DALLAS — I’ve got good news for you: Our economy is thriving. GDP is growing. Unemployment is low. What could be better?

The bad news? The success of the economy has meant that hiring has become a major problem for drycleaning owners.

In surveys of business owners, finding good employees ranks as the number one challenge to growth. This is particularly true in the drycleaning industry.

Gone are the days when someone could simply post a “Now Hiring” sign in the window and find good candidates.

Fortunately, there’s a way to navigate this challenging environment, but it requires a change of mindset.

Traditionally, we think of hiring as a passive process: put up a “Now Hiring” sign or talk to your employees; interview some candidates; hire.

While this may have worked in the past, the modern world and hot economy require a new perspective. In this new world view, we have to think of hiring not as a passive HR process, but, in a way, as an active hiring campaign.

CAMPAIGNING

A great campaign, similar to a marketing strategy you might use to reach customers, requires owners to engage in four key steps. These need to be taken if we, as owners, are going to search out and attract employees.

Step 1 — Identify your target customer (employee)

You wouldn’t try to sell a ketchup popsicle to a woman in white gloves, would you? By the same token, you don’t want to advertise your job to a bunch of people who aren’t interested.

Frequently, I hear owners complain about how the only people who apply are teenage kids looking for a summer job. But when you think about the fact that their main way of advertising is a “Now Hiring” sign in their store window, it’s not surprising that those are the candidates they’re attracting.

In this case, they aren’t “marketing” the job opening to their target “customer” or job candidate.

Before you begin, it’s important for you to identify the type of employee you’re trying to attract.

Is it someone looking for part-time work? Someone who wants a long-term career? Will they need to have a car or can they travel by public transportation? Is their work schedule fixed or flexible? Do they want steady pay or high upside?

Until you know your target customer — the hiree — inside and out, you won't be able to offer a product — the job — that is appealing to them.

Step 2 — Make sure your product (job) appeals to your target customer (hiree)

Once you’ve identified who your target customer is, it’s important to do some testing on whether your product appeals to them. For these purposes, I find that it’s helpful to create a clear job description.

Create a focus group with current and potential employees. You can ask them clarifying questions that will bring any issues to the forefront, such as: Is the compensation appealing? Does the job sound exciting and fun? Are there opportunities for growth? Do they want to be a part of the company?

Often, you’ll be surprised at what your job is missing. Over the years, I’ve found many features you can add to a job, some inexpensive, some not, that will make it more attractive.

For example: Paid training, personal time off (PTO), health benefits, 401K, and performance bonuses can separate you from the crowd.

Explaining opportunities for career growth and promotions can also give candidates the impression that they are embarking on a career and not just a job, which is a much better product to be campaigning for.

Check back Thursday for the conclusion.