The age-old concern for just about every employer is: “Where are all the good candidates? Why can’t people just come to work and do their job?”
The concern is not limited to the broadcast industry; it is common among businesses. Expectations are high. I remember when I was recruited in a sales role for a large radio company; after signing the agreement I was told, “Okay, you’ve got to hit the ground running. Get out there and hustle!” That made sense. But the challenge for me at the time, even with nearly 20 years of industry experience, was not only to make my sales manager happy, but as a single mom, I had to earn enough income to support my family. What would reinforce my success?
Training and development are crucial.
Over nearly 20 years of operating our family-owned radio stations, the challenges to recruit, train and retain good employees was a top concern, especially in smaller markets where the talent pool is much smaller. Fortunately, my older brothers and I were not only on-air personalities, we also led our sales efforts. But we still acknowledged that we needed continuous training and yes, motivation and inspiration to perform well and lead our team. We relied on training our teams with sales and programming consultants, subscriptions, and memberships in the NAB, RAB, and our state broadcast association. We also encouraged our staff to become involved in leadership programs within our community. For example, when I participated in the local Chamber of Commerce Leadership Academy, I enjoyed ‒ and learned a great deal from ‒ my relationships with other community leaders. In addition, the broadcast industry offers programs in abundance from a variety of resources, and they have evolved over the years. Nevertheless, that age-old question continues to be raised: “Where are all the good candidates?”
“Recruiting and hiring can be a soul-sucking, exhausting process,” says Shayna Sharpe of Regional Reps, “it’s the number one problem today.” I empathize with the challenges, as I too have had to recruit employees.
What are you looking for when hiring a new employee?
Let’s use a car as a metaphor for the employee you seek to hire: What do you look for when purchasing a car? Performance, price, design. Are you looking for a high performance sports car or a more basic car? Is your primary concern the cost or are you willing to pay more for added utility? Are you looking for a long-term purchase or a short-term lease? The answers matter. We all have different requirements.
When it comes to recruiting team members in radio, the market size, format, and corporate mission and vision all matter. Do you want this recruit to already have skills and experience? Consider looking for that high performance model, which means your investment will be high. (You’ll need to pay a higher salary.) If you have a smaller budget and want someone who is enthusiastic, willing to learn and teachable, think basic model. This can work if you have the skills and tools needed to hire someone who is inexperienced yet trainable. Each company has its own criteria.
How do you keep the right people? Take care of your investment.
People are like cars: “preventative maintenance” is a necessity. Their talents must be developed and maintained. One of the biggest complaints I hear from radio people is that once they hire someone who turns out to be really great at their job, the individual is soon recruited by a competing station or another company. So, how do you keep a good employee happy enough to resist the temptation to switch to the competition, or leave the industry for a different job?
Ask yourself what happens when you buy the right car and start driving it. Will you put the recommended grade fuel in it to keep it running smoothly? Will you rotate the tires and change the fluids on a regular basis? Will you wash it and care for it as an investment? A good and responsible owner values the investment.
Think of Perpetual Professional and Personal Development as preventative car maintenance.
I was recently asked, “If someone at my station is having personal problems and it’s affecting their job, why not just refer them to our EAP program?” I completely understand; it’s that question, “Why can’t people just come to work and do their job?”
Again, it’s like taking care of your car. If you don’t focus on regular maintenance and your car breaks down, why worry? You can just send it to the repair shop, right? Remember, it’s expensive. It will be out of commission for weeks. It’s inconvenient. And it’s stressful. Even more important to this metaphor is that people are human; they aren’t cars. Shouldn’t we value them even more?
Training, development, and a healthy workplace culture will prevent burnout and turnover. When your people are happy ‒ when they’re developing new skills and improving their mindset ‒ your station will hum like a well-oiled machine. On the other hand, when training, development, and personal concerns are neglected, there is a strong likelihood of lower productivity, absenteeism, and turnover. Preventative maintenance is far better than crisis management.
Fresh solutions and proven tools
Over the years of operating my family’s radio stations I learned how to identify whether somebody had the right skills, talents and ability to perform well. I learned this not only through observation, but also from my own experience when I was in my early years of learning, developing and honing my skills. I learned what it was going to take to succeed.
Later in life, when I started graduate school to study psychology and counseling, I leaned on my sales training and leadership experience to help me understand theories and principles. I was amazed at how much I already knew, because in advertising sales we do a needs assessment, and study the psycho-graphics of our audience and our advertisers. You may understand far more than you realize!
When people love their job, they’ll do the recruiting for you. Radio is still perceived as a glamourous business, so utilize every opportunity to demonstrate what a fun and exciting career a potential recruit will have. How?
Radio’s fundamental practices
Have more fun at live broadcasts, bring in school tours to stations again, develop your current team as ambassadors for radio.
Reverse engineer your strategy.
When it comes to recruiting, hiring and retaining a good team, also consider reverse engineering (taking something apart to see how it works) as your strategy. When you visualize the team you want and what you desire to accomplish, as well as what you can afford to pay, remember who each employee is. What will it take for them to succeed, and what type of “maintenance” will be required? You want to hire and retain super star performers. You want your team to win, your station to win, your profits to increase ‒ and your job to be enjoyable.
A tip for those looking for a job in radio or television
Radio and television are unique industries, and most of the available jobs are in sales. There is also a shortage of engineers, specifically those who are skilled in RF, but there is an overabundance of on-air talent. Unfortunately, for those seeking jobs behind the mic or in front of the camera, the competition is fierce. I encourage talented people who struggle to get that on-air job to embrace sales. It’s the best way to enter the business and gain experience. And for those stations looking for engineers, I’d encourage you to consider women.. They too, have IT and engineering skills, but are often overlooked in a field dominated by men.
Kelly Orchard is a professional speaker, author and trainer. In addition to more than 30 years in the business of broadcasting, she has a Master’s Degree in Psychology and a Bachelor’s Degree in Social Science with an emphasis in Organizational Leadership. Kelly specializes in working with radio industry executives in times of trouble, turmoil and transition, to help them stress-proof their leadership. She is a 2008 graduate of the NABEF Broadcast Leadership Training Program, among others. She is also an FCC Compliance Specialist and licensed psychotherapist. Reach her at firstname.lastname@example.org.