Leaning Into the Number One Problem Today: Hiring Employees

Do you need to hire employees right now? I’ll bet you do. In fact, I’ll bet that you may have been trying to hire employees for quite a long time now.

While it is easy to blame somebody or something else for the current situation…the government, millennials, COVID, the economy…or some other entity, at the end of the day that isn’t solving the problem.

You still gotta hire people. Let’s face it, you have orders to get out the door.

And before you read any further I have to be honest with you…I may not have the answers you are looking for in this article. In fact, I may just make you angry.

Not my intent, but I want to speak some truths here. Those truths may sting a bit.

Our Industry is Cheap

Yep. I said it. It is a fact.

Go ahead. Look up what someone can make as an entry-level employee at a Subway, McDonald’s, or even a Starbucks in your area.

Here’s an interesting new hiring tool that my son was using the other day. He’s seventeen and looking to go to work for his first job. This is what his friends are using… Snagajob.

Click that link and look up entry-level jobs in your area. Do they pay more than you to make a sandwich than you do to run your equipment?

When you are paying $16 an hour to run a press in an unairconditioned warehouse, but someone can make $18 an hour to add extra cheese to an Italian sub in a temperature-controlled sandwich shop which do you think is more popular?

And it gets worse.

I’ve heard in some areas, general construction crew day laborers are making over $20 an hour. How do we stand a chance against that?

It Isn’t Only About The Hourly Rate

Hiring these days isn’t only about the hourly rater either.

Looking through the available positions on Snagajob you can easily see several positions that offer a $100 bonus if you have both COVID vaccine shots, and some are offering up to a $1,000 signing bonus. On the spot.

Starbucks is famous for offering comprehensive medical insurance coverage (including dental and vision), a 401(k) program with a company match, a stock equity reward program, college tuition, and more. Here’s the benefits package if you want to take a look. Maybe I should be a Barista.

We are in competition with all businesses for great workers right now. And, we are getting killed on a daily basis.

This industry needs to up it’s game to compete.

What Happened When COVID Hit

When the COVID pandemic surfaced, many businesses made the hard decision to lighten their payroll to survive. It just made sense as a good chunk of the weekly costs went to labor, and it was a decision that many businesses had to face.

Now, we need those workers back.

The problem is that they have moved on. They had to survive too. They retrained in some other field. Many relocated to other parts of the country as they had to live with relatives. A few started their own businesses.

But what they learned is that they didn’t need you.

These workers know how hard they worked in your shop. They know what you paid. That your benefits package was slim to none. How standing on the hard concrete hurt their feet by the end of the day. That the warehouse is cold in the winter and boiling hot in the summer.

And now you want them to come back to their old job?

So if your only selling point on working in your shop is a paycheck, that may be why you are hearing a big fat zero when it comes to finding employees for your shop.

It’s Not All Doom And Gloom

However, don’t jump off the cliff just yet. It’s not all doom and gloom.

There are ways that you can attract employees to hire, and more importantly, retain your current staff. But, you have to be able to have an open mind and maybe do some things differently.

First, We’re Creative

One of the things that I love about this industry is that it is comprised of amazing and talented creative people. Like-minded people often seek other like-minded people.

Who works in your shop right now?

When I started in this industry as an art director back in 1993, every single person in the shop was a musician in a band. Long hair, tattoos, and a rock and roll attitude permeated the production floor. Some of the guys were also artists. Or writers. Or just plain funky people.

They absolutely cranked out millions of screen-printed shirts though. What they liked was a place to work with their friends, a laid-back but professional culture, and to have fun.

Printing t-shirts isn’t brain surgery.

When you sell your shop to a potential hire, are you talking about the creative culture and how fun it is to work there, or is it a solid list of business bullet points and facts about the job?

As they say in advertising, sell the sizzle not the steak.

Stand Out From The Competition

What are you known for in your community? Do people even know you exist?

Or, are you the business that helps out during Habitat for Humanity builds, park clean-ups, or food drives? Do you participate in a bowling, pickleball, or softball league?

Do your own employees recruit for you? Does your current staff HONESTLY feel appreciated and valued? How do you know?

Are you grilling out on Fridays, or taking everyone to lunch or the ball game? When was the last time you sent a handwritten thank you card to an employee’s house? What about a birthday card? Do you look them in the eye and say “Thank You” on a regular basis and mean it?

I want you to think about your reputation where you live. Are you making a mark? It’s hard to recruit for a company that is invisible. Word gets around when you do things right.

It is much easier to recruit when the response is, “Oh those guys? They are great!”

Marketing isn’t limited to only customers.

The Price of Labor Is Going Up

Get over it. Quit bitching about it. There is nothing you can do about it, so start taking action to navigate your way through the challenge.

Raise your prices. Find better customers. But you need to do what it takes to keep your employees happy, and new hires attracted to you.

First, do the math. Honestly, where do you need to be for a starting wage right now? Not last year in 2020. Right now.

It is different all over the country and greatly depends on where you live. A starting wage in the New York City area may be higher than in Nowheresville Arkansas. It’s all relative to the geography and circumstances in your area.

If you need to adjust, you’ll also need to adjust the compensation for your current staff. I’ve heard plenty of stories this year about staff going to other shops or other industries because they couldn’t resist the pay increase.

Don’t let that happen to you.

By the way, as much as you don’t like it, everyone in your shop knows what everyone makes. It absolutely is not a secret, nor will it ever be one. In fact, I’ll bet your staff knows what their counterparts make in the other shops in town. Go ahead. Ask them.

Labor right now is a game of musical chairs. Don’t be caught without a seat when the music stops. Determine what you need to do and make the adjustment.

Get Creative For Hiring

We are in a creative industry. Does your ad look like it came from an accountant or an insurance agent?

Boring won’t sell. And, make no mistake, you are selling your shop when you are trying to recruit employees.

Instead, can you do something unexpected to get noticed? A pizza shop in Ohio is offering a free pizza if you come in and get a job interview. I know some shops are offering $500 cash bonuses to their employees for new hire referrals.

Can you make it easy with a Zoom video interview so they don’t even have to come in? What about making a recruitment video on what it is like to work in your shop? Maybe a contest where the winner gets a prize and a job?

You can maybe even be a bit dramatic too. When searching for a team to help explore Antarctica, Sir Ernest Shackleton posted a famous ad in the newspapers that read, “Men Wanted for Hazardous Journey. Small wages, bitter cold, long months of complete darkness, constant danger, safe return doubtful. Honor and recognition in case of success. – Sir Ernest Shackleton”

If that guy can find a crew, so can you. Do what it takes.


“Don’t judge each day by the harvest you reap, but by the seeds that you plant.” – Robert Louis Stevenson

“Change your thoughts and you change your world.” – Norman Vincent Peale

“Someone is sitting in the shade today because someone planted a tree a long time ago.” – Warren Buffett


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Thanks!

Marshall