This month’s Ho‘ohana theme is one that’s been clawing at the door whimpering for more attention like a new puppy wanting to sleep in your bedroom with you. We’re going to talk about labor recruitment and retention.
In a time where unemployment is at record lows, how do you get great people to work for you? How do you keep the ones you have?
We scratched the surface with this back in June’s Ho‘ohana when I wrote on Hiring. I was surprised at the number of responses I got back then. I didn’t share them with you because I got enough “yeah buts” to discourage the most ambitious recruiter out there. The struggle with hiring, and with keeping good staff so you don’t have to keep on hiring in a vicious circle, was something I kept hearing about all summer long.
Well summer is over, and I keep hearing about it.
Then last week, our local media entered the gloomy picture. Howard Dicus of Pacific Business News shared some commentary on his KHON-TV2 morning news segment about a recent job fair on O’ahu, where “a record number of employers for the fall job fair competed for workers in an exceptionally tight job market.” I thought to myself, oh boy, here come the violins.
Employers I talk to continue to feel that employees have the “upper hand” and that they can’t help but give in by lowering their expectations and performance standards.
Don’t. Please don’t.
You will disappoint your customers, and your business will take a very damaging hit: you know that.
So don’t go there.
However, there is something you may not be thinking about because it’s not as obvious: The good employees you already have want to work with other good employees. The moment you drop your standards and settle on a mediocre hire is the exact moment the stars you have will dim a little in their disappointment with the way you operate. It won’t be long before they start wondering if it’s time for them to start looking around themselves to “trade up.”
And there’s a lot of temptation and opportunity out there for them to do so.
Good employees want to work for good employers who run quality operations and businesses of high standard. Good employees want to be proud of you and the company they work for. Working for second-rate employers is a not-so-good reflection on their own worth and credibility, and good employees don’t take that risk.
In today’s job market, they don’t have to.
The same morning I listened to Dicus, I tried to catch up with a backlog of unread newspapers over my coffee, and I happened to see this September 20th headline in the Honolulu Advertiser’s Business Section: Job-seekers call the shots. Among the statements I read were these:
“Hawai‘i had the lowest unemployment rate in the country in July at only 3 percent (update: we still do)” The state Dept. of Labor and Industrial Relations has predicted that Hawaii’s low unemployment rate will continue through the end of the year (yep, probably)” Hotels and tourist-oriented businesses that disappeared from job fairs after Sept. 11 are now looking for hundreds of workers (and the temporary-hire retail season is creeping up on us; retailers feel this coming holiday season may be one of the best they’ve had in years)” Busch [one of the job fair organizers] expects 5,000 job candidates to attend the job fair””
Wait, hold up, Howard Dicus said that right now there are less than 4,200 people on the State’s unemployment rolls. (Howard never lies.) What does this tell you? The people you want to work for you, those high-caliber, experienced, quality applicants, are already employed somewhere else.
Folks, this is the part of this competitive labor market we’re in that you must key in on. You, the perceptive, smart business person, the one who will be a better recruiter (and boss) than the others. You, the one who will win the hiring game. How did Busch’s quote end?
“ ” many of whom are already employed and curious about finding better jobs.”
The next day I watched the local news stories with interest as they covered the job fair, and guess what? They got the most traffic when people were on their lunch breaks from their other jobs. Besides trading up, with our high cost of living in Hawaii, many feel they need to handle two jobs – ouch. Yet it largely depends on which professional segment you are trying to attract. Here’s another view on the economy: Income climbs 2.5% in Hawai‘i.
Well, let’s focus this month on getting your labor pars healthy:
- Stick to your high standards and fiercely protect your reputation. Do it for your customers, and do it for your good employees.
- Understand that in today’s job market, already-employed people are the ones that you need to recruit. That’s just how it is, so you must be way smarter than listing your job openings in the classifieds. Smarts and integrity go hand-in-hand, and great employers don’t steal other’s employees. They don’t have to.
- You’ll have to work hard at keeping the good employees you already have, so their attention never strays again. You have to pay them well, but money satisfies basic needs, and not all of them. (We touched on this in May’s Ho‘ohana.)
- You need to let your employees know they can “trade up” within your company – and how they can do that.
We’ll talk about these things more in the month to come.
Yes, the numbers don’t lie. There are only so many people to fill so many jobs, and I’m not pretending to know what the answer is for everyone. But we in the Ho‘ohana Community are not like everyone else. We’re not ruthless, we’re smart. We don’t steal employees, we attract them like bees to honey. We recruit well, we manage with Aloha, and our businesses are the ones that will succeed.
Let’s talk story.