Successful Selling: Hiring the right employees and keeping them - Dec 2018

By Sandy Smith

More than two decades ago, Steven Hankin of McKinsey & Company coined the term “war for talent” to describe the increasingly competitive business environ-ment for recruiting and retaining talented employees. Since that time, there have been ups and downs in employee availability, but in the last few years, competition for highly skilled and knowledgeable employees has become critical.

Business leaders in the U.S. and around the world rank attracting, developing and retaining talent among their top challenges. That’s true for high-tech companies and huge corporations as well as the service industry and small businesses. This includes businesses that manufacture, wholesale, retail and install flooring. They’re all in the same boat. And most organizations are not doing a good job of it.

Jim Collins, famed author of Good to Great, succinctly points out that “the single biggest constraint on the success of my organization is the ability to get and to hang on to enough of the right people.” So why is this issue so critical? Because talent matters so much.

Scott Keller and Mary Meaney, authors of the book Leading Organizations: Ten Timeless Truths, say that a skilled worker is 50% more productive at doing a low-complexity job than an average worker. And that they are 85% more productive in a middle-complexity job. In a high-complexity job, the skilled worker is 125% more productive, and in a very high-complexity job, the skilled worker is 800% more productive than an average worker. Steve Jobs said it like this, “Go after the cream of the cream. A small team of A+ players can run circles around a giant team of B and C players.”

The problem is that everyone else also wants talented and skilled employees. The U.S. economy has posted the most consecutive months of job growth in history. At the same time, unemployment in the U.S. is at 3.8% (October 2018, BLS), the lowest rate since 2000. So, to say the job market is tight is understating it.

Partly as a result of the tight labor market, there are a record 6.6 million open jobs in the U.S., literally enough openings for every unemployed person in the country. That should be great news, right? Not so fast; there are other issues. For example, it is often the case that when applicants appear, they don’t have the skills they need to meet the job criteria. In many cases for corporate jobs, colleges and universities are not providing applicable knowledge and skills. For trade and labor jobs, nobody is doing a good job of explaining the job and earning potential of that particular skillset, much less offering to teach and certify them. And yet by the end of the current decade, 40% of new positions will be in the “middle skills” job category.

The public has been so oversold on the necessity for higher education that bright, energetic youth fail to even consider hands-on skills. In her article, “Why Blue-Collar Industries Are Facing Such a Massive Skills Shortage” (, Valerie Bolden-Barrett explains that potential employees don’t know that a mid-career elevator installer earns on average $63,500 a year while a mid-career civil engineer earns $61,611. Or that pay for a mid-level construction contractor is about the sa me as a mid-level clinical laboratory scientist. Or that a welder can earn $90,000 a year, and so on.

A growing number of companies have decided that they can’t rely on the existing models for education and training and are taking it upon themselves to grow their own employees. Sometimes this involves upskilling current employees through on-the-job training and mentoring. In that way, they motivate and retain current employees and end up with highly skilled employees who are perfect fits for the needs they have, including new skills brought about by technology advancements.

Another more far-reaching strategy is to spread the word to students in middle and high school about what jobs there are and what skills they need to do them. Skilled jobs usually require more than a high school education but less than a four-year college degree. Then they work with high school educators to develop relevant diversified education curricula and with junior colleges and trade schools to offer classes and certifications in those skills.

More companies are also recognizing and accepting different types of learning credentials. Many bright young potential employees are turning away from degrees from traditional colleges and universities because of the costs involved and their inability to work full time while enrolled. Online education from a growing list of learning resources allows students to get enough relevant skills and knowledge to qualify for an entry-level position. And they can work full-time while doing it by logging on at night or on weekends. Plus, they avoid the crushing burden of student loans.

The flip side of the challenge of developing a productive workforce is to hold on to the employees once you have hired them. Losing and then replacing them is incredibly expensive. So employers are working to provide their employees a positive “worker experience.” This does not mean offering break rooms with snacks and easy chairs. It means addressing the real issues and concerns employees have. It means positioning employees so that they can be successful.

In his annual forecast “10 Workplace Trends” in Forbes, Dan Schawbel predicted that in 2017 workplace wellness and well-being will become “critical employee benefits for attracting top talent.” In his 2018 list, Schawbel says, “With 78% of Americans living paycheck to paycheck and student loan debt at over $1.4 trillion, workers are struggling, and it’s affecting their health.” As a result of this situation, several top companies are helping employees pay back their student loan debts and offering mental health services to help them deal with anxiety and stress.

Remember that how you do this will not be a secret. Current employees, especially newly hired ones, will share their experiences with friends and write about it online at a number of websites, like The whole world will know. As a matter of fact, you can go to the Glassdoor site (, see ratings and read reviews including pros and cons written by interviewees and employees alike. Under one tab for large companies, you can review Facebook at the top of the list of best places to work for 2018 or In-N-Out Burger that comes in at number four. Another tab reveals information about small- and medium-sized companies.

Southwest Airlines has long been recognized as an employer of choice. The company has been on Glassdoor’s list of best places to work every year since 2010. In terms of applicants flocking for employment, the company’s reputation precedes them. Southwest receives an application every two seconds. That amounted to 371,202 resumes in 2015, from which the company hired about 6,000 employees-2% of those who applied. Southwest revealed that it is not uncommon for them to interview 100 applicants for a single position. It seems that establishing a positive employee experience at Southwest is paying off for them. Southwest CEO said, “Our people are our single greatest strength and most enduring long-term competitive advantage.”

Establishing an effective worker experience must include flexible, meaningful strategies. For example, a posting by Glassdoor listed three traits that all the best places to work in 2017 had in common.

Mission: They all had a clear statement of their reason for being. Research shows that mission-driven companies have 30% higher levels of innovation and 40% higher retention rates. Such companies tend to offer clear direction and challenging and exciting work.

Culture: Creating a strong culture of engaged employees is now seen as essential for attracting and retaining talent as well as enhancing productivity. Having a culture that aligns with the mission and provides great perks and benefits marks the best places to work.

People: Great companies empower individual employees and help them grow to become their best. Employees feel valued and relish the company of smart colleagues.

The quest for companies to be included in the discussion of the best places to work does not require being perfect. A friend of mine who is a senior vice-president of human resources in a $17 billion company told me that trying to implement a culture that attracts and retains top employees is touch and go, “No matter what you do in any area, some employees will like it and some won’t. What’s important is that employees see that the company continues to listen and keeps on trying.”

Glassdoor notes: “The average for the Best Places to Work 2017 U.S. Large Employers List is 4.3 on a scale of 5. The average overall rating for Glassdoor companies is 3.3. Best Places to Work companies know that they’re not always going to get it right, and are willing to admit it when they don’t.”

Copyright 2018 Floor Focus 

Related Topics:Lumber Liquidators