Curt Tueffert is the VP of Sales Development at DXP Enterprises, a $1 billion industrial distributor. Curt is also a professor at the University of Houston, teaching sales and marketing. He’s an author and a professional speaker. He tackles topics such as sales, employee recruitment, leadership, and more. And on special occasions, he is known to scuba dive in Roatan near Honduras.
Today we are diving into a hot topic in today’s labor market: selection, development, and retention of great employees.
Aggressive Recruiting on the Horizon
Let’s start with what you see coming, and then we’re going to circle back to what’s going on now. What do you see coming down the road?
What I see coming is very aggressive recruiting. Candidates today have a plethora of opportunities to work remotely. I’m hearing major corporations may be floating a four-day workweek. Lots of different freedom cultures, maybe a little bit more on the benefits, not so much on the dollars. And the last thing I’m seeing is the companies who are looking for good talent but can’t find it; they’re starting to offer some aggressive wages and benefits to get those talented people into their company.
What is Freedom Culture?
I’ll let Curt elaborate on this one.
Freedom culture. Can you expound on that? That sounds very interesting.
The freedom to say, I don’t like it here, I want to go somewhere else. The freedom of working in a gig economy, where you just bounce from one Craigslist job to another. That’s great, if you’re a person who can do that. For me, trying to hire somebody long-term, I’m competing with their freedom. They’re saying, I don’t want to work all the time like your father did. I want to be able to have my culture, my lifestyle, and I’ll weave that work into it.
This pandemic has put us all into a new modality, whereas before, we always had to be in a cubicle at 8:30, always leaving at 5:00 on a Friday in traffic. Now I can prove to you, I can do my job better at home, less carbon emissions, don’t have to get that parking spot. I can give you phenomenal service and project management. It’s hard to ask those people to come back into the downtown environment so they can sit in a cubicle. For what?
I agree. We just surveyed our team, and we made a list of eight benefits, both potential and current, and it included some monetary ones. And the top one across the board was flexibility.
Changing At the Speed of Technology
When the pandemic started, technology jumped about 10 years into the future. On the one hand, this has made it a bit of a challenge for the old-fashioned crowd to keep pace, not just with technology itself, but with the cultural norms it has inspired.
On the other hand, working remotely has never been easier. Businesses no longer have to worry about losing their best employees when they move, nor focus on hiring within one localized region.
That allows us to find talented people in the smaller cities who are trying to escape the bigger cities; now they can escape, and we can still retain them. I don’t want to lose an employee with years of experience with my culture because they’re relocating next to their grandkids in a smaller place.
It’s interesting that you used the example of someone wanting to be near their grandkids. I moved in September 2020 to Richmond, VA from Charlotte, NC, because my first grandchild had just arrived in February of 2020. And that was the exact reason I wanted to move here.
Curt (09:47): It takes a village to raise a family. If your employer said, Denise, I’m sorry, you can’t do that, you would leave the company. But now we can do a lot of amazing things. And with these extended families, I think that creativity will then bleed into our work productivity. Happy employees, happy life.
Talent Attraction and Retention: It’s The Thought That Counts
Looking forward, the attraction of talent will likely continue with networking, tapping into markets like junior colleges, and a return to self-paced training.
But attracting new talent is only half the battle. Once your business has the talent it needs, how do you keep it?
Both Curt and I have seen success with personal touches like birthday cards, anniversary shout-outs, and other cultural celebrations. Showing thoughtfulness through these touch points can go a long way, and costs very little.
If you’re willing to invest $2 per employee, that might be the difference between spending $40,000 to get a new employee and $2 to keep one.
It’s about the thought. And it’s so much more than just doing nothing, you can’t do that anymore.
Workplace culture isn’t something you need to create out of thin air. Culture is your environment, and it starts from the top. In the case of a business, it starts with a mission statement.
No matter what kind of business you run, your mission statement is the keystone to your workplace culture. It has to be more than just words on a wall, as Curt puts it. At DCA, we split our mission statement into three parts to make it more digestible: mission, values, and an equity statement.
Less is more when it comes to mission statements. And when you read some of the ones like Nike, Microsoft, or Zappos, they’re short and sweet, and they exude enough emotion that it motivates you forward.
The Top X Interview: Getting Back in Alignment
To the question of retaining great employees, Curt uses a method he calls the Top X Interview. The idea is simple: ask an employee to write down the top six (or seven, or eight) things they do for the business on a sheet of paper. Meanwhile, you write down the top things that you believe that employee does on your own sheet. Then, meet up for coffee, and compare notes. It’s a great way to touch base and realign with employees.
I love that. That is so simple and easy to do. And you’re right, it does cause alignment. I think that could be used with customers too, to be honest with you. <Laugh>
I ask some of my customers, what are the top four things we do that add value to our relationship? Well, you’ve got an online site, good pricing, great customer service. And then if not, help me to understand how we can get back in alignment? Well, you’re not as good as this competitor. Then we can use that information to get better.
A Culture of Work-Life Balance
I recently came across a law proposal in the Philippines, which would fine employers if they disturb employees during their “rest hours”. Many companies in Germany follow a similar philosophy— when the clock hits 5:00 PM on Friday, forget about sending any work emails.
Curt sees this approach working its way into workplace culture at large, starting with more progressive companies and, eventually, becoming a major selling point for recruiters all over.
I was at Roatan scuba diving, hosting zoom calls. I had to; it was scheduled on a Thursday. And even at the tenure where I’m at, I still thought maybe my boss will give me an attaboy, because he realizes I’m hosting a call from a Caribbean Island. But the tragedy is that that becomes the norm. What do you mean, you’re not taking the zoom call? Well, I’m on vacation. But do you have access to the internet? Yeah. Well, it’s only an hour. Oh my gosh, I just got bullied into working.
It’s not just an hour. It’s the two hours you spend thinking about it before the call. It’s the call that you’re on. Then it’s the two hours after the call thinking about the action steps that you’ve committed to while you’re on vacation.
Denise (22:09): Along with preparation! I think these are some of the pitfalls that business owners fall into without realizing it.
Realigning With On-boarding, and Five Stones for Slaying Giants
To close out our workplace culture discussion, Curt shares some of his works in progress, starting with an onboarding tool for new employees. He is developing a workbook that outlines what a new hire should know by day one, week one, and month one, as a tool to keep employees and management in alignment on their progress.
He also shares some insights from his book, Five Stones for Slaying Giants. Though he says the cultural references in the book are outdated, the core message is timeless.
There are five “stones”, or personal qualities, that anyone striving for success needs, whether they’re managing a firm or running marathons. Passion, excellence, vision, value, and confidence.
You know, I just love the quote, “catch on fire with enthusiasm, and people will come from miles around to watch you burn.” I just think we need to be enthusiastic.
On Nurture Small Business, we dive deep into hot topics related to business ownership, management, and recruitment. Be sure to come back every Tuesday for more discussions with professionals like you.