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Good help is hard to find...

You’ve heard it a dozen times, “If you want something done right, you have to do it yourself…”.

My friend Johnny owns a coffee shop…he loves getting his hands dirty in the day-to-day workings of the cafe. Johnny takes very good care of his employees, giving them close attention while training them, monitoring their progress and motivating them. “It’s hard work with all the hours and attention that is needed but once I get to work, i love being involved with everything, especially the people and relationships…”. Despite his focus on developing his employees to be well trained and qualified, this doesn’t always ensure retention of good employees. “There’s always turn over, employees start school, their availability changes, they need more or less hours, they get married and move out of state, etc…” Retention is tricky and even more tricky is finding well qualified people in the first place. “It’s easy to get job applications but it’s hard to find the right people.” Inevitably, a friend eventually says, “it’s easy to find good help, just be specific about what you’re looking for…”, to which you reply, “I know, but WHERE to find them? It’s easy to post on craigslist or ask a friend but the right people don’t always come running… It’s easy to find anyone but hard to find the right person.“

Where to find the right help? People search far and wide, asking everyone they know, people create search firms and offer an incentive if someone refers the right person. Outsourcing, turnover, referrals and all seems like such a numbers game. Why is it so hard to find the right person? Even when you find someone suitable, why do some leave soon after being hired? Maybe there’s a personality test somewhere that explains it all but until then, the simple challenge remains: Where and how to find and retain the right help? The solution is deceptively simple: attract who you’re looking for. “But I did that, Nick! I wrote out a very detailed job description and posted it everywhere, i asked all my friends and gave it to a search firm…”. This is called “”searching vs “attracting” and is not what I’m talking about. Instead, think about it like this…

People often think about accomplishing a goal by focusing only on the end result: Your shiny new employee, fully qualified, a sparkling resume, polished skills, a bright smile and 10 years experience to boot. Congratulations, you just put every search firm in the country out of business because you did what they never could: you found the perfect employee and what’s more, you produced him/her out of thin air. I’m not saying this isn’t a worthy goal, I’m just saying it doesn’t exactly work like that. Instead, let’s reverse engineer this process:

First, let’s define the problem instead of the solution: “Nick, I can’t find good help”. Next, let’s reframe the problem. Most often, we frame a “problem” from our own self-perspective rather than in relationship to another person: “I’m having trouble locating something or someone” instead of “how and why is the right person not able to find ME??”. Your ‘radar’ for the whereabouts of the right person is not exactly the problem you’re trying to solve. Instead, you should be defining the relationship you want to create, expressing your own personality along the way. Putting this into the ether (be it craigslist, word of mouth, social media) and it will attract people far and wide. Also, what is the larger problem you’re trying to solve by finding good help? On a larger scale, you’re trying to provide good customer service, you’re trying to deliver a product, you’re trying to ensure the trains run on time, no? “Yes Nick, and good help is essential”. Of course it is, but an “efficient” employee isn’t always the right employee. “Nick what do you mean, exactly?” What I mean is that if you needed a cashier for your bakery and you asked me to choose between the cashier with 10 years experience in retail or the recent college grad with zero job experience but wants to open his or her bakery one day, I’ll take the college grad hands down every time. Which one do you think the search firm is going to send your way? True, the college grad might require more patience and training behind the cash register but I’ll bet he or she will be eager to learn and quick to make an impact in the overall daily operations of the bakery. Most importantly, this green but eager new employee will have a true incentive for making customers smile and delivering a quality product (and a great manager will structure a path of growth for an employee who wants to be the boss, one day). This is someone who will seek to rise up (forgive the pun, i just couldn’t resist!) through the ranks and ideally become your #2 one day, ensuring you don’t even have to be there every day. The trained cashier from accounting school w/10 years experience? He wants to run payroll for Microsoft, one day (and more power to him, in fact, send him their address, won’t you?). My point in all this is that you want to attract someone who cares about the business, the product, the industry, and the customers the way you do and this is seldom found on a resume or in the “well qualified” job applicant

“Nick, don’t these inner qualities make it even harder to find the person? Resumes and word of mouth are all we have to go on…” Not exactly. Let’s reverse engineer the search process:

Most people write down the objective qualities they’re looking for into a job description and then use the “spray and pray” method, splattering job descriptions across websites, search firms, friends, etc. These same people talk to everyone they know, passing along the word and hanging signs in the window. “Spraying” complete, cue the “praying”… Even when the responses come in, you’re back to reviewing objective qualities on paper to match against the objective job description you wrote. We just reviewed how much inner qualities count for more than objective ones so how do we advertise this? Instead of a job description describing duties and qualifications, take a step back and ask yourself: Why do you love what you do? Why did you get into this business? Does your heart and soul come across in the product you deliver and if so, what does your product or service really deliver?

