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Building the Ultimate Employee Tractor Beam

Some ways CI businesses can attract employees in a competitive job market.

Attracting Employees – Magnet
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There’s a lot of chatter out there about the “Great Resignation” and how hard it is to find good people. There are many theories around why employees are deciding to opt out of certain jobs en masse, ranging from cynical to somewhat believable. The laws of supply and demand tend to show us the answers if we care to look. There are approximately 10 million open job postings in the United States right now (most of them in service businesses like restaurants and hospitality). Compare that with approximately 9 million job seekers and you get to the answer pretty quickly.

Able-bodied jobseekers can be more selective now than in any other moment in their lifetime. Since money doesn’t usually make the top 5 list when considering why employees leave jobs, what are some other ways CI businesses can attract employees in such a competitive job market?

Let’s take a hard look at the most common reasons people leave jobs, along with accompanying strategies on how to counter them:

Bad Corporate Culture

Your company already has a culture. The question is did you build it, or did it just evolve? Can you explain your mission, vision, and values to an outsider in a clear and concise way? Better yet, can your employees? If your house is built on a foundation that isn’t clearly defined, how do you know the right kinds of projects to bid, the right kinds of customers to work with, or how to identify culture fit in a potential employee?

Also by Henry Clifford: The Importance of Frenemies

Consider creating a “Vivid Vision” (credit for this goes to Cameron Herold’s book, Double Double), which is where you share your ideal version of the company with employees, customers, and vendors in great detail. This should be something you sit down, uninterrupted, and hand-write with updates every few years based on how events unfold. This way everyone is on the same page and rowing in the same direction. You’ll quickly find yourself attracting the right kinds of applicants while the organization will begin rejecting any bad hires already on board.

Lack of Recognition

If you’re telling employees to “make work your favorite” like the hard-driving manager in the movie Elf, you might have trouble getting good results out of your team over the long haul. Recognition is a huge driver toward building and motivating teams. It costs nothing to give an “attaboy” to someone who’s just exemplified your core values or gone above and beyond for a team member.

Tools like TINY Pulse and Lattice can be tremendously helpful in encouraging your managers to praise subordinates, but also incent all employees to praise each other. According to Robert Green Ingersoll, “The way to be happy is to make others so.” The more public you can make your recognition programs, the better. These initiatives are often overlooked in the busy day-to-day whirlwind, yet they are consistently ranked as some of the most effective. Consider a commitment to praise one of your employees each day using a public platform. Both sender and receiver feel good while reinforcing a culture of praising publicly and coaching privately to the team.

Feeling Burned Out

This one’s tough and like nailing Jell-O to the wall. The feeling of burnout can result from feeling unappreciated or the perception that you’re pulling your weight while others aren’t (Jason Griffing wrote a great article about this “availability bias” phenomenon last year). There are a few simple tools to combating burnout, including mandating time off, capping total hours worked in a week, and offering mental health days. The key lies in the willingness to enforce these new programs because they’re often most needed during your busiest times.

Imagine an employee asking (or telling) you about his or her need for a mental health day in the middle of the Q4 rush? Are you willing to compromise on work output for the sake of keeping your team healthy? If you’re not, why not? Losing an employee due to burnout costs a hell of a lot more than a blown day of installation work.

Also by Henry Clifford: Why Do I Need a Service Plan?

Consider taking recovery as seriously as strain. Do you praise work behaviors where employees are “burning the midnight oil” or answering texts at all hours? Recovery is every bit as important as strain. If your employees don’t take their downtime seriously, they won’t recover and will eventually burn out. Great leaders set the tone through their actions.

Lack of Flexible Work Options

Attitudes around being in the office for nothing other than showing your face are going the way of the dodo. Workers want to be able to work from wherever they are and have the flexibility to work from home one day and be in the office the next. Is your organization results- or effort-oriented? Are you obsessed around the idea of people being “in the office”? If so, why? At my integration business, Livewire, we are 100 percent results-oriented. If the salespeople can do their job from Cancun, party on. If people want to work remotely, they can. Of course, this doesn’t translate universally, as our installation teams have to be on-site due to the nature of their work. One of the ways we decided to encourage more in-person interactions led us to renovate our offices completely last year to create a more collaborative environment, and our team ended up wanting to work there more because it was more enjoyable.

Lack of Engagement

This one is huge and usually the end-result of many organizational misfires that go all the way back to the hiring process. If you weren’t sure how to identify the right candidate, did one slip through who should’ve never been on the bus to begin with? Now you’re spinning and trying to figure out how to change the work environment to match the needs of someone who should’ve never been hired in the first place. Maybe they were a good fit and then you didn’t one-to-one with them or manage them with any kind of goal-setting program. Now your previously engaged employee is in danger of turning toxic. When they turn toxic, you have to let them go lest they infect others in the organization.

At the end of the day, lack of engagement boils down to a mismatch that began with a bad hire or poor mentoring program. It doesn’t do you any good to pony up big money for recruiters and Indeed ads when you’re dropping them into an environment where they could go dark on you. Consider treating “dark mode” the same way you look at any other sickness. Give your employees permission to stay home if they’re unable to exhibit positivity at work.

Is 2022 the year you finally get started on building your employee tractor beam? The sooner you get started, the sooner you’ll start reaping the rewards of having a killer culture where your employees are fired up about coming to work every day.

Henry Clifford is president of Livewire, an integration firm in Richmond, VA. He also serves on the CEDIA Business Working Group and writes a bi-monthly blog for Residential Systems.