An Honest Conversation About Why We Fail to Hire and Retain Staff

Oct 26, 2021

The world is experiencing a staff shortage; people are starting their own businesses, pursuing new careers, or simply looking for fresh air. Among the varied valid reasons someone decides to leave us, the leading cause is always poor leadership. It can be that the company's culture isn't appealing, or the work environment is not as healthy as it should be. Whatever the case might be, we, as leaders, are the ones who can do something about it. 

In this episode, we talk about the staffing issues companies are experiencing. We explore in-depth the two parts of staffing: hiring and retention. We go through the importance of turning employees into ambassadors of our company, how crucial proper communication is, and why setting clear expectations should be our number one priority. This episode is also about understanding why we should have happy employees, how to do that, and what we can do to enhance our staff's experiences at the workplace. 

In This Episode, You Will Learn:

  • What are most companies worried about today (2:47)
  • Happy people at work attract more people like them (4:10)
  • Why employees' referrals are vital (5:45)
  • What is the link between retention and communicating clear expectations (9:22)
  • How can we turn happy employees into ambassadors (15:18)

Resources:

  • Quote: James Sinegal - CEO and Founder of Costco - “When employees are happy, they are your very best ambassadors.”
  • Quote: George Patton - US Army General - “A good plan, violently executed now, is better than a perfect plan next week.”

Let's Connect!

Transcript 

Clint Hoopes:

This is the Flavor of Leadership Podcast. I am your host, Clint Hoopes. Together, we explore the unique blend of leadership wisdom that helps top years consistently achieve work goals, develop personally and find fulfillment with family. Let's get started. This is episode number 52. Welcome to the Flavor of Leadership Podcast today. Some of you may have seen the question I asked on social media couple of weeks ago. And the question was this. It said if you could wave a magic wand and eliminate the biggest challenge with managing your people, what would it be? And I have received some great responses already and still would love to hear some more from you. What problem would you like to eliminate now? Or perhaps there is a challenge you used to have and now you've overcome it. I would love to hear about those experiences as well. You can respond to my post on social media.

You can DM me, or you can email me directly at [email protected] and all of those links to social media and to my email are all on the show notes. So you can go ahead, go in there, click through and message me any one of those ways. Would love to hear from you. So, we talk about a magic wand and I love the idea of a magic wand. I love the idea of, if you could just snap your fingers and make everything the way you would like it, what would you do? And then kind of reverse engineer from there, right? I love that. And I imagine that many businesses today would love to have this magic wand. And if most business leaders right now have this magic wand, I imagine if they could wave that wand and have any part of their business improve right now, it would probably be in the area of staffing.

I know that right now, due to so many of the challenges that are facing the world, we have more people than ever changing jobs, shifting careers, shifting roles, shifting companies for a variety of reasons, right? And right now people are looking for amazing people and amazing staff and trying to retain the amazing staff they already have. It seems like in the past, everyone was looking for a way to increase sales and find new business. And still, of course, we're trying to do that, but right now, even bigger than that, people are looking for staffing, find and retain the right people because many companies are turning away business right now because they can't find the staffing. So, today we're going to go through this. We're going to talk about staffing. We're going to discuss what actions you can take today to improve in this critical area. And then honestly, over the next several months, we're going to be having many episodes that focus on this critical area, because I continually get questions about this.

How can I improve in this area? How can I keep staffed? Let's get into it. So, there are two main parts to staffing. When we talk about staffing, right? There is the finding piece and then there is the retention piece and you have to have both obviously. Finding is all about attraction and retention is all about living up to the hype or to the expectations of the people that are now working for you, right? And so, we have to have both. We have to be able to attract the people, retain the people. And whenever I think about finding and I think about retention, I always go back to happy people will be happy at work, and they will also attract other people that are like them. And I love a quote by James Sinegal, who is the co-founder and former CEO of Costco. So, huge company.

He said this, he said, "When employees are happy, they are your very best ambassadors." I love that. When employees are happy, they are your very best ambassadors. They're the ones that are going to fight to bring other great people to your organization. And Costco, they must be doing something right. They have a fantastic customer service team. And I'll tell you, when I look at their little name badges, they have sometimes if you're at Costco pay attention, I like to look at that. You will often see their employees, when it says, how many years they've been serving at Costco upwards of over 10+ years. And that's very common, that's not uncommon to see people having worked there for up and above over 10 years and that is incredible. They must be doing something right. And I believe that their employees really are often they're best ambassadors and they're quite happy.

And of course you could probably find examples at any company, right? Of people that didn't like it, but I'll tell you people staying that is and happy and referring other employees to come work there, they must be doing something right. So, I believe really one of the main reasons that employee referrals usually work, when your employee is your ambassador and they're bringing people your way, I really do. I believe one of the main reasons that employee referrals work out so well in my experience is that first you have this current employee, right? They like their job enough to refer a friend, telling them all the great things about the job, about the place where they're working, hopefully about their manager or the executive leadership, whatever it is, they like something about the job. And it's usually their direct manager.

