In ‘hard to compete’ labor market, city to test flexible work schedules and telework options

The city is launching a pilot program in an effort to entice more workers and fill thousands of vacancies
Published: Apr. 3, 2023 at 5:27 PM HST|Updated: Apr. 3, 2023 at 6:38 PM HST
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HONOLULU (HawaiiNewsNow) - The city is launching a pilot program in an effort to entice more workers and fill thousands of vacancies Among the options being promoted: Telework and flexible schedules for many employees.

Leaders of seven Honolulu offices and departments, including the Board of Water Supply and Department of Customer Services, will participate. “It’s a pilot program to expand and better define the city’s offerings for alternate work schedules,” said Amy Asselbaye, executive director of the Office of Economic Revitalization.

Asselbaye said the program officially kicks off Tuesday, but any schedule changes wouldn’t come until the fiscal year starts in July. She said the city plans to follow it closely to see if alternative work options actually increased hiring.

“We want to have a data set. We want to be accountable,” she said.

Nola Miyasaki, director of Human Resources, said job seekers want options.

“It’s hard to compete in this labor shortage,” said Miyasaki. “Every edge that we can get would be great.”

The labor shortage is forcing many employers to pivot in the race to fill openings.

In March 2022, the city had 1,831 vacant positions.

At the end of last month, the city had added 17 workers.

While that doesn’t seem like much, it does break a five-year trend of losing workers. Full staffing would be at just over 7,000 city employees. Currently, more than 3,700 are either flexing their schedules or teleworking.

The city Prosecutor’s Office also wants to try something different: Fast tracking college graduates for some positions. Prosecuting Attorney Steve Alm said paralegal positions are particularly tough to fill.

“People have to have five years of legal experience. That’s really hard to get,” he said.

Alm wants to partner with Kapiolani Community College to give graduates of the program a chance to gain that experience in his office. Alm is requesting, as part of his budget plan, to create a new entry-level paralegal position.

If the Council approves it, he could hire recent graduates in the lower position to get experience, then move them up after the five years.

“That’s one way to fill vacancies,” said Councilwoman Radiant Cordero, chair of the budget committee. “Getting potential workers in right away.”

First responder agencies are not included in the city’s vacancy numbers or the pilot project because those departments set their own employee schedules.