“Why is it so hard to find good employees?”

by | Jul 1, 2020

When I asked you for 2020 blog post ideas, this question came back from various readers (who are mostly small business owners):

“Why is it so hard to find good employees?”

Sad. But I wasn’t shocked.

I began researching this topic a while ago.

Here’s my ‘take’ on the subject, plus a discussion on how to keep good people once we find them.

This post contains severely truncated (!) copy from a thesis I wrote while pursuing my
Master of Science in Project Management degree (2010-2011).
I have not included the references from my research.

Please let me know if you’d like information for a specific item.

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

“What Happened?”

In all innocence I believe, those who produced my baby boomer generation – born between 1946 and 1964 – let the proverbial camel get its nose under the tent.

They saved the world from fascism, but slowly lost the United States in the process.

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:

“Don’t lie.”

“Don’t steal.”

“Respect your parents.”

And – especially in these 2000s – “Don’t murder.”

After all, metal detectors are so much better.



Families-of-origin make a difference

As I researched this topic, it became clear an employee’s family of origin has a significant impact on their worldview and feelings about morality.

I grew up in a secure environment

Two encouraging parents (including in the 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 weren’t taught interpersonal skills.

Mom taught them to lie to Dad about their grades.

Keep the peace, no matter what it costs in honesty.

And there was the sneak-food-into-the-movie thing because Dad wouldn’t give them extra money. There was no remorse.

I guess “Just watch the movie” wasn’t invented at their house, yet (although it had found its way to mine!).

For the most part, 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.


Is it our job to teach morality to our staff?


However, it may fall to us if a bad family situation ignored morality issues. Or parents actively taught their children to lie and cheat, as we saw earlier.

And sometimes – no matter how hard we try – someone slips through the decency crack.

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 need to 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 going to 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 to new staff!

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.

My firm is small, and I know each person.

It’s easier for me to keep an eye on things.

Since I’ve worked in government-regulated industries, I’ve read and signed several of these monster documents.

I did want 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 and the client who stiffed me for several thousand dollars (see “My client stole some of my work!” ), I’ve become better with 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, so to speak – ha!

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 they are tempted to 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 to share 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

Thanks for your time today.
I look forward to talking with you about your next writing project.
Please click here to email me and start the conversation: Kathie@KathieYork.com

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Kathie York, CSQE
Certified Software Quality Engineer
Master of Science in Project Management
(PMBOK based)
CopywriteMatters Confident Copywriter

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