I'll tell you, right? It's usually their direct manager is doing something right with them. So, that same employee, right, with a wonderful thing is that they are going to first help with the finding because they already know people, right? They know people that would fit into your culture if they're a good employee, right? And they also happen to know what it takes to do the job. So, they're already doing some of the vetting for you, right? They're looking for a friend that already can do the job they're thinking of them. And the other wonderful thing that they're doing is they are setting a realistic expectation of the current work environment at your business, which is amazing. Because often people will come to you, if they're coming from a competitor or coming from their industry, they're usually thinking the grass is greener, right?

Something is better or it's just fun and shiny. Something looks nice. Something's attractive when they come. And so, sometimes they get over there and they realize, "Wow, the grass isn't necessarily greener." You hope that it is, right? If you're a great leader and you're making things better, but still things can be hard at work. So, people are setting a real expectation of the work. And even with some of the attractive things that are happening and that are there and that are available when they're first applying, they still want to come, because they know what the real expectation is. Realistic expectation is because they've got that from your current employee. So, not only is the finding made easier, but also the setting of the expectations is so much easier. The employee already knows what is required, and that makes all the difference even before they apply.

So, now let's go to the retention side of things. They have a built in person that wants them to succeed. I mean, that's huge, right? Of course you as the manager or the leader, you want them to succeed. But you have your attention spread in a bunch of different ways, a bunch of different places. And because of that, you are not able to generally spend all the time that's needed, if it's a frontline staff member, to be able to give them everything they need to succeed. You need other managers, other employees to be able to take them under their wing and to care enough to make sure people can be successful. And so, you have that built in when there's an employee referral, which is amazing. And so, they make sure that the new employee doesn't feel alone. They're there as a friend, a real friend and a friend at work, and they also know what is going on with this person.

And so, they're consistently there helping to reassure them and assist them constantly to make sure that their friend has the experience that they promised, right? Because they're the one that referred them. So, they want to make sure that the experience and the hype, so to speak is everything that they said. And because they're continuously explaining and reexplaining and helping and constantly engaged with that person, the person has a better experience, right? It is the communication and clarity of expectations with our people that makes the difference. This is a common theme on the show is that it always seems to come back to communication, clarity of expectations. And when you have a referral that tends from an employee, it tends to make that a little easier. But it doesn't take away the responsibility that you have as a leader to train your people or train your managers to train their people in such a way that there's clear communication, clear expectations in every case.

So, let's keep talking here for a minute. So, do you have a great place to work? Because employees are not going to refer their friends to you unless they are confident that they work at a great place. And typically they don't have to think about it, right? They're just happy. They enjoy going to work. They don't dread it. It doesn't mean the job isn't challenging or that there aren't bad days or things that happen. Because honestly it's the, a lot of the challenges and the things that happen that actually makes for a happy work environment as well. And you think really having challenges makes me happy? Yes it does. Because what happens is, is your people have to work through the challenges and they get closer together. They improve themselves. They have to learn new skills. And when they have the support of a great leader with them, they find themselves getting better.

We don't get better without the challenges, right? I believe that we all know whether or not we are the leader of a great place to work or not. I'm going to make a broad statement here, okay? So, it may not apply perfectly to every situation so just know it's a broad statement that I think generally applies, right? So in general, I don't think when we talk about retention, I don't believe people are leaving us for the money, right? You hear that quite often, right? "Well, I got offered more money down the road. Sorry, I'm out." I believe that's the excuse they often give. And of course, like I said, there can be exceptions in every situation. Somebody's going to get paid $20 more an hour. Yeah, they probably are leaving for the money, right? That's tough. But in general, a couple of dollars an hour is not going to make the difference between someone leaving and staying, right?

Someone's going to stay long term. They are generally leaving us because of our poor culture, poor management, right? Generally they're direct manager probably is not managing them well. There's something happening. And really when it comes down to it, it's all about poor communication, right? Culture and the culture within our company, within our organization, within our department, all comes back to poor communication. Most leaders, if you're listening to this podcast, you're a leader that cares, and you're a leader that wants to take control. And you want your people to know the vision because you have a vision, you have goals, you have plans for where you want to go. But where we get hung up, even the great leaders get hung up is in poor communication, not communicating properly and consistently. Sometimes we think that we can communicate something once, twice, three times and we think that's enough, or we communicate consistently with our managers, but we don't verify that all of our people are getting the same message.

That is where we can get on them hung up. We can point fingers at the market, at our industry or any other external factor that we can't control, or we can look at ourselves and how we add to the problem. I am not saying here that the labor constraints are not real because they are very real and they have an immense impact on our ability to service our customers well. I know that. I know there are many that are turning away business. Things are happening because of labor constraints. So, I'm not trying to shirk that to say that's not a real thing. But what I am saying is that we often use that excuse or another excuse of another external factor to explain our lack of performance in hiring and or retention. They're usually related. If you have trouble hiring and trouble retaining, generally it usually they're connected, right?

