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In a recent survey asking dealers about the challenges they face in recruiting, training and retaining employees, the No. 1 complaint seemed to be a lack of character. While the continued growth of the market remains cause for celebration, dealers recognize that increased demand often requires staff additions.
And while "too much" business certainly beats the alternative, that doesn't mean expansion doesn't come without growing pains. One of those lamented pains is the increasing difficulty in finding skilled, motivated, high-quality personnel.
What's more surprising, however, is that most of those surveyed were less concerned about job candidates' sub-par skills than with the personal qualities they feel many potential employees lack.
In fact, an overwhelming majority of dealers said their greatest challenge right now is finding employees who possess such basic qualities as honesty, integrity, loyalty, respect, dedication and a sense of personal responsibility — things that don't require task-specific training or years of experience.
Dealers were quick to share horror stories of employees who, once hired, forgot to show up at jobs, or who cheated or lied, or who had attitude problems to the point where they would engage clients, or even the owner, in angry confrontations. They talked about rampant turnover and lack of commitment or personal ethics, even among talented salespeople, designers and installers. "They just don't care!" was the resounding complaint.
Some blame it on a morally declining corporate culture that has changed the way people work. They feel that big corporations' lack of long-term commitment to employees has resulted in a culture of employees who are out for number one, who exhibit no loyalty or sense of ownership in their jobs, and who will change positions at the first opportunity.
But, whatever the case, good help has always been hard to find, and when times are good, it's even more difficult. While skills and experience certainly matter, there are other things that matter just as much — and sometimes even more. As well, there is a tremendous benefit to hiring people who are not just good at their jobs, but good human beings, as well.
In fact, recognizing that the industry continues to be a strong and growing one — and that such growth stretches existing personnel resources — dealers are increasingly choosing to invest in character over job skills. They're looking for good people with good work ethics, and training them accordingly.
Indeed, many believe "home-grown" employees are going to be the wave of the future — and the best way to ensure continued high quality.
But training takes time, and waiting until you need people out in the field is too late. As with anything, planning ahead is crucial.
As the market grows, personnel shortages may well continue to plague dealers, particularly in more remote areas of the country. So even if you aren't short-staffed now, you might want to "train ahead." Maybe you can't buy integrity — but you can hire it, if you're willing to think outside the box.