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When I asked you for 2020 blog post ideas, this question came back from various readers (who are primarily small business owners):
“Why is it so hard to find good employees?”
Sad. But I wasn’t shocked.
Here’s my ‘take’ on the subject, plus a discussion on how to keep good people once we find them.
I began studying the topic of ethics in the workplace as an assignment during my Master of Science in Project Management program. You’ll find a heavily truncated, non-referenced copy of that thesis in this post, but you are welcome to my research. Feel free to Contact meto request it.
What would you say?
Let’s get in our Way Back Machine.
It is 1620 in (what will become) America, and the first Pilgrims are landing at Plymouth Rock.
Or it is 1820.
For either of these, let’s say a minister asks you to give a talk about integrity or work ethic. You would wonder:
“What would I say? This is who we are.”
Fast forward to 2020 in America
In all innocence, I believe, parents of the baby boomer generation – kids born between 1946 and 1964 – let the proverbial camel get its nose under the tent.
Our parents helped save the world from fascism, but they began ‘losing’ the United States.
We are paying for that in many ways, but it all stems from this:
The Greatest Generation ignored the crusade to
remove morality lessons and God from our schools.
We’re all dealing with the fallout in our workforce.
If they grew up in public schools, many of our employees were taught they are an accident of nature.
A bigger version of a lizard, but a lizard just the same.
They didn’t have a plaque on the wall at school encouraging them:
“Respect your parents.”
And – especially in these 2000s – “Don’t murder.”
After all, metal detectors are so much better. Right? Hmmm.
Families of origin make a difference
As I researched this topic, it became clear that an employee’s family of origin significantly impacts their worldview and feelings about morality.
I grew up in a secure environment
Two encouraging parents (including aunts’ and uncles’ families).
Family time, church, encouragement. The whole bit.
Hard-working, go-getter adults were citizens for us to emulate.
We’ kids,’ our children, and our grandchildren are now ethical adults and productive members of society.
Another family’s story was radically different
The father saw his title as ‘Abusive Tyrant’ and lived up to it (physically and psychologically).
Since the mom didn’t step in to stop it, the children heard:
“You’ll never amount to anything.”
“I can’t believe I raised such a stupid kid.”
Breaks my heart.
These kids were taught to work hard. But that was it.
No play. No church. They didn’t learn interpersonal skills.
Mom taught them to lie to Dad about their grades.
Keep the peace, no matter the cost in honesty.
And there was the sneak-food-into-the-movie thing because Dad wouldn’t give them extra money. No remorse. And hey, they deserved the treats.
I guess “Just watch the movie” wasn’t invented at their house yet (although it had found its way to mine!).
The now-grown siblings’ attitude is:
“You owe me something. I had a rough childhood.”
Plus, since they became permissive parents, their kids – and some of their grandchildren – are a mess, too.
One of those grandkids just arrived at your front door.
For a job interview.
So-o-o-o … now what?
Is it our job to teach morality to our staff?
However, it may fall to us if a bad family situation ignores honesty issues. Or parents actively taught their children to lie and cheat, as we saw earlier.
And sometimes – no matter how hard parents try – someone decides ‘ethical’ isn’t for them and goes another direction.
Take heart: the ‘teachables’ are out there!
There are still good, hard-working people in the workforce.
You and I are proof of that, after all.
We must find those teachable employees and bring them solidly into our here’s-how-we-do-things fold.
Guidance is the key once we have them on board.
Here are three ideas for getting started:
• Teach by example.
• Have a formal written code of ethics.
• Use employee or contractor agreements.
Teach by example
In the early 2000s, I had a great project as an IT liaison and project manager (PM) in a truck manufacturing company.
It was my job to smooth ruffled feathers between the developers and the engineers during software updates.
I’d hear, “They aren’t listening!” from both teams and would explain how I thought we could better communicate A, B, or C.
Here’s the fun part.
On my project’s last day, one of the developers was shocked that I was … um … w-o-r-k-i-n-g until the end of the day.
He couldn’t figure out why I was making such an effort.
He is probably still telling people about that crazy PM who worked on the last day of her project.
I guarantee you IIII still tell the story!
Have a formal written Code of Ethics
Since the 1980s, a page-after-page-after-page code of ethics document has been a big deal in many companies.
I’ve worked in government-regulated industries and read and signed several of these monster files. I wanted to mention them because – sadly – they are needed in this marketplace.
Use employee or contractor agreements
As you might imagine, with the people issues in this post plus the client who stiffed me for several thousand dollars, I’ve improved my process by putting everything in writing!
My employee or independent contractor agreements outline the type of work needed, our legal relationship, and how we’ll conduct work.
This keeps us all on the same page. 😎
Caution: let’s not set up our staff for failure
As people move farther away from the idea of doing what is right simply because it is right, let’s not become part of the problem.
Do we pressure employees or contractors?
It’s OK to help them stretch and become more valuable to themselves and to us.
But, I’m asking: do we beat them down by assigning
Unrealistic sales goals?
Impossible project deadlines?
O.n.e m.o.r.e committee?
Let’s not lay so much at their feet that they think:
“I’ll fudge a little bit, but it’s for the greater good.”
“No one will know the difference. And it’s just this once.”
There are ethical workers in this marketplace.
When we find them, we must give them something moral to emulate.
Our teams should know: we never compromise what is right.
In the words of Joyce Meyer, an inspirational speaker,
“They won’t even know they’re thinking wrong if
they don’t have anything right to compare it to.”
Let’s make sure we are up to this comparison challenge.
Join the conversation
Do you have an uplifting story about finding that perfect employee or contractor?
• How did it come about? (In-person networking? Referral?)
• What should you have done differently during your search?
• Was it challenging to find a hard-working person of integrity?
Feel free to answer one of these questions or bring your own.
Please share the post, subscribe so you won’t miss next month’s offering, and join the conversation in the comments section.
Let’s all learn from each other!
Thank you for joining me today.
I know you’re busy, and I appreciate your time.
Contact me if you have questions about this post, or need help non-overwhelming a project. I’m here for ya! 😎