This is the first in a 4 article series on workforce development. This issue will cover what motivates people, how is today’s workforce different from earlier generations, and once you have selected and onboarded them – how to develop talent. The purpose of “What Makes People People” is to lay the groundwork for competing and winning in a tightening labor market.
One thought as we start. Nobody in this or any other industry has a nursery out back growing future employees. We are all competing for the same talent and the question to consider – how are some companies attracting the right people?
A short discussion on motivation is a very ambitious subject, a topic I have studied and dealt with over 30 years of management. Here are a few insights picked up along the way. First is to understand that all behavior is rational – yeah I said rational – to them. Let me explain. When people plan a response or just react, the behavior they choose makes sense to them. It can look absolutely bizarre to everyone else, but it makes sense to them. So the first test of any leader is to understand the situation from their viewpoint, to make it rational. If you can, dealing with the immediate situation and the individual over the long term becomes easier. This doesn’t mean you agree, it means you get it and have a point of reference that will prove invaluable.
If you are successful getting under the hood of somebody’s personal computer, you will find the following operating code: motives drive behavior and its consequences reinforce or disrupt expectations. Let’s take these three apart. Motives are internal to the individual and driven by 3 needs – power, affiliation, and achievement.
- A power motive means people need control over their environment to feel safe and secure.
- Affiliation motive means people need the approval of others to feel good about themselves.
- Achievement motive means people need challenges to feel successful.
One last thought, each of us has a primary motive that drives our behavior most of the time. Valuable information to know about your people. How about you – which is your primary motive? Is it the need to control your environment and keep everything predictable? Is it a need for approval to prove what you are doing is right? Is it the need to show your smarts or a bucket of blood work ethic?
Based on which motive drives me, I will select a behavior that has the highest expectation of success. My expectations are formed from prior experiences, from prior employers. The good news is if you run a professional operation, it will exceed the experiences of many people. The bad news is everyone brings baggage to a new employer, even the first time employee.
This takes us to our second topic – how is today’s workforce different from earlier generations? One of the main differences is with the rise of social media many of the younger generation are more affiliation driven than earlier groups. The opinion of others is critical and has implications for how they act on the job, but also drives who they pick for employment. The social contribution of current or future employers matters. Our research shows the number one factor for choosing an employer with people under 30 its reputation in the community. This also extends to the industry and your challenge – how is your company or the landscape industry perceived in your community?
The key question. Is working in landscaping a manual labor job requiring a strong back and weak mind, or a profession where you work outside with your hands and use your talent to make an impact? Both are accurate descriptions of the industry – what matters is how the landscape owner defines it and runs their business. Who are you attracting?
Here are 3 major factors impacting their perception of potential employers:
- Does the company have a positive impact on the community, does it make a difference?
- Does the company have a compelling story, is it driven to become a great place to work?
- Will the company allow me to contribute, address my need to be accepted and validated?
I am not suggesting that pay and benefits and growth are not important because it is – but if your focus is here, you trying to win a battle that cannot be won. Most small landscape businesses lack the resources (read MARGINS) to compete in a bidding war. Besides you are buying employees – is that who you want to attract? The same thing that drew you to the industry will draw them – make the case!
The third topic expands on “who you are attracting” by focusing in on their orientation. What I mean by orientation is where are their loyalties – commitment to a profession or to an organization? How you onboard new people to the organization is critical. I experienced this first hand. While Chief of a Leadership and Management School in the Coast Guard, I served on an officer retention panel. We were suffering an exodus of pilots at the 12 year mark. The reason, they were pilots first and Coast Guard Officers second. After 12 years the only thing they flew was a desk and didn’t care whether their uniforms were Coast Guard or Delta blue as long as their office was a cockpit.
Here is my point. It is tougher in the short term and smarter in the long term to bring in somebody without skills who shares your passion. They learn the industry and become professionals because you taught them and your company becomes their commitment.
The 2 types of employment orientation:
- The profession – I am a landscaper, I am a design build engineer, I am an irrigation technician, etc.
- The company – The company I work for taught me to become a professional landscaper and gave me a future.
There is nothing wrong with bringing in landscape professionals for specific jobs but never forget their orientation or commitment is not your company, it is to their skills. That means the second somebody offers a better position – they are gone.
When you bring in new people, put your emphasis on the company’s vision, mission, and values. Have them understand where the company is headed and the part they play. Then take them through a development plan to moving them from where they are to landscape professionals.
My quick tip is this, because you are a small business – hire people who are achievement driven, who have your drive to get things done. Second expand how you see the company and make it a force in the local community. One or two small projects you can showcase is essential to grab the attention of the 20-30 population. Last – look for attitude, not skills. You can train skills, attitude is a long term project. Hire people that will appreciate what they learn. If you can’t keep them, and you won’t keep the good ones – they will become competitors, establish a reputation for growing great