As a kid, did you dream of spraying powder coating when you grew up? No? Me neither.
If we had followed our passions, we’d all be ballerinas, race car drivers, and quarterbacks. With all due respect to the finishing industry, it doesn’t tend to attract candidates based on inspiration alone. I’ve never had an applicant claim they wanted to go down in history as the world’s best pretreatment operator.
So how do we go about building – and maintaining – motivated teams under these circumstances?
Recruit every day.
I am never not hiring. I am never not interviewing. I am never not looking for qualified candidates. Even if Kaser Blasting & Coatings is fully staffed, my search continues. When someone amazing comes along, I either create a role for them right away (trusting that work will appear as it always does), or I keep track of them closely until a position opens up. Strong applicants will not stay unemployed for long. I’d rather nab them while they’re free, than miss my window and regret it later.
Rethink your priorities.
Young Jase used to fantasize about an applicant pool full of experienced blasters and coaters. If that pool exists, it must be awfully small, and nowhere near Lincoln, NE. I’ve learned to look for a job history (or hobbies) that demonstrate versatility, work ethic, and mechanical inclination. Shop processes can be learned – it doesn’t take much to turn a motivated power tool enthusiast, car hobbyist, or tractor operator into a powder coater.
But above all, I look for the right personality. I will do everything I can to preserve the work-hard-play-hard dynamic we have at Kaser, even if it means turning down a skilled candidate. I’d rather spend a little longer training someone my team likes, than set a professional loose on the shop floor if they’re going to cause social problems. When culture deteriorates, so does morale; when morale deteriorates, so does productivity.
Retain, retain, retain.
The better you get at retaining people, the less time you’ll spend hiring. Wages and benefits help, of course, but a positive team dynamic goes a long way toward keeping workers engaged.
Managers, there’s a lot we can do to influence culture. By only hiring motivated people whose personalities will be compatible with the team, I’m helping to maintain the fun, productive work environment my veterans enjoy. I encourage pranks, bets, banter, cross-training, and friendly competition – anything that helps bond my team, and fosters trust between them. The happier they are working together, the more they look forward to coming to work.
That resume on your desk might make no mention of the finishing industry. Powder coating may not be the applicant’s passion, but that doesn’t mean they’re wrong for the job. No matter our interests, humans are hard-wired to get hooked on feelings of accomplishment and community; thankfully, the finishing industry is full of opportunities to produce satisfying, measurable results, in the company of enjoyable people.