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Help Wanted

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Finding And Retaining Qualified Employees Is A Full-Time Job Itself

You’ve seen the headlines. In story after story the media pronounces the demise of our economy, and everywhere you turn there seems to be more bad news. Journalists have been beating this drum for a long time because, as it turns out, bad news sells.

Like most businessmen I follow the news, but for the most

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part it’s purely academic. I often find that the prevailing logic on a wide range of economic issues flies right in the face of the realities I see everyday in the trenches. (In the interest of full disclosure, I’m a hopelessly optimistic capitalist who believes that there is honest money to be made under any economic situation in the free market.)

One of the best examples of the news-reality disconnect can be seen in the job market. According to the U.S. Department of Labor, unemployment has risen from below 4 percent to 6.7 percent since 2001. That’s more than 10 million people looking for work in the United States. The majority of that increase has occurred since January of 2007, and by all accounts in the media unemployment will continue to ratchet up.

But here’s the thing: have you tried hiring anybody lately? We’ve had open positions for as long as I can remember. We’ve used job listing services, headhunters, state employment agencies, basically everything short of Haitian voodoo, and there just aren’t enough qualified people to fill the positions. So what’s an integrator to do?

Any business consultant will tell you that employee retention is a critical matter. The direct and indirect costs of replacing a good worker can be a multiple of their annual salary. If your team is small, like ours, the loss of one person can be devastating to both morale and productivity. With a little effort, training can help bridge this gap.

Every time one of my guys comes out of a seminar or workshop, I see a difference in both attitude and demeanor. It doesn’t matter if it’s a class on communications protocols or a vendor presentation on how to operate a new switcher, I notice that they all stand a little taller.

We want to believe that what we do in this world matters. We all feel a need to grow, and the act of learning is vital to feeding that basic human drive. By offering opportunities for growth as part of your corporate culture, everyone enjoys the sense of progress, and your team is much less susceptible to recruitment from the outside. Each employee you keep is one more candidate you don’t have to find and hire.

My wife is an accountant. Almost every aspect of my life is planned, conducted, calculated, tabbed, logged, sorted, and reported on spreadsheets. It can be maddening at times, but there are some incredible benefits that come with such tenacious meticulousness. Our business is efficient, and efficiency is good.

Perhaps the most important key to optimizing efficiency rests in the hands of your people. When skilled workers are operating at the top of their game, there are fewer mistakes, and more work gets done. The more work you get done, the more money you make. The more money you make, the more you can afford to pay your team. Once you get the ball rolling downhill it just grows and grows.

A well-rounded training program will raise the bar for your team. New ideas and methods can often help cut down on costly mistakes and equip your team to tackle issues that might otherwise be passed around between departments. When your team is operating efficiently, you need fewer people to get the job done quicker and better.

When all else fails in the search for a qualified candidate, grow your own. While it is not the shortest approach, there are significant benefits to starting from scratch. A fresh face to the industry offers fresh perspective. There are no bad habits to break, and new ideas and energy can churn the stagnant and cynical waters of battle-hardened industry veterans. Also, employees from other industries often bring unexpected experience that proves useful.

The major drawback of hiring an outsider is that systems integration encompasses a vast array of different concepts and technologies. Our typical project requires a wide range of skills related to electronics, networking, construction, production, fabrication, and troubleshooting. It would take several lifetimes to amass all of the knowledge necessary to install one of our systems through general, daily life experience.


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