside, we are attending events at colleges and high schools to invest and develop our future workforce. One especially creative endeavor is to actively recruit our contract, or travel, staff. With contract pay rates falling and people growing weary of the travel lifestyle this group is interested in landing in a quality workplace.

Karen Warren: It’s still a candidate-driven market. The best candidates have options — and hiring delays can be costly. (Here are) some strategies to help ensure you get the best candidates in the door:

·Sharpen the job description. Include the skills you need but focus on 3-4 crucial responsibilities top applicants must possess.

·Predetermine hiring parameters. Make sure all approvals for the position are in place with a flexible compensation range so an offer can be made quickly to a top candidate.

·Take advantage of new talent pools, including recent graduates and professionals impacted by layoffs, who offer a wide range of highly sought-after skills.

·Consolidate interviews. Coordinate schedules with interviewers. If you need to arrange additional rounds of interviews with a candidate, aim to do so the next day.

·Avoid the halo effect. Don’t get so caught up in one aspect of a candidate that you allow it to influence all other judgments.

Melanie Wise: We have participated in more face-to-face job fairs, which have been successful across all job categories, primarily because clients and candidates have become more willing to venture out to meet one another in person. These job fairs bring together employers who must fill critical roles with qualified candidates who are willing to participate in a serious job search.

We’re also spending more time reconnecting with candidates who already know Nelson Connects. In fact, over 30% of candidates who respond to our postings are already in our database.

Does your company provide career development opportunities for your workforce?

Fiona Da: Yes.

Tami Douglas: Yes, for everyone.

Brenda Gilchrist: Our mid-size to large clients often provides some sort of career development opportunities such as training, education, and mentoring. Very small employers (less than 15 employees) are challenged to find time and money to invest in formal training and development.

Janice Gourley: We do offer career development opportunities for our team and are offer continuous training and educational opportunities.

Christine Hunter: Our new onboarding plans with job specific training and career maps have been developed specifically for front-line employees thru mid-level management.

Jan Knight: Yes.

Kashi Moore-Stallworth: RCU provides career development opportunities for all our team members.

Bridgette Provancha: Yes, for everyone.

Jennifer Vidkjer: At Tekberry, everyone is provided career development opportunities through career pathing, mentoring, and coaching.

Tiffany Vigil: This year we piloted a cutting-edge training program for our Sonoma County clinical staff--Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing Therapy (EMDR). We plan to train our Sonoma clinical leaders to become trainers in EMDR so to offer this training more broadly across our other locations in Marin and Alameda.

Additionally, we have implemented a direct-service training program this fiscal year through Title IV-e funding, including valuable training such as Motivational Interviewing, Implicit Bias, and protecting youth from commercial exploitation.

Erin Viloria: Absolutely. Sutter offers a generous annual education benefit for those seeking higher education, as well as excellent internal development through Sutter Health University and growth opportunities through its Career Framework pathway.

Karen Warren: Robert Half offers our global workforce a comprehensive range of virtual learning and career development programs to help build technical expertise, business and leadership skills. These extended learning programs include instructor-led courses, peer-to-peer mentorship programs, and self-directed coursework.

Melanie Wise: Yes, for everyone.

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