Not long ago, I was enjoying a drink with several friends, including a restaurant owner, a retail store owner and a C-level exec with a prominent company. They were all lamenting about how “they can’t find good employees … nobody will apply … they’re not loyal … they won’t come back after being laid off …they won’t stay after being trained… etc.”
Since I was neither an owner nor a prominent executive, I was curious.
I asked the restaurant owner what he paid. “Minimum wage for servers, plus the tips they get.” As for benefits, he said, “We keep them under the full-time level so we don’t have to pay benefits.”
The retail owner was angry that “people won’t come back to work because the government is paying them to stay at home.” He admitted that he had to lay off most of his staff during the pandemic but felt they should be willing to come back and make $10 an hour. The C-level exec paid considerably more, including benefits, but also said that he expected his employees to “eat, drink and breathe their job because this business is a war!”
Then it really hit me: Employers and employees truly do live in different worlds. Employers are trying to grow a business while keeping costs down and getting maximum performance out of their employees. On the surface, there’s nothing wrong with their thinking.
As an employee, I felt they weren’t paying enough to get—or keep—good employees. Low pay, no benefits, being overworked. Nothing wrong with that thinking either.
So how can my employer market to me—a current employee—in a way that will keep me willing to work, to invest my talents in their success, and to commit to them long term?
That’s a marketing challenge that’s affecting thousands of businesses right now. And while companies may spend hundreds of thousands on yearly marketing budgets and advertising for new employees, little to nothing is spent marketing to current employees to ensure that they are happy, engaged and fulfilled. That is a major mistake.
Here’s a simple tip that could help make a tremendous difference: Think and act as though YOU are your employee. For example:
• You work at a restaurant, making restaurant minimum wage, plus tips. Once things started reopening, business was slow—and so were the tips. Can you live on what you are getting paid?
• You work at a retail store and were laid off for months. If you get a better offer or change careers for something more lucrative, is it “disloyal” to take a job that increases your salary?
• You work in a company where “every day is a war.” Why should you miss your son’s baseball game or daughter’s play because your boss’s “war” is going on?
When the roles are reversed, it’s a little easier to see why employees aren’t clamoring to work for you.
So, what do you do? Make a list of things you’d like if you were the employee, and then act on them.
Money: Many employers have raised their salaries to attract workers. If you can do that, great. But also consider some other options.
As I’ve mentioned before, I work part-time in a small hardware store. During the height of the pandemic last year, we were considered an essential business and stayed open. It was a stressful time because we were swamped with phone orders, curbside pickup and deliveries. At the end of every week, our boss thanked us and gave each of us a small bonus. The amount wasn’t as important as feeling appreciated.
So, consider a periodic cash gift, a gift card, tickets to an event or attraction—anything to add value and show appreciation. It does not add to their yearly salary, but it gives an employee instant gratification. And for heaven’s sake, THANK your employees!
Recognition: When I worked in television news, our boss would recognize extraordinary effort by sticking a small furry “gremlin-like” creature onto our typewriter. He called it a “warm fuzzy.” Those were coveted in the newsroom because it was proof of excellent performance. In reality, they cost about a quarter each. But they provided tremendous value to make us feel appreciated. Make your employees feel special.
Flexibility: Parents who work outside the home are constantly juggling work with doctor visits, school functions, athletic competitions, etc. We’ve seen in the past year that people can accomplish a great deal working remotely at least part-time. If you are flexible with an employee’s needs, he/she is more likely to be flexible with you to finish a project—even if that means they complete it after hours at home.
Incentives: How much does it cost to recruit an employee? What if you gave that amount to a current employee who recruited a new member to the team? When was the last time your company had an employee lunch or outing? How many employees have you sent to receive specialized training so they’ll gain new skills and make them more valuable at work? These “extras” contribute to employee loyalty.
The keyword is respect. Your employees are assets and should be nurtured and grown as such. Treat them as you would want to be treated.
I know some of you are thinking, “I give them jobs. I pay them. That should be enough!” It’s not. Times have changed, and if you don’t change, you’ll be unsuccessfully looking for employees for the rest of your career.
As for my friends I mentioned earlier:
• One has sold his company because he was tired of the challenges.
• One has put a sign on his door, “We are reducing our hours because we can’t find good employees.” His business has dropped, and he has lost more workers.
• The third is in the midst of being taken over by a larger company. The new company is promising to “take things to a whole new level.” He’s considering getting out of “the war.”
Employers have it tough too.
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