Ask Amy – Hiring and Retaining Great Employees

Dear Amy,

I know a lot of people write to you about family relationships.  My family relationships are fine and I feel very lucky that we all get along so well.

The challenge is that it’s getting hard for us to find, hire, and retain our employees, particularly skilled tradespeople. I’ve heard that this is a problem in many businesses as well.

My dad has asked me for some suggestions about how to deal with this. We all want develop the culture in our family business so that our employees feel valued and committed. Do you have any books to recommend? Or ideas to suggest?

~ Johanna

Amy KatzDear Johanna,

You’ve identified two concerns that are very timely: recruiting skilled employees and creating a culture that will assure their commitment. I know that a lot of businesses, particularly small ones, are struggling with this issue.

I don’t have any direct suggestions, though some family businesses I know of are forming partnerships with local colleges and vocational schools and developing co-op opportunities for interested students.  With a retiring workforce, it’s probably a good idea to reach out to schools within your region and provide them with on-the-job training. The situation does call for some innovative and creative thinking.

You might also consider volunteering with young people in your community. Two of the women in the group of daughters I work with here in Cincinnati participate in Rosie’s Girls, a project which helps school age girls develop their mechanical skills. There may be similar organizations in your community. This may seem like a long shot, given your short-term needs, but keep in mind that the challenge of recruiting and developing and retaining your future workforce requires a long-range strategy.

As for books about developing your culture, there are many on the market, but one that comes to mind is The Dream Manager, by Matthew Kelly.  It’s based on a business called JANCOA, which provides janitorial services in the Cincinnati area. JANCOA realized the importance of supporting their employees by learning about their dreams and hopes and finding ways to help them achieve them. Check out the JANCOA website to learn more about the story, and consider buying the book.  It’s available on Amazon and also on iTunes. The ideas may not directly fit your situation, but they will hopefully spark some creative thinking.

All the best,


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