ARA of Indiana meeting tackles the hot topic: recruiting and retaining employees
By Connie Lannan

ARA of Indiana meeting tackles the hot topic: recruiting and retaining employees

Rental businesses have been reeling with the impacts of the labor shortage. To help rental operators better understand why this is happening and find effective strategies to deal with it, the ARA of Indiana offered “Navigating the new employment world,” a free educational event on April 21.

“This is the hot topic everyone is dealing with. That is why I brought three of my managers to the presentation so we could become more educated on it,” says Matt Mutton, president, Mutton Party and Tent Rental, Fort Wayne, Ind., and ARA of Indiana vice president.

Mutton wasn’t alone in trying to find answers from presenters Rob Stubbs, vice president of sales with Express Employment Professionals, and Emily Shaw, sales coach with Lushin. More than 25 rental operators attended the event at MacAllister Rentals’ headquarters in Indianapolis.

“It was very informative,” says Kent Marshall, owner, Valley Equipment Rental, Terre Haute, Ind., who will be opening his new rental operation this summer. “It was enlightening to me to learn why there is such an employee shortage at this point. I think they gave a lot of insight regarding what employers can do to attract talent that they hadn’t thought of before.”

There are a variety of reasons why the situation is so acute now. “The one presenter highlighted how it goes all the way back to baby boomers and retirement,” Mutton says. “Many of the baby boomers could have retired before COVID, but they thought they wanted to keep working because they never tried not working. When the pandemic hit and many people were not working for a period of time, that made many baby boomers more comfortable with the idea of retirement. Then you add in the fact that people have been having less children for many generations. That makes the available workforce smaller and it will continue to be smaller.”

Brian Flinn, operations branch manager, MacAllister Rentals, Indianapolis, and ARA of Indiana president, says he learned that with the pandemic, “there was a big change in demand for people to be stay-at-home moms and dads. Plus, we have to remember that 4 percent unemployment is usually a full staff. Indiana is running at 2.5 percent unemployment. There is no ‘easy button’ in the HR environment right now.”

What that means, Flinn says, is “we have to change our methods. We can’t just drop an ad and wait for people to come walking through our door. We have to attract employees and figure out a way to help candidates visualize themselves in our operations. And if you are only looking for full-time positions, you are probably missing the opportunity to find good part-time help that can still handle the workload that you are looking for. There are a lot of challenges, but it is not impossible.”

Hearing that many people are looking for part-time employment was a surprise to Mutton. “That was a big takeaway for me. Historically, we always have looked for full-time workers because that is what we thought people wanted. We have never pursued part-time workers, but we will now,” he says.

Kelley Bowling, president, Indy Rental & Sales, Indianapolis, is glad she went. “I got a lot of confirmation of what I already knew. Essentially, you need to pay more money, which is a challenge in the rental industry. We are a very small operation — basically a mom-and-pop shop, but I am in business with my brother. We’ll have a couple of part-timers in the summer and maybe one through the winter. One thing they suggested was to develop a creative relationship with your local high school. I am going to work a little bit harder on that. When my kids were in school, I had an endless supply of employees because all their friends wanted to work here. Now my kids are in their mid-20s. That is where the challenge comes into play. The guy I have right now is retired from his original job, which is great. There was still a very large learning curve because there is a lot to do around here, but this has worked. So, we are going to look for both younger people and retired-age people,” she says.

Other tips the presenters offered included:

  • “Not being too specific in regard to the job requirements,” Marshall says, noting that this is particularly true for ads that you post. “With a limited base of potential employees out there, if you are too specific in your job description and/or in your requirements, you may be passing over someone who is suited for the job, someone you can train or could meet the requirements that maybe you wouldn’t have looked at before.”

“They talked about simplifying and shortening the job ads,” Mutton says. “Usually, you spell out every single detail in the ad. The comment was that ‘Nobody reads that.’”

  • “Paying attention to our interview process, making sure we follow our standards and don’t hire someone who doesn’t meet our standards,” Flinn says. “We can’t get desperate just because we have an opening. We need to stay diligent on the facts and pieces we have to have to make a position successful. We need to make sure the people we hire are always coachable.”

“We don’t always push candidates as hard because we are just hoping they want to come work for us,” Mutton adds. “We have to keep asking those difficult questions to make sure we are not wasting our time by hiring people who aren’t a good fit.”

  • “Ultimately, what folks are looking for is money, compensation, culture and a path to advancement,” Mutton says, “but one of the biggest things I took away was to help the people you have now understand the vision and goal of the company and explain to them how their position impacts our ability to achieve that. I had a review scheduled with our bookkeeping assistant the day after the seminar. I realized that we have never really explained to him why some of these mundane, monotonous tasks we have him do are important to our success. We assume our employees understand why they are important and connect all the dots, but that isn’t necessarily true. My managers and I realized that we need to do a better job of that.”

All were impressed with the presenters. They were just as enthralled with the tour of MacAllister’s corporate headquarters.

“It is a tremendous facility,” Marshall says. “It is amazing how they integrated nine locations into one corporate campus to serve their customers. It was very impressive.”

Besides the information and the tour, all say the ability to connect with other rental operators was appreciated.

“I am glad I went. I try to attend as many ARA of Indiana events as I can. It’s time well-spent,” Bowling says. “Even though you have to step away from your operation, it’s just a good idea to do that and learn a little something along the way. And talking with other rental operators is valuable.”

“It was great to meet in person again,” Marshall adds. “This is the second event I have attended since the ARA of Indiana started meeting in person again. Having the meetings in person again was exciting. I plan to go to more events in the future for more networking opportunities.”

Flinn was happy to see that the event resonated with those who attended. “We had a good mix of people attend — owners, managers and others who work in the business. The feedback I received from them was that the session helped them understand that they have to look at things differently to attract new staff. That is encouraging to me in that this type of platform is what rental businesses in Indiana are looking for. There is a time for social events and a time to help the business grow. The ARA of Indiana is trying to function between both of those needs,” he says.

Connie Lannan

Connie LannanConnie Lannan

Connie Lannan is special projects editor for Rental Management. She helps plan, coordinate, write and edit ARA’s quarterly regional newsletters, In Your Region. She also researches, writes and edits news and feature articles for Rental Management, Rental Pulse, supplements, special reports and other special projects. Outside of work, she loves to bake for others, go for walks with her husband and volunteer for her church and causes she believes in.

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