Leadership and Talent
How to leverage strong leadership to attract and keep franchise talent.
By Bill Corbett Jr.
The economy is heating up and the competition for employees is also getting more challenging. Organizations – including franchise companies and franchise locations themselves – must do whatever they can to stand out as well as pique the interest of those who are seeking jobs as well as careers.
We know that the cost of acquiring and training a new employee is high and that employee turnover can cause turmoil within an organization. How can franchise owners address these challenges, create strong teams and loyal and motivated employees, as well as keep turnover rates down?
The answer is leadership. Strong leadership from an owner, ownership team and managers attracts quality and motivated talent, empowers employees, supports advancement and creates new leaders. These actions foster a culture of inclusion that people want to remain a part of for years.
The franchise model offers numerous benefits for owners who focus on leadership. Many franchises have created effective operational systems and have achieved brand-name recognition. Potential employees are often familiar with brands from personal experience, marketing or simply a presence in their local market. This is an advantage, but more must be done to get people in the door and on the team.
Franchise owners must take this base level awareness a step further by being active in their communities and on social media as well as by having a media relations strategy. These efforts support the development and growth of a personal brand for owners and managers. I have written about personal branding for franchise owners for Franchising Today in the past (February 2017). This external marketing effort plays an important part in growing a business and creating a reputation in the market or markets where the franchise is located. What many owners, operators and managers often overlook is that leadership positioning also supports hiring and attracting new quality people to organizations.
Owners who develop, leverage and focus on leadership skills as well as on building strong business cultures will win the important and competitive battle for employees. They also build stronger organizations and create new leaders who support growth and who more effectively interact with customers. However, franchise models and businesses differ. For example, real estate franchises with independent professionals need to focus on supporting their people with tools, technology and marketing while restaurant franchises need to attract many people who must learn skills on the job. No matter what type of business, an effective leader will make the most profound impact on the direction, culture and overall success of the organization.
We know that employees are interested in their paychecks. However, there are many incentives beyond the income that they will receive. Employees want to work in a business that has strong leaders who are accessible, empower them and listen to them. They want to work in environments that fit them and allow for growth and flexibility. Many studies show that education, training and mentoring also play an important part in work and career satisfaction. Organizations that have a clear and stated purpose and goals are more desirable and less stressful. Many people today also want to work within businesses that give back to their communities and charities as well as where they will be appreciated for their contributions.
Put People First
There are many factors that today’s franchise owners need to consider when developing, investing in and attracting their human capital. “Human capital” might sound like a cold description of people. I am using it in this context to reinforce the importance of investing in your people to grow your business. Leaders must not be cold and unapproachable people who only look at their employees as a means to achieve their personal goals. The human and personal side of leadership is the most important part. Leaders who put people first create powerful and effective environments that are also desirable places to work.
“In terms of attracting great people to an organization, culture beats strategy every time,” says Devon Bandison, author of Fatherhood Is Leadership: Your Playbook for Success, Self-Leadership, and a Richer Life. “Having worked with CEOs from all types of businesses, it is clear that those who focus on the culture within their organizations have the advantage. We see that organizational heads who listen and who are constantly striving to make all aspects of their businesses better including their people create stronger and more effective businesses.”
Leaders have many roles to play and building their teams is one of them. They understand their position and also recognize that leadership is more than simply giving orders and directions. Those who are effective place their trust in others, give them autonomy and allow them to make decisions as well as mistakes.
“Those who are at the top of their organizations and businesses who are great at keeping and attracting talent are always focusing on creating more leaders, not more followers,” Bandison adds.
When prospects learn that a key part of a company’s culture is talent development, it makes it a more desirable place for them to want to work. The ability to grow, develop skills and learn is a driving factor in applying for a position. These opportunities also support career satisfaction and retention.
“Leaders must understand the people that they work with as well as their challenges,” says Sal Carola, broker and owner of RE/MAX Elite in Brooklyn, N.Y. “I am involved in real estate transactions every day and this is exactly what the people who work with me are also doing. I know their problems and the challenges they face as well as where they can find opportunities. This allows me to make them more effective and more successful.” Leaders who share common experiences can relate to employees and share their knowledge. This builds credibility as well as respect within organizations.
“Taking ownership for what they are doing wrong and correcting it in order to improve is the sign of an effective leader,” says Eric Stein of RE/MAX Distinguished Homes in Bronxville, N.Y. “This ownership culture is empowering for individuals on all levels of an organization. This will get your team members talking about you and your commitment to them. There is nothing better for attracting new exceptional talent than having your own people talk about you with prospects.”
Often employees feel that their concerns go unanswered. This creates stress and impacts individual motivation. Employers who listen allow for problems and issues to be appropriately identified and then addressed.
“Effective leaders must listen proactively and get feedback,” notes Joe Madaio, Broker/Owner of RE/MAX Elite in Brooklyn. “This means asking questions and getting to know who people are as well as what they need. Personal relationships create loyalty, motivation and attract people to our organization.”
It is clear that internal leadership and taking proactive steps create an environment where employees have opportunities and purpose. With a focus on culture, employees are more motivated, more likely to seek advancement and less likely to leave the organization.
“Leaders have to be givers,” Madaio adds. “You have to give as well as invest in your people. We have invested in our physical work environment and make an extra effort to provide technology and other services. We know that when our associates are motivated at work, they will perform at a higher level and tell others about the quality business at which they work. Real estate professionals in the market then become interested in working with us.”
Beyond the Walls
Communicating messages that resonate beyond the walls of your business is also important. For some owners this means being active in their communities. This requires attending networking events, working with charities, speaking at conferences and/or having a presence on social media. Some also take a higher profile by doing media interviews to show their knowledge and expertise. All of these efforts create an opportunity to be seen by a larger audience as a leader while also telling stories about your business, your people and what makes your organization a great place to work.
“Telling stories about how people have succeeded within your organization is proof that what you are doing as a leader is working,” Bandison notes. “People have many more choices today in terms of employment and places to work. Specific stories of personal growth and empowerment will have people wanting to learn more about you and your franchise.”
Investing in developing a public profile and personal brand is a competitive advantage for franchise business owners. The time spent educating people about who you are, what you do and why you do what do will reap many rewards. With social media sites such as Facebook and LinkedIn, franchise owners can demonstrate their knowledge, skills and leadership to thousands of potential employees as well as customers.
Awareness of your mission, company culture and opportunities opens the door for conversations and create interest. While “help wanted” ads are effective, think about developing a strategy that constantly supports a message of “we are hiring” along with “these are the opportunities that we have for you.” An owner who communicates his or her leadership approaches and style will attract people who want to work, grow and thrive in a business they enjoy. Through leadership, your company will be viewed as a place at which people want to work and you will be the leader that they will want to work with.
Embrace the role as a leader, encourage your people to talk about the company and your vision, and take the extra step to spread the word externally. In today’s competitive employment market, this approach will differentiate you from others and allow you to create a stronger team. This will translate into business growth, enhanced employee retention and a larger pool of new, talented people to choose from.
Bill Corbett Jr. is president of Corbett Public Relations and creator of Grow Your Personal Brand. Corbett is a professional speaker and business growth consultant. He works with individual franchise and national franchise companies. His website is www.corbettpr.com. He can be reached at email@example.com and followed on Twitter and Instagram at @wjcorbett.