Consultant's Corner
More with Honey:
5 Tips to Managaing Through Today's Labor Crises

by Karen DiPeri

It’s been said you get more with honey than with vinegar. Yes, this holds true in friendship, but what about with employees? How do you manage to be “sweet” under the daily pressures of the business? Here’s a few tips from someone who has hired thousands of people of all age ranges—you definitely get more with honey.
As a company, our entire purpose is to supply staff. We’re constantly recruiting and interviewing new candidates. One thing we hear over and over again is that a positive “corporate culture” is no longer a luxury, it’s a necessity. Cultivating relationships and creating a positive corporate culture is a prerequisite to attract and keep great talent.  For many reading this article, you might think this is “someone else’s job”. Maybe you have a whole team of HR professionals who provide employee engagement content and tools.  But who do your employees go to when they need something? Management can’t always pivot to corporate, they must deal with their employees right then and there.
I know firsthand the balancing act that managers go through. Spinning a half dozen plates overhead.  Be nice, but be firm…take time to listen…be supportive and understanding. Now go run the business!
I often think about this quote by Al Capone: “don’t mistake my kindness for weakness” which is often a fear of managers when they try to accommodate all sorts of requests.  
So what have we learned about attracting and maintaining strong relationships with our employees?
1. Set the stage right from the start. Even before their start date. Think about their interview. Are they left to wait 45 minutes before you greet them? Did you take the time to really get to know them? I know time is short, but if you’re going to meet with a potential employee and you end up hiring them, they’ll remember how you treated them that day, from the moment they walked in the door. Think about the stage you’re setting with them. Is it professional and respectful? Do they know that you’re a kind hearted person?

2. Set expectations—not only what you expect of them, but what they should expect of you. Remember that in today’s labor market there are more options than there are qualified employees. Being clear and firm about standards is a respectable quality. What the consequences are for not meeting those standards should be clear.

3. Reward the behavior you seek. Plain and simple. Don’t overlook the small efforts of your employees. Everyone loves acknowledgement, especially when its shared amongst co-workers collectively.  Send a note to upper management or ownership praising their work.

4. Seek Feedback- Often and reliably- We regularly seek feedback from our clients and guests, but how about from our employees? Get feedback whenever possible. Not all employees will tell you directly what’s misfiring in your organization, but they may tell you what they heard from customers, and they will most certainly share issues that cause them to be inefficient. We use a simple web based form to gather feedback. Its accessible for our employees any hour of the day to drill in and send feedback. It is truly a priceless tool that is both inexpensive and simple to implement. Be sure to ask about the good stuff too…what co-workers should be commended.

5. “Everything You Permit, You Promote”– Good employees hate it when others get away with breaking the rules, or giving less than their all. Good employees respect management who don’t look the other way when they see something incorrect. Little problems become bigger problems when not addressed. However, the quickest way to alienate your employee is to reprimand them in public, or in front of other employees, rather call attention to what needs to be corrected in a supportive and instructive way.  Check out Colin Powell’s book “It Worked for Me” for inspiration on leading a team. He suggests making “on-the-spot corrections” which shows your attention for detail and reinforces standards. 
In the August Issue of SHFM At Work, Dan Morgan from Wells Fargo mentioned labor shortages and rising wages as trends that are reoccurring year after year. We know all too well that attracting and maintaining a labor force can be a constant challenge.
Most business leaders know that the labor market is painfully tight and today’s work force is absolutely demanding higher wages, but that’s not all they want, nor can you always pay the highest hourly wage. The labor market today not only wants more money, they want more work/life balance, they want flexibility, and they want respect. This is NOT a millennials effect, it’s a human effect. The days of prospective employees lining up to fill out an application are over.
We’re always recruiting, meeting new people and thanking our staff. Every time a client sends us a thank you, we pass along that gratitude, either with a personal call, thank you email or thank you card (the real kind). This kind of feedback to our team is vital to our success and we work at it every day.  
Positive recognition is one of the most rewarding feedback an employee can receive. We recently took part in our industry association “Employee of the Year” awards process. We asked our employees to nominate their co-workers who they felt should represent us. We learned so much just from the nomination process that we didn’t know about our employees! We identified five and submitted them. And guess what? Our very own super fabulous Wendy Hobbie won the national award, consisting of a cover story in their trade publication, and an all-expense paid trip to San Diego plus a $5,000 gift card. We are so proud of Wendy, she has a truly inspiring story. We simply would not have known about had it not been for this simple awards program. Read more about Wendy’s story (and view the photographs).