It’s Time for a Change! Overcoming the Great Resignation
By Jennifer Wolf-Pierson, CPACO, CPDT-KA
Newsflash…the employment game has changed! So much so that many have coined this new era as “The Great Resignation.” Employees have left their jobs in numbers that we have never seen before. From professionals to hourly team members, the pandemic has shifted how we value our time and measure satisfaction. Gone are the days of doing a job just because it is a job. While pay rates will always rise, the weight that employees are placing on job satisfaction has been (and still is) rising to a level of paramount importance.
As employers, we can stay the same and gripe about how hard it is to find and retain staff—or we can make some changes, too! Employees are interviewing us…not the other way around. So, how can you still recruit the same quality of candidates you need to provide the consistency and quality of care your clients expect? I propose that you shift your thinking, shift how you select those to interview and how you interview, and shift your mindset on the positions that you offer. It may feel like you just made it through the summer, but now it’s time to set your sights on the holiday season.
Whether you prefer Indeed, Facebook, Zip Recruiter or another platform, candidate rates are plummeting. And with the limited number of candidates, it is tempting to call every single person that applies out of sheer desperation. This takes up time—valuable time. As an owner/operator, you must prioritize your time and invest in activities that will produce results.
At the 2019 Pet Boarding & Daycare Expo in Hershey, PA, Joe Zuccarello with Paragon School of Grooming gave a tip during his seminar that has completely streamlined our recruiting process. He recommended adding a short line at the end of the employment ad that would require action by the applicant above and beyond just submitting a resume. He suggested creating short, fun job posts that have a two- or three-sentence summation of responsibilities followed by, “to be considered for the position, submit your resume here, and text your name and why you want to work at a pet resort to (a monitored # that receives texts).”
Since implementing this recommendation, we have improved our interview-show rates from the low teens to an average of 72% so far in 2022! We simply only review and call those applicants that have followed the directions outlined. This tells us so many things; that they can take direction, they know where we are located, they know what the position requires and, most importantly, it gives us insight into how they communicate.
As you conduct the interview, shift from a structured list of questions to a real conversation. There are tons of “professional interviewees” out there who have researched the most common interview questions asked and are ready with scripted responses. We want to get to know the candidate—who they really are. Since you will be teaching them the position-specific skills they will need for the job, during the interview, look for personality traits and soft skills instead of specific skills. Focus on finding the right people who will fit your culture and enjoy what they do. Remember, it’s about job satisfaction!
In general, we are looking for two different personality types: the introverts and the extroverts. These two groups feed into all positions that we have and, if placed correctly, will truly enjoy the position. The extrovert, who I like to call the “bubbly cheerleader,” is the applicant that delivers an incredible interview and makes you feel all happy, fuzzy and warm. That person is the type we look to add to our lodging department, individual play department and at reception. These people are open to change, they love interaction and it actually energizes them.
For spa services and our group play department, we are looking for the opposite; the quiet introvert, because they tend to want calm consistency and structure that doesn’t change. This is the person many of us skip over. Maybe they talk about not liking a past position because their manager never gave them feedback or they didn’t feel properly trained. They also might barely get a sentence out for each interview question you ask. However, the introvert may really enjoy being the lifeguard in group play, and their calm demeanor will keep arousal levels low and help provide a safe, engaging environment. An extra bonus for hiring introverts is that they rarely get burned out or get bored. They can calmly repeat the same process over and over in the salon and are unphased by the monotony and heavy structure required to properly execute spa services.
As employers, if we think of these positions as “labor” positions, there will be turnovers as most entry-level, labor positions will have. The shift in perception of what it means to be a part of the pet care industry starts with us, the owner/operator. It has taken time, but we now see and value both groomers and dog trainers as skilled positions. What is holding us back from thinking the same way for our group play leaders and lodging technicians?
Take the leap, talk to your team and tell them they can make this a career! Support them in continued education and provide unique paths to advancement, such as adding sponsorships to grooming schools and taking them to the industry expos. Invest in them! If you do, they will invest back. Make a mindset change so that you can capitalize on The Great Resignation…not be a victim of it.
Jennifer has served since 2016 as General Manager for ABC Pet Resort & Spa, a multi-service pet care center located in North Houston. She also is a consultant and instructor for Pet Care Management Boot Camp, in partnership with Turnkey, Inc., an architectural design/build/operations firm specializing in pet care and veterinary facilities. Jennifer helps both existing and start-up facilities streamline their operations, improve their team management, and understand revenue-generating strategies. Jennifer earned her BS in Agricultural Science at Colorado State University, is a Certified Professional Animal Care Operator (CPACO), a PetTech CPR and First Aid Instructor, and is a Certified Professional Dog Trainer (CPDT-KA).