Around May of last year, the unemployment rate in the United States fell to about 5.5%, which economists consider the “tipping point” that puts job seekers in a position of control. At that point, there are too few of them, so employers compete for hires.
Making the situation worse, in the U.S. at least, there’s a growing shortage of skilled workers who can accomplish the ever-more sophisticated tasks required in today’s advanced workplaces.
Employers across all industries, from construction to software development, find themselves desperate for the talent they need. You probably do, too.
So what do you do?
Change Your Mind, Change Your Workforce
First, you expand your definition of a “skilled worker.”
In his bestseller The Outliers, Malcolm Gladwell made famous the idea that it takes 10,000 hours of practice to become an expert at something. That’s five years of full-time work.
Which implies that if you want to find someone who is good at something, they need to have five years of professional experience under their belt.
The implication is misleading, and it becomes more irrelevant with every passing day.
First of all, the idea that you need five years of work to become an expert has been upended by technological innovations across the entire spectrum.
Want to become a star football quarterback? Well, don’t waste your time throwing balls at a target the way they did last year. This year, you need an intelligent football that can analyze your throw and tell you exactly what to modify.
Want to learn to play the guitar? YouTube has you covered.
Same goes for software coding. And solar panel installation. And practically every other profession.
You’re not looking for someone who has spent 10,000 hours refining a skill because you don’t need someone who already knows what you need them to know. You need someone who can learn what you need them to know, and who can learn it quickly.
You’re looking for the right person to add value -- and passion -- to your business.
That person, ultimately, will do more for you and your corporation than an “expert” ever could.
It's not what they know. It's who they are.
Finding Your Perfect Match
Along those lines, the Harvard Business Review has been talking a lot about the difference between “cognitive culture” and “emotional culture.”
The cognitive part is based on the 10,000-hour adage. The emotional part is based on what your new employee wants to accomplish personally.
Do they want to be part of a successful team? Do they want to contribute to the best of their ability? How strong are they mentally?
Those may be the most important traits to know about your new hire. Think about yourself: In the entire cosmos, there is exactly one person who knows if you gave a project all you had. That person is you. If you gave less than your all, how does that make you feel?
Exactly. You want employees who have that same mental grit.
As an employer it's important to acknowledge -- generously -- that since not everyone is the same, “giving your all” means that different people contribute at different levels.
That’s not what matters. What matters is the “giving it your all” attitude.
This is where things get real for any corporate leader. Because when you find people with that attitude, you need to keep them.
They’re the ones who will take your business to the next level. They’re the ones who want to take ownership your company’s success as their personal success. They’re the ones who will create the culture that will make your customers happy advocates.
So how do you manage people like that? How do you do to keep them engaged? How do you make sure they own your company's success?
Keeping Great People
While several management skills come into play, one important one that we’ve experienced over and over with our clients is the way they struggle with the concept of "transparency.”
People with mental grit need to understand what's going on around them in order to make a meaningful contribution. Secrecy alienates this sort of person. Anything that seems like a "dictate from above" will backfire.
You need to hit the right balance with transparency, of course, but for many businesses the concept in its entirety is still new.
It’s usually about four to six months into the RESULTS.com transformation that they start having anxiety around it.
To understand why, think about your children. At some point in their young lives, it suddenly became obvious that they knew a lot more about what was going on in the family than you thought they did.
You remember dealing with that revelation. Yesterday, your child was just a goofy kid. Today, he's asking questions and making observations that you didn't expect.
What do you do? Do you try to assuage him with the same stories that worked yesterday? Or do you hold a family meeting and tell him what’s really happening?
Whichever course you took, you now know that the second solution is what you should have done. Because the moment you brought him in, the moment you trusted him with the truth, everything changed.
You trusted him, so he trusted you. They were already the sort of “employee” who would “give 100%” to the “company,” so when you showed them respect by being "transparent," you gained their complete allegiance.
The same thing will work for that new hire. And if you create the sort of corporate culture where that’s the way you do business, you’ll find that your employees will often bring you the best people to fill your openings.
You won’t be competing for that 5%. Just the opposite. You’ll have a line out your door of people who want to get in and contribute.