The staffing struggle is real. It is officially a recognized reality that, despite the acknowledged potential for Canada’s tourism sector to not only bounce back from the COVID-19 pandemic, but to enjoy significant growth in the coming decades despite it, the labour challenges tourism operators face continue to be a key hurdle. Sixty-three per cent of tourism businesses report experiencing a struggle with labour issues which range from difficulty finding qualified staff, to local labour shortages, to difficulty retaining reliable employees.
One of the most effective solutions to this widely-experienced dilemma, however, may surprise you. It’s not some vague notion of government investment in workforce development programs, nor is it digging into your coffers to boost starting salaries. The answer is to develop the story of your company and tell it effectively to attract the right talent, retain reliable staff, and increase your company’s exposure to reach a broader talent base.
Recently, workplace culture expert, Eric Termuende, shared his insights at Central Counties Tourism’s 2021 industry Symposium: Partners in Tourism, and urges you to consider developing the story of your organization to attract the right people for your business. The best part is that you don’t need to outlay hefty capital to get started. Developing and telling the story of your business can be quite inexpensive—and often free—depending on how you go about it.
The returns in recruitment and retention success will be well worth the effort.
Your story starts at the recruitment stage
To start with, consider the typical job description that you might find posted to a recruiting website. It generally describes the requirements of a position, as well as the skills and education needed to fulfill it. Now, there is nothing wrong with that format. Skills, education and requirements will, of course, always be important. The problem, though, is that there is nothing special about that approach either. Your typical job description does not stand out in a sea of typical job postings which all respectively describe desired skills, requirements, and education. So, if that’s all you’re putting on your job posting, then you are missing a prime opportunity to tell the story of your company to candidates with whom that story will resonate.
“If we really want to tell the story, and if we want to differentiate our company or our team, we have to start talking about the experience and not just the tasks,” Eric insists. “This might be how we communicate with each other, what performance management or feedback looks like, how autonomous the job is versus working with a team—even things like how many emails can be expected and how many customers that role may interact with on any given day. When we start to better understand a day in the life of an average employee, rather than just talking about the skills and requirements needed to do the job, we start to paint a bigger picture of what that job experience is.”
To recruit the right-fit people, this is such an important starting point. Whether we realize it or not, the work we do dictates the life we live. For example, if you’re working a night shift, this will impact your social life. Eric points out, “Working the jobs we do influences who we hang out with, it impacts our broader social circles, it influences how often we leave the city, or the province, or even the country. I often share and discuss the importance of telling the bigger story of what life is like as a result of the job. I’ll share in my keynote that, instead of a job description, perhaps we can call it a bit of a life description. What is the life you might get to live as a result of working at this company?”
How do I decide what my company’s story is?
How many times have you sat down to outline a job description, a project, a business plan (etc. etc.), and the first thing you did was Google the best practices of the goliaths in your industry? While that can be helpful in orienting yourself, what you find should never be prescriptive for your own approach. In writing the story of your company, it is important to remember that there is no right and wrong. What is right for one company might be wrong for another. And even within the same company, what’s right for one department might be wrong for another.
“There’s no prescription for a best place to work, and that’s okay,” Eric stresses. Being an expert on building teams that thrive, he has found through his research and experience that, too often, companies are comparing themselves to global giants like Amazon or Netflix, and trying to model their own corporate culture after them. “People will ask, ‘How can we do that, too?’” he says. “The answer is that you probably shouldn’t.” Instead, embrace the fact that there are all kinds of work cultures, and there is a vast array of talent. The purpose of telling your company’s unique story successfully is to attract the right kind of talent that will thrive in a company like yours.
Also, the story of your organization is important no matter what industry you’re in, or what province you’re in. It’s important whether you’re an internationally recognized retail brand, a municipality, or a small family business with only a handful of seasonal staff. The story that, for example, the city of Vaughan will tell is different from a corporation in Vaughan or a small business in Vaughan. And each of these stories are different than the ones their counterparts in Whitby or Orangeville will tell.
“There is no best story,” Eric reiterates. “But there is one that is most representative of the life you get to live by being a part of that company.”
Word-of-mouth marketing—let your employees be your ambassadors
So, you’ve identified your company’s story. That’s great. Now it’s time to get it out there! The benefit of creating and sharing a positive work culture is that your employees can become your brand ambassadors… without even being asked! Just as you would rave to your friends and family about the awesome new movie you went to see, your employees are more likely to share how amazing your organization is with their friends and their networks if they have a positive experience working for you.
Eric says, “I’ve found this to be the best recruitment opportunity that most companies are missing: the people that already work there. We often go to Indeed, or to LinkedIn, or job posting boards or some sort of workforce development group looking for that new talent, when I think that the biggest opportunity missed is to showcase the talent we’ve already got. To use the social networks, and the networks of people that are working for us, to attract candidates that align with and value the same things as some of our best employees.”
Of note, when we say “sharing stories,” we’re not suggesting you go out and hire yourself a fancy media company with a hefty price tag to do a spotlight post. Eric explains that it can be as simple as posting a photograph of an employee on your Facebook page with a caption of who they are and why they’re an asset to your business. That employee is likely to share this positive recognition with friends and acquaintances who might otherwise never have had exposure to your company.
“I would say it’s the cheapest, if not free, way to recruit talent that we’re probably not using right now,” he states. “It’s better leadership, better employee engagement, better recognition. (I talk) a lot about that in the keynote, too: the importance of recognition and establishing that great culture first.”
How and when to tell your company’s story
One thing the COVID-19 pandemic has taught us is that the need to adapt, evolve and pivot is essential. This is true of your company story, as well. As Eric points out, there are currently many businesses who offer the possibility of working remotely. And while the world has seen a significant shift in work-from-home culture, studies are suggesting that not everyone is going to be remote forever. Your company’s story—and the conversations you develop, initiate and maintain about it—will need to revolve accordingly.
If you’re going to capitalize on this under-utilized recruiting strategy, then it is important to start thinking about your company’s story now. This is especially true for those of our tourism operators who find themselves settling into their shoulder season, when the pace of business is slower and seasonal recruitment is a “for later” task. But if you’re a winter business at the peak of your season, or if your industry does not experience the same type of ebb and flow that others do, don’t put off developing your company’s story and culture. Get started now, and make it a habit.
“The analogy I think of is an apple a day keeps the doctor away,” Eric offers. “If you don’t have a healthy diet or you don’t train your body, it’s going to be too late to start when something breaks or something substantial wears out. If you want to build that culture—and by culture, I mean a positive experience that is rooted in trust and belonging and safety—start now.”
About Eric Termuende
Seasoned keynote speaker and best-selling author Eric Termuende has been on hundreds of stages all over the world speaking about workplace culture and one-degree shifts that build communities at work. An entrepreneur his entire life, Eric is empowering category-leading brands, associations and leaders to navigate uncertainty and build thriving places to work. His best-selling book, Rethink Work, has become a must-read for today’s leaders. Visit Eric Termuende online at www.erictermuende.com for more information and resources from this highly-sought and engaging keynote speaker and workplace culture expert.
Story by Katherine Ryalen