I’ve noticed a trend in the last year. When I’m leaving the stage after a speech, wrapping up after leading a workshop, being interviewed on radio, or interacting with restaurant leaders one on one, the No. 1 question everyone asks is about how to find great staff for their businesses.
I’m hearing stories of applicants who never show up for interviews, positions open for months before being filled, and—in some sad cases—people getting hired who aren’t good for the business but at least can fill a spot on a busy schedule.
Some blame it on millennials. Some blame it on the new generation, Gen Z. Some look to the macro-economic environment. Others point to increased competition. The gig economy of Uber and Lyft is frequently mentioned as driving people away from the more traditional quick-service gig.
The reality is that it is harder than ever to find, hire, and keep the talent you need to run your business. You can join the crew pointing fingers and give up on ever finding solutions. Or you can change your approach and rethink the strategy.
Regardless of why the shift has happened, the one thing that remains the same is human behavior. When it comes to picking a job, we have a tendency of weighing our options. We ask questions like: How’s the commute? How’s the team? Do the hours work with my life outside of the job? What’s the work like? The pay? The product? The customer? How will it help me get where I want to go? Will it be fun? Interesting? Positive? These are all the things that your dream employees are thinking about when considering a new job.
We may not like it, but the days of posting a “Help Wanted” sign in the window and getting a string of applicants are over. Job seekers today have options—a lot of them. To compete for talent and win, it’s time to start thinking like a marketer. Approach hiring the same way you approach connecting with customers; use these two strategies to reshape your hiring practices and promote your company’s positions as jobs that potential employees just can’t turn down.
Sell the job
In my consulting work, I’ve met many stubborn restaurant leaders who approach hiring from an old-school perspective, where, if someone wants the job, he or she will find you and take what you have to offer. But the tables have turned—and the applicants are in charge now.
You’ve got to approach it from a sales perspective. If you pick up any book on sales, the first recommendation is typically something about understanding the reasons the buyer might be interested in buying. The goal is to use that motivation to present the product in a way that gets the buyer saying “yes.” The same thing applies to looking for new employees. You’ve got to position the job as one that is attractive to them.
Great sales skills start with listening. Ask your employees about why they love their job, why they initially took the job, why they stay. Check out the ways your competitors and other industries are communicating about their jobs.
I recently helped one restaurant team change their job posting because they were losing all of their drivers to Uber Eats and Postmates. Both of those companies were doing a great job at speaking in a way that appealed to the applicant by focusing on flexibility, ability to earn, and “being your own boss.”
Market the experience
Think of all the pre-job jitters you’ve had when you’ve started a new job in the past. Questions race through your mind, like: Will I like it? Will they like me? How will my coworkers be? Will I like the customers? Will I fit in?
Often during workshops, I will ask people to tell stories about their workplaces. Time and time again in the restaurant industry, I hear employees talk about the people. They share stories about how it feels like family. They tell stories about being in the weeds and getting a supportive hand from a coworker. They will talk about the things they learned that have helped them further their careers. They will talk about the fun.
Are you effectively telling the story of working with you? There is a popular book called “Whoever Tells the Best Story Wins,” and nowhere is that more true than in the race for talent. Great brands are pulling in the best applications and hiring the top-shelf candidates. How? They’re simply doing a better job at creating and then retelling the story of their employee experience.
It’s time to rethink the way you attract people to your brand. Restaurants of every size and in every town can win the war for talent if you just ask yourself and your team one simple question: What story is your hiring process telling?