The Great Resignation and The Great Reshuffling have converged. It’s official: There’s a shortage of labor. And, the labor you do find wants to be paid more, and if you don’t pay them more, they’re going to quit.
If you need people to run a business, and you want to continue to run a business (because, the thought of you being someone else’s employee (gasp!) is just too horrifying a scenario for you to consider!), here’s where to start:
Lose the Attitude
My headhunter friends are fond of reminding their (predominately white, male) clients that they are, “~not the cutest girl at the dance.” But, even if you’re smokin’ hot, there’s nothing more off putting than someone who thinks they’re better looking than they really are. And, it’s amazing how quickly those killer looks become invisible when you’re in a relationship with someone who is patronizing and entitled.
Too many employers grossly mis-over-estimate their attractiveness at the Employer Cotillion. They think everyone wants to dance with them. They don’t. You’re not doing anyone a favor when you hire them. This is a transactional relationship, not personal one. You’re simply buying time from a service provider to perform a service that you need. And, often times, it is a service that you cannot do yourself. Your hubris and entitlement is counterproductive to building a high-performing team.
Sadly, attitude and entitlement seems inextricably intertwined with implicit/explicit bias. They’re not dismissing you because of your gender, your accent, your age, your college, your clothing, your life choices. They’re dismissing you because you’re not a purple unicorn, and because they’re paying you (!) they WANT A PURPLE UNICORN, dammit! (Note: they have no barn, no feed, and no idea how to care for a unicorn, but they want one nevertheless)
Let me assure every employer, big or small, prestigious or unknown, that your “impress me,” entitled hiring manager interviews are killing your recruitment program, and your brand.
You’re Lookin’ for Love (in all the wrong boards)
Liking the help isn’t listed on the job description as a requirement, but it’s always the #1 requirement for every job. I’ve lost count of the number of folks I’ve listened to grumble about how they’re short staffed, how they can’t find anyone, and how they’ve interviewed sooooo many people, but well, they don’t know, but, ahh, err, I just didn’t feel, aahh, err, a “connection” with anyone.
Enough with the “connection”! This isn’t Tinder. You need someone to manage your SAP implementation, not marry your daughter. You want connection with someone? Post on Match, not Monster.
Looking for love is the root cause of enumerable workplace disfunctions. Too often likeable incompetents (“Someone I’d like to get a beer with…”) are hired rather than awkward, aloof experts. When you consider the competence/congeniality axis, incompetent sweethearts can suck the life out of your company’s bottom line faster than any irritating high performer.
You want to stay in business? You want to grow your business? Focus less on finding a love connection, and focus more building a team with solid skills.
BTW: If you want to hire talent, you need to learn how to manage and retain talent – they have options. When’s the last time you went to a seminar or picked up a book about how to be a better boss?
Your Dream Doesn’t Pay My Bills
NOTE: Entrepreneurs and small shops: People work for the money. Stop looking to them to finance your “dream.”
The my-dream-must-be-your-dream types generally start their interviews with questions like, “Why do you want to work here?” “Why should I hire you,” (also part of entitlement), or the puppy-dog eyes, and deep, soulful, sigh, “So, tell me, why [companyname]???”
It’s like meeting a blind date, and the first question asked is, “Why are you soooo into me?” Or getting a bid from a plumber, and then asking him, “Sooooo why my garbage disposal??” Nothing could be more irritating.
Am I some kind of dream-killing Nazi? No. I’m a person who is paid to manage time. And, when I hear someone ramble on about the “dream,” what I hear is “~~there’s lots of long days, unpaid overtime, and probably a few unpaid weekends as well.” At no time does anyone ask about MY dreams…
More than 90% of start-ups fail in less than five years. Those that make it past the five year mark don’t catapult to the top of the NASDAQ. More often, they continue to struggle with cash flow, sales, and customer retention. You know: the stuff dreams are made of….
When I look back at the thousands of hours donated to someone else’s “dream,” I realize that what I was really doing was compromising my own dreams, my own career, and worse, my own finances for an “entrepreneur” with a corporate AmEx card and a BMW that never ran out of gas.
My dreams are different now. Now, I dream of a matching 401K.
It’s All About The Benjamins
You can couch it however you’d like, but people work for the money. Period. And, your dreams, ping-pong table, and Thirsty Thursday’s Kombucha pizza parties aren’t going to make up paying 30% below market.
While gold-collar workers may chose more cutting edge or risky work over compensation, they are the few and the lucky rich. Most of us, and especially those at the lower end of the pay scale, we don’t have that choice. For us, it’s all about the money.
Interestingly, I’ve noted that the CEOs bitching the loudest about the Invisible Hand of Capitalism aren’t losing people because they got an extra $30k at their new gig – they’re losing people for an extra $1-2 an hour! Less than $100 bucks a week! That’s not a lot of money for someone who routinely picks up bar bills bigger than that, but let’s pretend you’re not spending your money on $10 beers. An additional $400 a month is enough to cover a car payment, utilities, and a cell phone bill. An extra $5 an hour is more than $10K a year, and while it’s not a life-changing amount, it’s almost an extra $1K a month – half of an average mortgage payment. If you add in a boss who isn’t an entitled asshole, you can see why people are saying, “I’m outta here!” Cleaning hotel rooms, restaurant work, customer-service — those jobs are pretty much the same no matter where you go.
It’s Your Brand
Are you ready to accept reality, and up your hiring game? Here’s what you can do: Hire a professional recruiter. Listen to his/her feedback, and then DO to what s/he says. Be courteous and respectful to all applicants, even the ones you don’t want to hire. One bad interaction can sour a person on a company for the rest of his/her career! AND, if you’re going to be an entitled jerk to your applicants, don’t think for a second that they’re not going to tell their friends, family, and social media contacts about it.
Every interaction, every touchpoint is a chance to enhance or damage your brand. No where is that more important than in the hiring process.
Ensure all hiring managers and interviewers are trained. No one should be a “Brand Ambassador” for your company or be involved in hiring decisions until the are trained. Feedback and mentoring is required. A lifetime of bad habits isn’t likely to change after one training class.
“The world doesn’t owe you a living,” and it most certainly does not owe you a business!! If you’re going to be entitled, insist on free labor to finance your dream, and only hire people you want to have a beer with, finding labor will be very, very difficult for you.
When People Quit, They’re Firing You!
Since the dawn humankind, capital has had the advantage over labor. Revolutions, strikes, unions, labor laws, and even unemployment insurance have helped to level this advantage – but the scales were always tipped in favor of the capitalist employer. Those days are over.
Pre-Covid, the rise of gold-collar, knowledge workers was beginning to reverse the employer advantage in competitive labor markets like tech and healthcare. Crisis, as a cultural accelerant, has firmly flipped the advantage to labor – and economists predict it’s going to stay that way for a l-o-n-g time….
Labor has had lots of opportunity and advice on how to interview and how to be a good employee. That cannot be said of employers. Most have zero training in how to interview and little interest in being a good employer – which is why, now, they can’t hire anyone. I won’t be the last to say it: You need to level-up your game or you’re going to be out of business.
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