AMARILLO, Texas — Many aspects of our business environment have shifted over the last three years, which can be confusing to identify and prioritize the changes necessary to effectively adapt to the current landscape.
Some of these shifts are simply adjustments to our routines, requiring nothing more than adding or changing a vendor, reevaluating or allowing for additional lead times, or expecting (again) a higher price estimate on the next purchase. These are not new, but they are coming in greater numbers and faster now.
The items that require a shift in our processes are what may be most daunting. “Same as it ever was” does not move things proactively in these instances.
Of that list, the potentially most impactful in my opinion, is the finding, hiring and retention of suitable direct labor.
This one has always been a special sort of challenge. The methods and instruments of hourly employee acquisition continue to evolve in the attempt to keep pace with the dwindling number of candidates and the growing number of unfilled positions across the entire spectrum of entry-level employment.
Competition for personnel to fill these positions was dramatically increased with the arrival of COVID-19 and, even with the declining cases and restrictions, the traditional labor pool seems to have not returned to the marketplace or has been commandeered by other, more first-blush appeal opportunities.
While I will not attempt to speak for any part of our chosen industry, I have noticed changes in the demographics of candidates that my organization is receiving and hiring now compared to pre-pandemic applicants.
The most unexpected and unforeseen change for me is that the average age of our applicants is rising. This seems counterintuitive and entirely discordant with the current employment environment and with my previous experiences.
Entry-level positions are traditionally filled by new and less-seasoned members of the workforce … right? So, why is this segment not on the rise and how can we compensate our processes to negate this trend?
More seasoned members of the workforce are accustomed to traditional hiring processes and are not daunted by tedious, laborious hiring processes, while newer members of the workforce see these traditional processes as part of a system they absolutely do not subscribe to or want to be part of, much less integrated into.
The prospect of a less diverse workforce in both its benefits and liabilities is arguable. The overriding concern is the sustainability of this makeup.
Examining this situation and the existing hiring practices may reveal how these processes can unintentionally “screen out” potential candidates with or without this intent.
Traditionally, a paper or electronic, and highly detailed, application, laboriously filled out and submitted, asking for all manner of required and desired data, as well as everything else considered important or required to document and engage a potential candidate, is submitted and then waited upon until someone reviews and contacts for additional employment actions is as unpleasant and cumbersome as this sentence is.
There is the real possibility that no tangible benefit results from getting every bit of their information at the outset when the current job market favors the job seeker. This may look and feel like drudgery for your potential employee.
So, your first impression to your next candidate is one of grinding out a task and then more grinding ahead. Strike one. They go off to the next employer’s application grind and do it all again.
Honestly, what younger person would embrace a process like this? Required data-gathering steps can be done after further progress toward an agreement between the potential employee and potential employer occurs, once it is determined that the opportunity is a good “match” with the candidate at hand.
Reviewing the application and the candidate’s impressions of the employer is necessary as well as the reevaluation of “discountable” items that deter a candidate from attempting to apply. Several historically common job requirements may need to be reevaluated for inclusion at the outset of the hiring process in the current market.
Items like education requirements are also “screening” your candidates for you. A potential candidate sees the entire section identified as “education,” and it takes up a half page of the document. That alone may very well shame or dissuade the candidate if there are no educational accomplishments to report.
A lesser step would be to make space for primary schooling so they can offer something in this section and validate continuing forward with the process.
Regardless of the employer’s expectations, an employee will not apply if they feel they will not be really qualified to be considered a viable candidate. This is also true for several other application items, like criminal background.
Consider the type of legal issues and the time when these events occurred before putting this sort of section on a pre-employment document. This can, and often does, cause a candidate to believe they will be disqualified for having to disclose a previous offense at the outset.
Consider the bounced check, reckless driving or criminal mischief conviction being enough shame or judgment to deter the candidate who next hits the “escape” key and then moves on to the next potential employer. Strike two.
The timeline for the hiring process is also key to getting the new team members you are seeking. Speed in getting from the initial inquiry to a “conditional offer of employment” is the metric.
Consider being an entry-level job seeker on a search, and then consider what will be done after completing an application to one potential employer. Easy, you go on to the next and so forth until someone hires you. First offer, first hired.
What rarely happens is the candidate completes one application and then sits around patiently until that employer completes their process and either offers employment or advises that an offer is not possible currently. I love a good fantasy story, but this one is not based on anything approaching today’s realities.
To keep in concert with your candidate’s expectations and goals, it will be necessary to be agile enough to react nearly immediately to a valid employment inquiry.
This sounds very difficult but consider having staff shortages to be an employee retention crisis. That should be sufficient for applying the necessary sense of urgency to act promptly.
Short staffing and the resulting overtasking lead directly to employee dissatisfaction and turnover. Otherwise, the staffing spiral gathers speed …
Now imagine an applicant inquiry is answered and a pre-employment screening interview is conducted right away. This leads to a “thank you for your time” or a “conditional offer of employment” made at the end of that screening.
The candidate/employee goes home to celebrate the successful finding of their job and they do not continue to the next application process. I like considering a happy ending, too.
Applying these approaches to employee retention is critical to ensuring that endless searching for team members is not and does not become a primary focus in a laundry’s operations.
There is simply not enough time to produce high-quality linens consistently when your direct labor team’s experience is leaving through a revolving door staffing pattern.
I have always believed it is much easier, and much less expensive, to retain my experienced workers than it has ever been to find, hire and train new ones.
In my next column in June, I will propose some opportunities for direct labor employee retention for your consideration and would very much appreciate hearing from you about your experiences in this area ([email protected]).
Have a question or comment? E-mail our editor Matt Poe at [email protected].