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Developing Talent

October 19, 2021

This morning I'm waking up in Salt Lake City, preparing to speak to the Utah Food Industry Association.

This is an incredible group of people that I had the chance to speak to 5 years ago, and I’m fortunate they’ve asked me to come back. Right now, the members, predominantly grocers, are facing some serious challenges.

However, the challenges aren’t unique to them. In fact, they are issues felt by many businesses across the United States: rising costs, supply chain challenges, and trouble finding talent. The last issue is the one I plan to address today.

If you don’t have enough quality people to work in your organization, there are two key drivers:

  1. You’re not getting enough people through the front door (it’s a recruitment and hiring issue) Or
  2. You’re not keeping the people you have (it’s a development and retention issue)

Unfortunately, there are no quick and easy answers for either of these challenges. However, there are some steps everyone can take, and it starts with looking at who you currently have.

It’s tempting in this season to lower your hiring standards and just take whoever you can get. I once gave an example of a grocery store manager who had extremely low expectations for his potential team members, and this was before the current talent crunch. He even told me, “If someone can put a sentence together and tie their own shoelaces, I will hire them.”

There’s a dangerous slippery slope when we keep hiring the wrong individuals. This makes it even more difficult to break out of this cycle and hire the talent we desire.

Here’s why: We reproduce what we have, not what we want.

John F. Kennedy once said, “The same is true for people. Once you’ve settled for subpar talent it becomes increasingly difficult to find people who fit your standards.”

I’ve shared a study from the University of North Carolina’s Kenan-Flagler Business School. They performed a survey that asked younger workers to state what they are most looking for in a new job. Of the students they polled, 65% said they are looking for an opportunity for personal development.

The talent we desire is looking for an opportunity to grow in a new job. If we know potential employees are looking for personal development, and they look at our organization and see individuals that lack motivation, discipline, and ambition, then why are we surprised when we can’t get the people we want?

I know this is difficult, especially in this season, but it’s more important than ever to invest in resources to develop your employees.

Until you develop the people you have, you’ll never attract the people you want.

If you’re the manager of a team, work to help your team members reach their full potential.

This is also true outside of the business world.

If you’re the pastor of a church, encourage your congregation to grow in their faith, so you’ll attract other people eager to learn and impact others.

If you organize volunteers for a nonprofit, continually share your passion for the mission to help develop more eager and effective volunteers.

If you are a student recruiter for a university, showcase the kinds of students you desire to enroll.

Developing and hiring great talent takes intentional time and hard work, but the rewards are worth it and will have a lasting positive impact on your organization.


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