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Every day, I read another article or hear another story about the labor shortage, the great resignation or whatever you want to call it. And I experience it every day in my own interactions. The situation we find ourselves in is truly unprecedented. However, finding a solution will only be possible if we begin by asking the right question.

Photo: erdikocak/ iStock / Getty Images Plus/ Getty Images

Photo: erdikocak/ iStock / Getty Images Plus/ Getty Images

The right question is not, “What is everyone else doing to find people?” The reason this is not the right question is that it implies that everyone else has the answer, which they don’t. And it presumes that what works for one company will work for your company. So, let’s stop asking this question. 

Instead, the question to ask is, “What specific action plans are we implementing to create a more inviting work environment?” The answer to this question will be unique to your company because things that are uninviting at your company may not be the same as your industry peers. 

First impressions

Let’s consider an example. The office administrator spends time each day posting ads, responding to inquiries, lining up interviews, etc. And the company spends more than it has ever spent on staffing with Team Engine, Indeed, Zip Recruiter, etc. When the company adds a new hire, it’s a small miracle. The new person spends a couple of hours in the office completing paperwork, watching a video about the company and getting set up with PPE. So far, so good. Then, it’s off to the field.

The new person meets a field supervisor. She hops in the truck and heads off toward a job site where the new employee will join a crew. On the way, the field supervisor blasts the new person with all sorts of random information, delivered in a threatening tone, along with a rant about how “nobody wants to work these days.” By the time they arrive at the job site, the new employee is questioning her decision to join the company. 

On the job site, the new employee meets the crew leader, and the field supervisor drives away. This is where it all turns around. The crew leader is phenomenal at making new people feel welcome and part of the team from day one. He is patient, explains things clearly, and sets a great example in his work ethic. The new person has a wonderful experience on the crew. On the way back to the shop, she decides she made the right decision after all, despite the drive over to the job site with the field supervisor.  

In this example, what needs to be fixed? Obviously, the interaction with the field supervisor needs attention. But what’s the solution? And is the company even aware of this problem? How would they be able to discover that this occurred when it happened during the drive from the office to the job site? Is the new employee going to speak up? Probably not, unless there was a safe way for her to provide feedback about the onboarding experience. Does that exist at your company? 

Look within

This is where the rubber meets the road. It starts with asking the right question. Stop wondering what everyone else is doing. Stop searching for some magical solution. There isn’t one. Instead, focus your attention on your own company. Identify specific things to fix that impact your workplace environment. It may not be your onboarding process. There is a myriad of other very specific items that affect your ability to hire and retain people. 

Fall is a great season for annual planning. As you head off to your strategic planning retreat this fall, be sure to consider what you can do to improve in this area. 

If you’re attending ELEVATE, we are holding a half-day workshop, including lunch, focused on proven strategies for Winning the Talent War. We would love to see you in Orlando. 

Now go forth.

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Phil Harwood

About the Author:

Harwood is a Managing Partner with GrowTheBench and Pro-Motion Consulting. Reach him at Phil@GrowTheBench.com. He is a Landscape Industry Certified Manager, NALP Trailblazer, NALP Consultant, and Certified Snow Professional. Harwood holds a BA in Marketing and Executive MBA with Honors from Michigan State University.

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