For example, a mattress store sells mattresses but more importantly, they sell a good night’s sleep. What does a good night’s sleep mean to you? For me, it can make or break my day. I swear, i’m a different person off a full night’s rest. I’m more patient with people, my mood is positive, i’m looking for opportunities and i’m more focused on curating my inner life. Therefore, my mattress is super important in helping me come across to and communicate with people as all of my deepest self.

Another example, coffee shops sell coffee, right? Technically, yes, but more importantly, they sell a space for people to sit down together, connect and share quality time. For busy folks, the coffee shop is a place for productivity, a temporary office to focus on their passions and move their life forward. See the difference between focusing on the objective outer qualities vs. the inner ones? Treat your personnel needs the same way. If you’re a coffee shop owner, why do you love providing people quality coffee and a place to connect with others? Why do you love putting a smile on their face? Answers to questions like this should go directly into your job description because you’re looking for someone who shares the same attitude and beliefs about your service industry. Questions in an interview should be less of “why do you want this job?” or “why are you qualified? What’s your experience?” and more of “Why do you enjoy busting your ass in the kitchen just to put a smile on someone’s face?” The idea behind all this is that the more of yourself that you put into your job description and the more you focus on what kind of relationship you want to have with the right employee, the more you will ATTRACT the right people instead of having to spend endless amounts of energy SEARCHING for them. Flipping your mindset on this is key to solving your problem of “finding the right help” which, instead, is more about getting the right help to FIND YOU. In other words, this relationship is what you want to cultivate in your search for the right person but it doesn’t happen by searching, it happens by radiating who you are in relationship to others through the service or product you love. Your “product” is YOU and so it should be in relationship to the right employee that you’re searching for. Don’t talk about the end results or even the qualities you’re looking for in the “right” employee. Talk about what you love, how and why it express who you are, and the “problems” it solves. You need to express the love and passion you have for providing the experience your customers enjoy. You’re not even trying to directly attract employees in doing this, you’re just trying to attract someone who understands the relationship you’re looking to culativage, building a network that can put the word out for you. Even someone who deeply understands customers and the customer experience but has no business acumen can be the “right” person. If opposites attract, stay open to someone on the opposite end of the spectrum in the relationship you’re looking to cultivate in order to attract the people you’re looking for.

You need to find people who understand the relationship you want to cultivate and quickly befriend them AND THEIR FRIENDS. THAT’S YOUR NETWORK (even if it begins with the right employees from another store that you can’t hire...yet). Expressing the very qualities of the relationship you’re seeking is something that resonates louder and grabs more attention than 100 boring job descriptions combined. Seek all of this in more than just professional channels, seek it in your personal relationships and social life and you’re bound to run into someone who can help spread the word or refer you to someone who may be interested.

Relationships are at the heart of business and your self awareness is key to fostering the right kind of connection. It all starts with expressing who you want to be in relationship to others. For example...

There are many reasons to make a customer smile but for me personally, I love making people smile because i believe in personal connection and moreover, interpersonal connection. In my personal life, I love actively listening to people, their problems, their joys, etc. Holding space for people by giving them your undivided attention provides a sounding board for people to feel more deeply into larger parts of themselves. We are stronger together than we are individually and I believe that we are more than ourselves when we are in relationship to others. I love being a sounding board to let people know they are funny, good at creating mischief, etc. When you’re in connection with someone, there is a synergy that allows the partnership itself to be more than the sum of its parts. For example, there are many definitions of a “healer” but my interpersonal definition of a “healer” can be as simple as someone who is willing to listen to you unconditionally and allow you to express the depths of your pain. I personally experienced this when I went through the breakup of my first love. It was a relationship that I didn’t fully commit to for fear that engaging with her too deeply would mean facing the fact that I could lose her. Ironically, that's exactly what happened and the fear was exactly why I lost her. I was so emotionally exasperated I thought my life was over and i was going to ‘die’...but it wasn’t the end. In fact, a friend was willing to listen to me about why the pain was so difficult and all of my emotional grief cycles in processing such an emotional loss, etc. By providing a sounding board of unconditional love and attention, my friend allowed my to feel into the depths of my pain and transform it into self-awareness, emotional toughness (“scar tissue”), and the very capacity to create an emotional depth of feeling that could actually attract the right person into my life forever. The alchemy performed in this process is the very essence of the power of interpersonal connection. If a coffee shop can provide the context of an intimate setting for this type of exchange to take place, then it becomes my reason for wanting to help provide that service. For wanting to make people smile. :)

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