Without question, the first response from people when asked about their company’s workforce is usually negative. Regardless if asked today, or 5-10 years ago, employers find themselves always complaining about labor. I’m guilty too, but not anymore. I found it to be wasted energy and draining to say the least.
Things began to change when I started to recognize the value of the human capital surrounding me and realized that filling jobs wasn’t all about me needing workers to produce “my” widget. I recognized the opportunity to positively influence people that needed help in their lives. It is easy to think that entry level workers are the most challenging, but the fact is that every human being that walks through my front door has a ton of baggage, and junk in the trunk. If I expect them to deal with their problems outside of work, and yet show up with a smile on their face every day, then I am the fool.
The fact is that turnover is our enemy, not the available workforce alone. Pallet company business owners have gotten used to needing hundreds of applicants yearly when they only have a handful of jobs to fill. My plant manager Jay Doyle reminded me not worry about having a long line at the door. He encouraged me and said, “We just need 10 people today boss, not 100, if we can keep them from leaving.”
The magnitude of that statement is huge because it creates freedom from worrying about what is happening in the job market with so many other opportunities. It challenges us to be smart in a different way. Looking at what I’m doing internally to keep employees is a far better use of my time than trying to figure out where to advertise jobs to reach more people.
It’s foolish to keep doing what I did 20 years ago and expect it to work. Demographics have changed for sure. But I don’t control those things, I only control how I respond to change. Expecting it to be enough to just give an employee a fair market wage, an average benefit package, and a dirty hard job, is foolish. We need to ask ourselves how to become the destination for people looking for work, and it’s going to look different for each of us based on our surroundings.
Millennials are causal. In other words, missional. They want their life to count. They join in worthy causes. They don’t give to church, but they will contribute to a friend in need or a GoFundMe cause. We can work with that at L&R Pallet because we have started to hire people based upon being a cultural fit first, skills/ability second.
It has been my experience that all people need purpose. Applicants don’t come to us with a burning passion to make pallets, but they do come with a longing to be a part of something greater. So “what” do I do to staff my workforce? My job (my mission) is to lead and take care of the people standing in front of me. Their job (their mission) is their work station. Our job is building, serving and impacting everyone and everything through what we do. The vessel just happens to be a pallet, but it is not “why” we get up every day. I get up to make a difference to a captive audience that reports to work for 40 hours each week. It’s an opportunity and a responsibility. By doing that, serving the customer has become easy.
The answer is actually simple; start loving people. I guarantee it’s the secret sauce in defining your company culture and figuring out where you will be in 5 to 10 years.