Labor - April 2003

Recruiting - Make It a Sales Campaign
By Richard G. Ensman, Jr.

Day after day, month after month, your business is dependent on sales. So it's not surprising that much of your attention is focused on sales strategy, promotion, and customer outreach. But in this day and age of tight labor, the quality of your business - and in some cases its very survival - also depends on another type of sales: selling prospective employees on the benefits of working for you.

Think about it: Without good employees you can't function. Without great employees, you can't grow. And unless you can sell the merits of your operation to prospective employees, you'll leave your ability to attract good, or even great, employees largely to chance.

While there's no sure-fire way to attract employees in every circumstance, employers everywhere have learned a variety of techniques that manage to generate interest from prospective employees - and help forge a quality workforce. Here are a few of them:

Identify Your Strengths from an Employee's Standpoint
Why do people work for you? Some of the answers are obvious, and involve traditional motivators like wages and benefits. But what distinguishes you from other employers? Is your workplace "culture" informal and team-spirited? Do you offer social opportunities for employees? What about educational opportunities? Some operators offer their Latino employees ESL (English Second Language) classes, which benefit both employee and employer. Do you provide employees with protection from the elements in prep and finishing areas? Are working conditions at your wash unusually pleasant? Do you offer incentives for work well done? If you're not sure why employees might want to work for you, there's a simple way to find out: Pose the question to good employees who work for you now! The answers could provide important recruiting tips for you. The result should be a clear positioning statement outlining the tangible and intangible benefits you offer prospective employees.

Craft Your Identity
Once you develop your positioning statement, ask yourself: How do I articulate that statement? Answer the question in terms of appealing to prospective employees. If your wash is known for its employee gatherings and team spirit, for example, you might create an identity built around the theme, "Belong - Join Team Clean!" You want a key message, perhaps expressed as a slogan, which can be supported by graphics and used in recruiting materials.

Think Marketing
Once you know what attracts employees, you're ready to develop promotional tools that paint a positive picture of your business. The tools of the trade are, in many instances, the same tools you'd use to sell anything else - brochures, advertisements, free promotional items, motivating correspondence, a strong employee-related Internet presence, etc. Each of these tools should be geared toward the employees you're trying to recruit. For example, if you're looking for high school students, colorful posters or giveaway cards that emphasize part-time work and training opportunities might be in order, especially if you arrange for distribution at local teen events. The goal is to have a few key promotional vehicles capable of attracting the attention and interest of prospective employees.

Make It Convenient Many employers are discovering that traditional applicant-employer communication only ends up screening out many good candidates. The rule of thumb today is to give prospective employees multiple ways to make their interest known, and then make communication as easy as possible. Yes, traditional mail-in application forms and resumes are still okay, but don't hesitate to allow applicants to fax resumes, or to paste them into a "reply" box on your web site. If you distribute paper applications widely, enclose a self-addressed, stamped envelope, or arrange "drop-off" locations around the community. Anyone with an interest in working for you should find that passing an application or resume along is incredibly easy and fast.

Track Potential Candidates
You "track" existing employees in predictable ways. You create a personnel file whenever you hire an individual. And you have a payroll file, containing a record of time worked, absences, and benefits. But consider expanding your record-keeping to include prospective employees. How do you build these records? Invite referrals from present employees. Advertise for positions that are not yet open. And include everyone who contacts your business for any reason - even vendors and customers. There is no need to track a lot of information - names, addresses, telephone numbers, interests, and skills may well be enough. When a job opens up, you'll have a ready-made database of people you can call. Such an inventory of pre-qualified employees will reduce stress when recruiting time rolls around.

Quality Contact
While you might make an impression on prospective employees through your positioning strategy, recruiting materials, and referral programs, you have one more task ahead of you: continuing these impressions whenever you're in personal communication with prospective employees. How? Answer correspondence promptly. Offer prospective employees a get-to-know-you tour of your car-care facility. Invite individuals to call you anytime with questions. Is this going too far? Not at all. Hospitality - and more specifically, your unique brand of hospitality - is a powerful selling tool, and can clinch many a sale when you're trying to woo employees. Create a standard of warmth and hospitality that prospective employees will never forget!

Finally, a Great Workplace
You've done the work, and you've recruited a topnotch employee or two (or more). What now? You know the answer: positive supervision, morale-boosting activities, and continuing efforts to foster a sense of ownership among your people. Aim high in your attempt to make your workplace great, and you'll go a long way toward retaining the great people you recruited.

Richard G. Ensman, Jr. is a Rochester, NY-based freelance writer.

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