How One Franchise Group Combats the ‘Labor Desert’

“All sunshine makes a desert.”

This Arab proverb comes to mind for the labor market of the trade sectors, Dwyer Group Chief Operating Officer Mary Kennedy Thompson told Home Health Care News. That is, as several industries have seen substantial growth over the last several years, burgeoning businesses are finding it harder to and hire enough workers.

Dwyer, based in Waco, Texas, is the holding company for 11 service-based franchises that include cleaning, plumbing, maintenance and electric service providers. It encompasses more than 2,700 franchises in nine countries.

Labor shortage is increasingly common across all trade sectors, most notably across in-home care, an industry that has reported turnover upwards of 50%.

“Business owners always think about how to market for the customer,” Thompson told HHCN. “We don’t think about how to get in front of that employee, that job-seeker.”

Thompson is leading Dwyer’s RARE toolbox project, which stands for retention and recruiting employees, to combat the “desert” in the labor market. She discussed the project and the lessons it offers franchisors in all sectors with Home Health Care News. Here are some key takeaways:

Navel Gazing

As the economy has seen steady improvement since the Great Recession, franchisees have found hiring qualified people increasingly difficult, Thompson said. This was due to a number of factors, including worker demand and workers aging.

In 2015, Dwyer began the RARE process as a two-year project, according to Thompson. The first step was to scrutinize the state of recruitment and employee retention efforts among franchisees.

“We surveyed our franchisees and found how they were going about it was disjointed and chaotic,” Thompson said.

This led to Dwyer consolidating the steps and resources for recruiting, which included information on companies that offer retirement services and teaching franchisees how to use an applicant tracking system.

“Then we started studying what we were doing, who worked for us and who liked working for us,” Thompson said.

This was not an aspirational exercise, Thompson stressed. Identifying and understanding franchisees and employees has proved to be crucial to recruiting, as Thompson learned from her past career. When she worked as a recruiter for the U.S. Marine Corps, recruiting was successful because, “[The Marine Corps] understood who they were and they shared it with everyone who’d listen,” she said.

After the initial assessment in RARE, Dwyer went even deeper, surveying franchisees and employees, and eventually touching 12,000 respondents. Dwyer also formed a committee for the project, conducted “hours and hours of interviews” and hired companies to examine those results even more, Thompson said.

“It’s hundreds of thousands of dollars it’s cost us, both in research and in people time,” she said. “We had to listen with intent to understand.”

Beefing Up Recruiting

With some knowledge under its belt, Dwyer took its survey feedback to its recruiting strategies, turning it into a bigger process with more focus.

“We wanted to make sure we had a system that our franchisees could use that would make the process of getting that message out more effective and easier, because, like all business owners, they have a lot going on,” Thompson explained.

Employers should seriously consider who wants to work for them and why, she said. But it’s not the franchisor’s place to micromanage the hiring process of their franchisees.

“I would never tell a franchisee who to hire or who to fire, but I can arm them with information, and I can say, ‘Here are the vendors you can use,’” she added.

Though recruiting involves a number of factors, finding the right people for the organization is a crucial focus, according to Thompson.

“We’re talking to the right people in the right way, and we’re making it easier for our franchisees,” she said. “Recruiting and retention is not easy, there are a lot of layers to it, but we’re simplifying and making it easier with a lot more elegant solutions.”

These solutions include the applicant tracking system, the consolidation of the resources for franchisees and up to 20 hours of recruitment and retention training.

Leaning on the System

The relationship between franchisee and franchisor should respect the fact that the franchisee is a business owner, according to Thompson. However, franchise systems also offer many resources that franchisees shouldn’t be afraid to utilize.

“Our job is to provide a system so the franchisee can have success,” she said. “That’s what the franchisor should be doing to help with the system of it.”

This applies for every franchisee, including those in the home care industry. With home care growing quickly, franchise systems have increasingly become more valuable and could also provide some standardization for care.

“It’s very personal when you go into someone’s home,” Thompson said. “You want to serve others. You want someone following a system so they can serve others and improve the community around them.”

Written by Maggie Flynn

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Maggie Flynn
Business reporter
When she's not working, Maggie enjoys running, reading, writing and sports, in no particular order. Favorite things include murder mysteries, Lake Michigan and the Pittsburgh Penguins.

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