They don't work for money But for whatever fuels Their deepest dreams and desires

Why You Can’t Find/Retain “Good People”

Why should people want to work for you?

At one time in the company’s history, Zappos had a wild feature they used to ensure engagement of new recruits. They called it, “The Offer. Following the four-week training period, they offered new employees a $2,000 check to quit.

You read that right. The late Tony Hsieh, former CEO of Zappos, said “We want to make sure that employees aren’t here just for paychecks and truly believe this is the place for them.”

In any business, there are people who just work for money drag the whole culture down. Hsieh knew the damage they caused was far more than $2,000 and was happy to pay that price for finding those people quickly.

This issue has never been as relevant as right now. The pool of unemployed people is large because of the pandemic, but many employees choose to stay at home collecting unemployment rather than having a job. 

Why should an employee want to work for you when they can make the same or more money collecting unemployment?

That’s the question a hiring manager must answer. “Why should someone want to work for you,” was always the question, but money very often functioned enough as an answer so managers didn’t have to really answer it.

As happens so often, Life now holds those managers accountable. Businesses that offer real opportunity, growth, and mentoring for their people don’t have this problem.

So when I hear a manager complain that they can’t find people right now, what I hear is that they have no value proposition for their employees. They’re experiencing directly how people don’t work entirely for money

This is also related to employee retention. The pandemic has made the employment marketplace more competitive because of the dramatic increase in remote work. In other words, your workforce has more choices.

When your customers have more choices you need to be better. It’s the same for employees. Recruiting is part management and part marketing. Everyone knows they sell to their customers every day, but few managers realize they sell jobs to their employees as well. When the value proposition isn’t there, your employees take their business elsewhere.

Your first step is to forget the idea that people work for money. Of course, they do, in part, but it’s not the only thing. You can only afford to pay them so much. When you compete based on price, in marketing-speak, you have a commodity. This is the weakest brand position there is. 

At every drug store, right next to Advil, Bayer, and Q-Tip brands, there is the generic, commodity brand, for a little bit cheaper, yet somehow the more expensive, branded products continue to sell. How is that?

It’s because people don’t make decisions solely based on money, and branded businesses appeal to other factors like perceived quality, brand recognition, packaging, special features, etc. Advil, for example, tastes better than generic ibuprofen. That apparently matters to a lot of people who are willing to pay more for the same drug. You have to find your version of that for your business. In other words, you don’t want to compete for employees based on money alone.

The most effective basis for employee competition is mentoring. Studies routinely show that employees rank their own personal and professional development in the top three priorities along with money. You may have heard the expression, “People don’t quit their job, they quit their boss” which points to this.

Now that you understand the problem, let’s talk about the solution. There’s a lot to it, but here’s a simple action step you can take.

In your interviews, ask the employee this question, “Who do you want to become, and how do you think you could use this job to become it?

The candidate will likely not be able to answer this question easily or quickly. Take your time. Dig. Show that you care about the path that person is on. Show them you want the best for them. Look for ways that you could help them. Do you see blindspots they have? Immaturity? Lack of focus? Things that are in the way of what they want? What you see in them that they don’t see has value.

That’s one of the bases of mentoring. To mentor someone, you have to be able to see what they don’t see and point it out in a way they can receive it. If you can demonstrate this to them in an interview, you offer something money can’t buy.

And if they’re not interested in getting those kinds of reflections then you don’t want them as an employee anyway, do you? Would you rather find out later how open they are to difficult feedback? That’s what most managers do, and then are frustrated that their people are uncoachable. 

As said, there’s a lot more to this, but that’s a simple start. If you’re interested to learn more about how to be a great manager, consider becoming a Clear and Open Dojo member. I offer over a dozen online courses, and new live courses every quarter.

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