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Recruiting is like a blind date

by Art Little

Transmission Digest Magazine
This article appeared in the September 2001 issue of Transmission Digest.

Recruiting is like a blind date, you never know what you are going to end up with. We are all going on more blind dates than we would like now days. Unfortunatly, recruiting is a game with no defined rules. A lot of promises are made and not kept in this game and that leads to an unacceptable turnover rate that is hurting our industry. It is a stressful, frustrating and emotional roller coaster ride that will eventually test every emotion you have. Let's take a look at the situation and see if there is something we can do to make things easier for the shop owner and the employees.

It's human nature. People play games with each other. You plan your business around an employee keeping his word and showing up when he says he will and many times you are disappointed. Your feelings get hurt. You feel like you have been duped. You wonder if you should call the employee back. Will you loose your pride if you call him back? You worry that something has happened to the employee. You fear that if you do not recruit someone soon, your other employees will leave. You get mad. Maybe you should just fire everyone and start over. You wonder if it something about your shop that is not allowing you to retain employees. Then, self doubt starts to creep in. Is it me? Am I the problem? Should I just sell the shop? You start to feel sorry for yourself. No one understands what I am going through here. Maybe everyone would be better off without me. See what I mean? Recruiting can turn a grown man into an emotional basket case if you let it.

It is no different for the employee seeking a job. Your emotions run the gambit too when you are looking for a job. Especially if you don't have a job. It seems like if you need a job, you can't find one. On the other hand, if you have a good job, people won't leave you alone. New opportunities come in left and right.

If you don't have a job, you worry about your family and the lost income. You have to look them in the face every day and tell them everything is going to work out. It hurts your pride to watch your wife worry about how to make ends meet. You get mad at the last shop owner you worked for. You start to doubt yourself. You feel betrayed. You wonder if you should even stay in the transmission business. Do you swallow your pride and call the last shop owner back and try to work things out? How will that make me look to my fellow employees if I go back now? Do I take the first job that comes along or wait for the right opportunity? It drives you crazy when you don't have a job and the pressure is on to find one.

If you have a good job and an offer comes along, do you just say no without finding out exactly what the offer is? What if it is the opportunity of a life time and you passed it up? Your greed level starts to kick in. You would wonder about that the rest of your life. Especially after turning it down and then loosing the job you turned it down for. However, if you listen to the offers you feel guilty for considering leaving a shop owner that has been loyal to you and has treated you fairly and respectfully. Stupid if you don't - guilty if you do. You can't win. And the roller coaster ride continues.

Bargaining leverage is another factor that adds to the stress. If you have a job, you are in a better position to bargain than if you do not have a job. If you have a builder and you are looking to replace him, you have a stronger bargaining position than if you don't have a builder at all. On the employee side, you are less likely to get what you want if you are unemployed. You will likely take less than what you are worth just to get so me money coming in. On the shop owners side, more than likely, you end up paying more than what the employee is worth, or hiring an unqualified employee, just to get some production moving through the shop. Decisions made when you are in a poor bargaining position usually end up a disaster for both the employee and the shop owner. Then, you are both back to square one.

I am telling you, this recruiting game is an emotional roller coaster for us all regardless of which side of the fence you are on. Yet, turnover is at an all time high. It doesn't make any sense. If finding a job or finding employees is such an emotional drain, why do we do it to ourselves? Why put ourselves through it? The important question to answer is what can be done to slow down turnover?

First of all, I think we all need to understand we are playing a game with each other that has no set rules. No guarantees. No referees. No order. The industry as a whole is the looser in this game and we are the individual loosers. With the shortage of employees in our industry, we can not afford for any employee to be unemployed for even one day. That being said, I would like to submit for your consideration 10 rules of the game, in a game with no rules.

1. Detailed Long Term Plan
Shop owners and employees should sit down and write out a well thought out career path or recruiting plan. There is an old saying," you don't know where you are if you don't know where you are going". Write down what you want and what you are willing to do to get it. Then, honestly evaluate where you are now and figure out the best way to get there.

2. Communication
Communication is critical during the recruiting process. It is important to understand what you are getting yourself into before you hire an employee or go to work for a shop owner. Make sure each of you know what your responsibilities are and what is going to be required before the hire in. No detail is too small. It is advisable to reduce the agreement to writing. Once a deal is made, continue to communicate in an effort to make it work for both of you.

3. Commitment
Once all the details are worked out make a long term commitment to make it work. If you can't do that then don't do it at all. It will waste the valuable time you have to accomplish your detailed long term plan. Once you make the commitment, the problems you will experience are easier to take because you know it is a short term problem in a long term plan. Communicate and work it out when possible instead of giving up and starting all over.

4. Respect
If you tell an employee you are going to call him back. Call him back. If you tell a shop owner you are going to go to work for him on Monday, go to work for him on Monday. At the very least, if you change your mind, call him and let him know as soon as you change your mind. Respect the fact that the shop owner has a position to fill and the employee has a family to take care of. Respect each others time because time is not on your side if you are recruiting or looking for a job.

5. Greed
Greed is the number one reason for turnover in my opinion. I have seen people do things when they get greedy that are just plain ignorant. Shop owners promise the moon knowing that they are not going to be able to keep their promise. The employee believes it because his greed wants him to. He quits a perfectly good job and goes to work for the new owner for more money. A month later the owner fires him because he has found someone to replace him for less money. It happens all the time. If a deal sounds to good to be true it probably is to good to be true.

Employees demanding ridiculous salaries are another form of greed that creates turnover. He knows the shop owner is in a bind and takes advantage of the present situation. The shop owner agrees to the pay hoping the employee can produce enough work to merit the salary he is paying. Many times the employee can not produce and the shop owner has no choice but to let him go and find another employee. He can not afford to keep him. Keep your greed in check and be reasonable with each other.

6. Honesty
Don't lie to each other. It wastes time and makes it tough on both of you. One lie leads to another and then another. It only creates problems in the future that will create the necessity of going on another blind date.

7. Compromise
Listen to each other and be understanding of the others feelings. Be willing to give on one issue so you can take on another. Try to be reasonable in your demands and not become a dictator. Strive to be fair with each other.

8. Pride
Don't let your pride get in the way of making sound decisions. You may have to settle for less or do something you don't want to do in order to move forward to a better day. Know when to let your pride go so you can achieve your long term goals.

9. Patience
Take the time to evaluate everything before you make a decision. Hiring a new employee or going to work in a new shop is a big decision. Make sure this employee is what you are wanting in an employee. Consider how he will fit in with the existing employees. Is this shop owner someone you want to work with for a long time? Is there a good chance that this shop will give you the avenue you need to accomplish your detailed career plan? Are you going to be able to work with the team already in place? Make sure you are making the right decision by taking the time necessary to work out the details so you can be comfortable with the agreement before you make a commitment.

10. Reputation
Protect your reputation. It is a big factor in this game. If you are a shop owner that has the reputation of being fair and honest with your employees you have an advantage over another competitor who is not, if you both are trying to hire the same employee. If you are an employee with a good reputation it will help you get what you deserve when you are interviewing for a job that will move your plan forward.

There are many other things to consider in the recruiting game. I hope you find these ten suggested rules helpful. However, it is important to remember, the grass is not always greener on the other side of the hill. Sometimes it is better to slow down and try to work out whatever problems you are having with each other before deciding to break up. The next blind date could be your worst nightmare waiting to happen. Until next time, take care of each other out there.

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