A Guide for Finding Employees

Do you need more employees right now? Chances are that you do. I’m constantly speaking with business owners, and almost all are lamenting that they can’t find enough qualified help these days.

Many businesses are in a pickle. During the early days of the COVID pandemic, they were forced to lay off employees, reduce hours, or make some hard choices. For many, it made sense. When business dried up, so did the need for staff.

But now that the world has opened back up, the need for businesses to fill their staffing positions is almost at a critical point. This is true regardless of the business focus or industry.

Where Is Everyone?

While it is easy to point fingers and say that “people just don’t want to work,” I don’t think that is necessarily true. My contention is that when the world stopped due to COVID, people moved on from their current job and pursued other interests.

Take a look at this graph. If you want to choose the state where you live, click here. In every state in the nation, new businesses are growing at over twice the rate than normal.

While obviously, this doesn’t account for every missing employee everywhere, it does give some credence to the fact that people weren’t sitting around waiting for COVID to end. Recently, I’ve spoken to several people who took advantage of the crisis to start a new company.

People moved on with their lives. Some went back to school, as colleges with more than 20,000 students saw an increase in applications by 21%. For all colleges, there was an 11% jump.

For workers that are older, some chose to simply retire. As home prices and stock market values rose, they could afford it. There was a 2% increase in the age range from 65 to 74 from January 2020 to January 2021.

Most people just found new jobs.

Former Workers Are Not Coming Back

Despite throwing more money at the situation, by now it is obvious that the trained workforce that existed a year or so ago will not be coming back to their old jobs.

For shops that need staff, your best bet is to start fresh. Just swallow that difficult to hear pill and move on.

The work now is going to be based on hiring employees that want to work and training them in the new roles in your business. This means taking the time and effort to build a training program, standard operating procedures for the work, and this is crucial, a company culture that keeps employees from leaving.

Finding the New Crew

I’ve been talking with four or five dozen shop owners a week for months. They have been struggling with the same problems that you are facing. A few have figured out some things that seem to be working.

Take a look and see if these could help out in your situation. Results may vary.

The Trend is to Hire Younger

While we may want, and really need, time-tested veteran work staff…the chances of you getting a new press operator, embroidery operator, production manager, or artist that has oodles of experience and can’t wait to make their mark in your shop are very thin.

What seems to be working is to find new employees that have a great attitude, who want to work, and who can’t wait to learn. I’ve heard the same story over and over again.

Shops are recruiting high school and college students, or people out of school but haven’t found something career-wise quite yet. Yes, they are hiring part-timers.

The goal isn’t to hire anyone that can fog a mirror.

Warm bodies aren’t going to get you very far. Instead, what I’m hearing is that these shops are offering career training and market their business as a fun place to work. They know that these positions are going to be stepping stones to something else, so if they can get one to four years from these new hires that is acceptable.

Interviewing

There actually is a gigantic problem these days with people that are interested in the job, but “ghost” you and don’t actually show up for the interview.

I have personally spoken to business owners who have scheduled dozens of interviews, and not a single person actually came by for their allotted time. One theory that I’ve heard is that potential employees were collecting, “interview” slots for the out-of-work checks that the government was distributing.

Because this seems to be a trend, probably the only way to combat this is to be more proactive about vetting the candidates earlier in the process. This means more information and transparency regarding the jobs you are advertising about. I would suggest always showing your compensation ranges, benefits, and other items to communicate these important facts early.

Also, with the advent of video communication, why not try a video job interview before they are slated to come by your place of business? Typically there usually is a phone call and a short conversation anyway. Instead of that, try using video and see if this improves your statistics with potential candidates actually showing up for the (second) live interview in person at your business.

How to Market Hiring for Your Shop

These new employees are brought in via a few different routes. Here’s what I hear is working:

Loop in the School

Many high schools and colleges have resources allocated to help students find work. Sometimes these are called work-study or internships. If you have a campus near you, track down the right person to speak with and discuss your situation.

There are students that can work production, but they can also help you with your marketing, purchasing, invoicing, social media, website SEO, creative art generation, and even sales. Don’t be shy about getting someone working on a project, they often are thrilled at the chance to prove their worth.

Your shop, of course, is going to have to train them and give them clear expectations regarding their job. Make sure you set aside appropriate time to show them the ropes and teach them what to do.

Your Existing Employees

A tried and true method that is still extremely successful is to use your existing staff to help market open positions in your business.

Everyone knows a cousin, neighbor, friend, relative, or acquaintance that needs a job. Shops that I’ve spoken with have had great luck paying $250 to $500 for a referral to hire someone. This is paid after the new employee makes it to their 90-day review.

When paying the money, don’t make it a secret, give the check to the staff member at the group meeting, so everyone can see that payout. This really takes hold when the same person gets multiple checks.

Pay Attention to Pay

One reason why you may not be able to find employees is your current pay scale. When someone can make $18 or $22 an hour making a sandwich, why would they want to work for you for $15?

You need to pay attention. Yes, it isn’t fair.

Raise your prices. Get better customers. Do what it takes.

Also, if you really want to get on top of the situation, find out the top end wage in your area and offer about 10% over that. Long gone are the days that everyone kept what they make a secret. Now, it’s posted on the internet or shared in the break room.

Shops that take care of their employees are not having trouble finding people to work for them. This includes benefits such as health insurance, 401(k)s, and other perks. In fact, I know several shops in hotter climates that completely air-conditioned their shops because that is one way they attracted more skilled employees.

Also, since one of the reasons why many women haven’t gone back to work is the increased rates for child care, I’ve heard of a few shops that are offering that. I haven’t spoken to anyone about this but thought I would mention it. It’s been estimated that 56% of the workforce exits were from women, so this makes sense.

Social Media

Yes, you still need to post that you have job openings. Be creative about it.

Show what it is like to work there. Do people look happy? Can you make a video? Working a new job is scary. Nobody knows how to print a t-shirt or embroider a logo on a hat until they are trained.

Can you show what is involved so someone could think, “Hey, I can do that!” and apply for the job?

Is the application on your website? What do they need to do?

You have to make it easy for them. Outline the next step.

Talk About Your Shop’s Culture

By and large, we are a fun industry. Heck, we print t-shirts and embroider on trucker caps. This isn’t brain surgery.

More than anything you have to demonstrate what it is like to work for your shop. Who works there now? Why did they start?

Oh, Gabriella has worked there for five years? What was she doing before? When she started, she was a former waitress at a diner. Now, she’s in charge of shipping. Interview Gabby and talk about how that happened and the training involved.

The most important thing you can do is to get Gabriella to enthusiastically talk about how great it is to work in your shop. Show the before and after.

That is what you post with the job opening. Try it and see what happens.


“Dig your well before you are thirsty.” – Seth Godin

“An employee’s motivation is the direct result of the sum of interactions with his or her manager.” – Bob Nelson

“Good enough never is.” – Debbi Fields


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Marshall