It's usually not one or the other. And when there is more that we can do now to retain our people long term, we should be doing it. Of course, there's always something you can do to refine. Even if you have great retention right now, there's something you can do to make your workplace a better place and it has nothing to do with some of the little frills and shiny things that we often associate with a great place to work. It's deeper than that. And as you likely already know all too well, happy people are the solution to high turnover and the solution to finding the best people. Because if you have happy people, they will find other great people that are like them and be ambassadors for you. So, how do we create somewhere where your employees are your best ambassadors? Where do we do that?

How do we make it so our employees are our best ambassadors? And there are so many answers to this question. And just like everything, in business and in life, there is no one silver bullet. There isn't one. But as with all things that are worth building, a culture where employees are the best ambassadors is built over time. And not like we said, with the gimmicky things that people often associate with a great place to work, it's deeper than that. And you could do it. And most people truly, they just want consistent and clear communication like we talked about above. This instills trust over time and reinforces the vision and expectations for their role. Don't try and change everything at once. You don't need to change everything at once. You just need do a few things extremely consistently and well and your people will love you for it.

There are lots of things you can do, lots of strategies, lots of ways to do it. But in the end, you just need to do something. So, what do you want to improve first? You have probably had some thoughts while you've been listening today, or you've had some ideas in the past that you felt would help you communicate better with your team, but just never made the time to do it. Perhaps you have a sticky note sitting on your desk right now with a great to help your people and it's just sitting there and is not getting implemented. I had such vivid imagery there, because guess what? That has happened to me on more than one occasion, I've had a great idea that I knew would be a game changer for me. And I have let it sit on a stupid sticky note next to my monitor, or next to my pens, or next to my something on my desk where I figured I would see it and one day just decide to act and make this thing happen, right?

Something that didn't seem incredibly important or urgent, but as time went on, it became increasingly urgent and increasingly important but yet the time to implement it, would've been in the past and when I had first had the idea. And at that point, all I could do is do it then. But I missed out on all of this potential opportunity or perhaps you don't have an idea just sitting there, perhaps there's something more, perhaps you have something that's in progress, right? So, you've kind of maybe talked to a person or two, or you have a plan that's kind of started. And now you're just waiting for the perfect time to implement this plan all the way it's kind of in progress, or you're waiting to perfect the plan, right?

Make sure that plan is just dialed in and then I can implement it because you only get one chance, right? Only one chance to implement this plan. You ever use that kind of foolishness on yourself? I know that sometimes that we say we you only have one chance to make a first impression. Yeah, there's a lot of truth to that. But guess what? In your business, it is all about implementing, iterating, making changes, doing it again, right? And so, do your best. You will never find the perfect time and you will never have the perfect plan. So, just do your best and improve it over time. Famous US Army General George Patton. He said this, he said, "A good plan violently executed now is better than a perfect plan next week." Right? George Patton, like I said, was an Army General and often in the army or in battle, waiting too long to implement a plan would lose lives.

Lives are at stake, truly. And we often refer to people who have left us at work in much the same way as in war, where in war they lose people to battle, but we are losing people to a similar battle. We are losing people to competitors or even to other industries with our inaction and inattention to what makes our people happy. And I'm telling you, it starts with us as the leaders. We may not be able to solve all of our staffing issues quickly, but we can sure make a difference right now. You can't become the best place to work in a day in a week in a month. But man, you can make a difference today. You can make it a little bit better and it will get there. The key is to start small and be incredibly consistent, annoyingly consistent with yourself. Don't let yourself miss these opportunities to communicate and give clarity to your people.

Consistency will win out every single time. So, don't overcomplicate it, just do something this week. You can always change it. You can always change it and perfect the plan over time. So, where are you going to start? If nothing has come to mind yet, and you are looking for a high impact place to start, I have one for you that I know will make a difference. And I have mentioned it multiple times on the podcast and it is this, try holding for the first time or improving your one-on-one meetings with your key people. It will make more difference than you can even imagine. If you have not done them before, or if you do them all ready and you feel that they are awkward or not productive, send me an email and I will send you a free template to help walk you through these one-on-ones as a guide.

So, whether it's your first time and you're trying to implement, or if they're awkward or if you just want some more ideas, send me an email or my message and I will send this back to you and we can work through it and help you improve your one-on-one meetings. In coming episodes, we are going to dive even deeper into this issue of retention and what we can do to differentiate ourselves in the market and really keep our great people. So, if you have done this in the past already, if you feel that you are doing something right, or someone else that you have seen is doing this right, I would love to feature your story in a future episode so that we can share the lessons together and help provide additional insights and opportunities for other listeners. So, please go ahead if you'd like to share a story or if you would like to get the free one-on-one template, go ahead and send those requests right on in to [email protected] You got this until next week.

Thanks for joining me on this week's episode of the Flavor of Leadership Podcast. If you enjoyed what you heard, please share it with a friend and if you haven't already subscribe, rate and review the show on your favorite podcast player. If you have any questions, comments, or feedback for us, you can reach me directly at flavorofleadership.com. Thanks for listening.