As you look ahead in 2018, chances are you’re thinking in terms of budgets, new work opportunities, equipment purchases and a thousand other details involved in running a successful business. Manpower is probably right at the top of your list, too. How are you going to find a new crop of bright, qualified people eager to get after it and work their tails off?
Regardless of whether you are a contractor, labor organization, utility, oil company, manufacturer or service provider, if you want to attract real talent next year – and beyond — you have to focus on one thing above all others: tell your story, and tell it well.
In today’s business environment, having a great story to tell is essential. A 2016 Forbes article called storytelling “the new strategic imperative of business.” People respond to a powerful, authentic story about what your organization does, why you do it, and your goals for the future. It motivates them and makes them want to be a part of what you’re doing.
But here’s the problem: right now, we are telling a terrible story to young people about the career path available in the union construction industry. Like it or not, we still are perceived as a career of last resort. Ask teachers, school counselors, or parents. We have been selling what people don’t want. So it is time for our story to change.
There are really two parts to this: first, figuring out the story you want to tell, and then determining where and how you tell it. Let’s start with the first part: defining our industry story. Right now it sounds like this. “Good job, good wages.” Lame. Ugh. This is a 1970s story. It’s part of our Boomer heritage of “work hard to get ahead.” It is dull, unimaginative and poorly conveyed.
Here is the new career story in 25 words: “A $50-80,000, debt-free technical education – including, in most cases, college credits – leading to career path opportunities in leadership earning in excess of $100,000 per year.”
If you don’t think message matters, take a page from the military. The various branches offer the opportunity to serve your country, sure – but they sell education and financial assistance on the back end. Oh, and by the way, according to USA Today, the U.S. Army is spending $300,000,000 to recruit 6,000 new members this year. That is our competition.
The other part of our story has to involve demonstrating clear career path advancement opportunities. We have to sell what millennials are interested in, which is how to move forward in their chosen field. How do we do that? By clearly and simply laying out the steps involved in the advancement process – what they need to do, the skills they need to learn, and so on. Unions and employers both need to use this career path diagram when having discussions with them:
The other half of the issue is where and how we tell our story. And sadly for those of us who are a little grey and grumpy, that story is most often told online –by your or by someone else.
It was not that long ago that I laughed off Facebook. I made fun of it as a stupid, time-wasting social enterprise for undisciplined people with too much time on their hands. Then I got hit in the head with a two-by-four. A very heads-up young business agent in the Midwest showed me a construction Facebook group. It was made up of qualified, skilled craft-workers in construction and energy turn-around. They were connecting peer-to-peer, sharing information on where jobs are, how good certain employers are, what industry trends they are seeing and, in some instances, just screwing around with each other in a good-natured way).
Here’s what changed my entire viewpoint: that Facebook group has 30,000 members.
I share this as one small example of how drastically the job-hunting and employment world has changed. It is the era of Yelp, Trip Advisor and Glass Door. People are used to evaluating products, services, companies and careers. You have to tell your story and tell it well, or you might get your ass handed to you.
Here are four items that we might want to consider implementing to tell your story more effectively:
- Add high-quality video to your home or landing page on the web. Today the narrative of who you are, what you stand for, how your employees or members feel, and what opportunities exist can be told best in visual form. If I can go on Realtor.com and find ten fixer-uppers in three minutes, shouldn’t I be able to find out all about you without searching a bunch of pages or having to read a ton of narrative? Add video. Don’t cheap out.
- Create a high-quality LinkedIn presence. This site is the number-one location for talent procurement in the country. Every one of your employees on LinkedIn is available to be recruited 24-7 — and every prospect working for someone else that could be working for you is in the same arena. Having a company or organization page, as well as a group, is certainly not a bad way to tell your story, and it barely costs anything. Post cool project pictures. Recognize people via company awards. Tell your workplace safety story there, etc.
- In the Careers Section of your website, make sure to have testimonials, especially from Millennials. This group uses third- party validation as their number-one reference when making decisions. And if you can combine this with the video idea, you have doubled your impact.
- Put up a Facebook page. Yes, it really is important. Think of your organization like a big extended family unit. They want to know what’s going on with the other family members. These can be crews, divisions or simply those working far away. Maximize the engagement and connection of what everyone is doing in this centralized way. This is a place for positive personal engagement to occur. This is a place to show camaraderie. This is an informal place to tell your story not only to prospective employees, but to your own people as well. I know you aren’t going to create the Facebook page yourself, so find a couple of Millennials who will.
Telling our story matters. Telling it well matters more. Let’s get with the program and retire outdated stereotypes of our industry and career opportunities. The war for talent is on…and we need to be more interested in winning it.