Award-winning speaker and best-selling author Eric Chester shares his expertise with BrandSource.

By Andy Kriege, YSN

According to Eric Chester the answer is always no. After all, who couldn’t use another fantastic employee on their team?

In an exclusive presentation to BrandSource members at this week’s Summit, Chester makes a compelling case that employers need to be proactive in aggressively pursuing talented people, as well as creating the right work culture to retain their services once they’ve hired them. We need to be constantly doing both, he says in his session, “Fully Staffed: How to Find and Keep Great Employees in the Worst Labor Market Ever” — whether or not we feel we are short staffed at the moment.

Chester believes the biggest threat facing you as an independent retailer is not how you can get new customers, but rather how you can find, develop and keep qualified employees to do the work necessary to keep your doors open.

According to Chester, these are the three basic principles that every employer needs to embrace:

Inculcate a Work Ethic. By that he means take the time to teach people the work skills needed to perform the job you are asking them to do. Teaching these skills is an ongoing process that needs to be reinforced continuously.  

Be a Great Place to Work. Make your business the best possible place in your community to work at. What sets you apart? Why should employees want to work for you? Figure that out and do it. Be deliberate in making your business a great place to work.

Recruit Relentlessly. Don’t just hang a help wanted sign on your door or post an opening and expect to find the right people to fill your staffing needs. Always look to upgrade your roster. “Most of us just toss a hook in the water and wait for a great fish to take the bait,” Chester said. “You need to stop fishing and start hunting.”

Chester describes hunting for talent as much more of an intentional practice than fishing for it. He suggests the following places to conduct your hunt:

Local Schools. This includes the high schools, community college and trade schools. If possible, find an inside contact to connect you with the right potential employees.

Your Staff. Ask your top-producing people if they know others like themselves. Tell them, “I would love to find someone else just like you.” Incentivize referrals with a nice spiff.

Social Media: Know these platforms, as well as the terminology. If you don’t, task someone who does.

The Military: Check with local military service organizations. Former military almost always make for excellent employees.

Retirees. There are many older people with many desirable skills and a lot of life left in their legs. Consider hiring them!

Your Competition. Figure out what your store offers that theirs does not. You decide whether to hunt or be hunted.

But finding talent is only half the battle. Chester offered these crucial elements to retaining good employees:

Fair Compensation. While money is not typically the single greatest motivator in your employees’ eyes, you need to compensate fairly, not only for a job well done but also to incentivize for work that is above and beyond.  

Growth Potential. Even if there is little room for employees to advance their position with your company, make sure that they are learning skill sets that can help them in the future regardless of where they are working.

Continuously Train. “Don’t worry if you train them up and they leave,” Chester advised. “Be more worried about if you don’t train them and they stay.”

Autonomy. Provide solid leadership and guidelines but allow and trust employees to make their own decisions.

Communication. Make sure there is clear communication that flows both up and down.

Acknowledgement. Be sure to let your people know when they are doing things right.

Finding good people is a competitive endeavor as well as a never-ending pursuit. As Chester observes, “It wasn’t long ago when we were happy just to find someone to fill a position who could fog a mirror.” Indeed, employees are a much more valuable commodity today.

“You don’t just want to hire someone, you want to hire the right someone,” Chester concludes. “If you ignite enough passion in the right employees, they will come to work on fire every day.”

Chester’s complete presentation, “Fully Staffed: How to Find and Keep Great Employees in the Worst Labor Market Ever,” is available on demand on the Summit platform.

BrandSource, a unit of YSN publisher AVB Inc., is a nationwide buying group for independent appliance, furniture, mattress and CE dealers.