Canadian Rental Service

Hope is not a plan: Where did everyone go?

By Adam Snook   

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If you’ve been out anywhere lately, you’ve probably noticed that good people are getting harder to find. You go out to a restaurant and it takes twice as long to get your meal as it used to. Only half the registers are open at the grocery stores and it’s actually gotten worse trying to get someone to help you in a big box hardware store. I never thought it was possible for the service level at those stores to get worse, but it has. Why is it so hard to get qualified people who are reliable, responsible, and, most importantly, actually care? 

Before COVID ever hit it was a challenge to get the right people on your team. The industry is competitive, wages and benefits were expanding at a much faster pace than your rental rates were. So every time you hired someone new or upped your existing employees’ compensation to match what the other guys were doing, it was straight off your bottom line. When you’re in an industry with this many different skill sets required to operate efficiently, finding the right people at the right price is key.  Post COVID, though, the problem has gone to another level. 

COVID changed a lot of peoples’ priorities and perspective. An old expression has resurfaced and become the rally cry for what many are calling the Great Resignation: “I work to live, I don’t live to work”. People have decided there’s far more to life than earning a bigger paycheque or the next promotion. Family time is more of a priority  than overtime. People are starting to care more about the mission of the business, then the industry the business operates in. This runs counterintuitive to a lot of us, especially in this business. We’re so used to going 100 miles an hour 12 to 14 hours per day that when someone says they don’t want to work 70 hours per week we automatically dismiss them. Unfortunately for us, this is now becoming the norm. We can either adapt, or miss out. 

What can you offer an employee or potential employee who is more interested in quality of life then advancing to an upper management position? Here’s what comes to my mind right away: 

  1. A challenging environment where no two days are ever the same. Variety is the spice of life, and no industry gives you more variety than the rental business. 
  2. Going home every night, with little need to travel.
  3. Competitive wages and benefits. If you can’t offer this, then, honestly, that’s on you. Your rates have been too low for too long and you’ll price yourself out of any good potential employees. This is not a selling feature for people anymore, it’s expected.  
  4. A team-focused environment. If a rental business is functioning well, it takes a full team of people doing their jobs properly. People take a lot of satisfaction out of being part of a good team. Get matching shirts and pants for everyone. Treat your people like a team, you’d be amazed at the difference in attitude. This also requires getting rid of any non-team players. I know, it’s hard to fire people when you’re already understaffed, but the difference you’ll see when you cut the rotten apple out will make it all worthwhile. 
  5. Family events like Christmas parties, summer barbeques, whatever you can fit in to the hectic schedule. It’ll make everyone feel closer to your business and less likely to leave over 50 cents per hour. 
  6. Find a shift structure that works. If you’ve got a group of people who are only interested in  eight to 4:30, find a way to make it work. Split shifts, four 10-hour shifts instead of five, eight-hour shifts…be creative. 

If you’re thinking of the glory days of 30 resumes for every open position, you’re living in the past. That ship has sailed. This is now the employees market, not the employers. You’re used to selling your business and service to customers everyday, now you’re doing that for employees too. If you don’t like it, I hope you’re planning on working seven days per week, 12 hours per day. I know I’m not. 

Adam Snook owns Just Bins, a Regina-based provider of waste disposal solutions.

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