Low-Wage Doesn’t Necessarily Mean Low-Talent

Don’t put a stigma on the low-wage sector workers. Many of them may have the talent to run 3 divisions of your company! 

Have you noticed there is no great talent in the workforce anymore? Well, not me! I see amazing talent in businesses everywhere I go! Just the other day I was in Java Moon getting a coffee and the barista who I didn’t recognize at first said, “What can I make for you Dan?” I hadn’t been in there in months and she knew my name. She also knew I only take my coffee black and that my wife had stolen my free drink off my rewards card!  Last month I went to pick up a takeout order from the Buckshot and as I walked in, the waitress who I had never seen before handed me my takeout and said, “Here you are Dan, your wife paid over the phone so you’re good to go!” I was shocked and embarrassed because I didn’t know her name. I handed her a $10 bill as a tip on a $30 takeout because she had taken the time to know my name!

While some of my fellow business colleagues are complaining that there is no good talent out there anymore, I beg to differ. Just take a look at these two simple examples of two servers that have taken the initiative to get to know regular customers like me by their first names. It would be easy to just show up to work and go through the motions of the day and serve your customers but to want to get to know them shows you have a talent that is somewhat rare these days.

About 10 years ago our whole family went out to dinner at PF Chang’s in Fort Collins Colorado. There must have been 15 of us all seated in the back room reserved for large parties. Our waitress came out and took our drink order and then… told us about the specials of the night. The whole time she was talking about the specials I was thinking to myself that she was going to forget what my drink order was because she didn’t write it down on an order pad. A few minutes later she came out with all of our drinks and handed them precisely to the right person at the table! She did not have to say, “Okay, who had the Manhattan, who had the lemon drop martini, (or mine) whiskey and water.” She nailed it! Then she took our food order. Once again, she walked around the table, taking each complex dinner order and not writing a thing down! She was also asking how each person wanted their food prepared, and of course, each order WAS different. Have you ever seen a waitress or waiter do this for a party of 15? When our food came out, it was perfect and served without hesitation to each of us. This is savant-like talent people! I wanted to tip her $50 myself just for the showmanship alone but my father insisted on paying and tipping, of course!

The point I am trying to make is there is an immense amount of talent out there if you can just recognize it. If I knew who that young girl that served us at PF Chang’s that night was, I would hire her in a second as a project manager in my company and I would pay her a fortune. Just because no one with real talent is applying for a job at your company doesn’t mean that there is no real talent out there. In fact, some of your best recruiting might be going out to dinner with your family at a nice restaurant or even getting your groceries at Walmart!

Last year I was taking my groceries to my truck in the Walmart parking lot. After loading my bags I turned to take my cart back to the cart corral and this 20-something kid in a high-vis orange Walmart vest came out of nowhere and said, “I’ll take that for you, sir!” I thanked him and told him the corral wasn’t very far and I had no problem taking it myself but he insisted and said, “It’s my job to get the carts.” As I drove out I saw he did the same thing for a lady and grabbed her cart too. He had a smile on his face the whole time. I immediately turn my truck around and flagged the kid down and told him to go inside Walmart and quit his job because he worked for me now! He said, “No thank you, sir, I like it here.” (to his credit, he might have been creeped out that I was chasing him in my truck!) I then told him I would double his wages but he still refused to come to work for me. I lost out on hiring that great kid but I would still hire anyone on the spot who said, “It’s my job to get the carts” while having a smile on their face!

In a Forbes Magazine article titled, Low Wage, Not Low Skill, the author highlights the point that a growing cynicism around the future of work tells us that workers in the so-called low –skills jobs, intrinsically lack the intelligence and ambition to master the skills necessary for modern-day high-level work. Low wage doesn’t necessarily mean low skills or talent! Here’s the thing, just maybe, those people performing well in the low-wage sector don’t actually realize their real potential in a different field of profession. Take the example of my lost find at PF Chang’s. Could you imagine what she would be able to do as a project manager with that kind of metal power, memorization skills and off-handed last minute organizational skills she can do with her brains? While waiting tables is a fine profession and the tips at a nice restaurant are above average, I have found that when the right people are put in a position that matches or even challenges their brain power, elite college degrees and wealthy background privileges play a nearly zero part in an outstanding employee’s performance. With that said, why are we putting a stigma on low-wage workers?

Here’s how I see it- Yes! You can poach employees from other companies! While frowned upon, it’s not illegal and you are doing a good thing in a two-fold way. 1) You are helping a person that might not know their true potential and for 2) You will be helping yourself and your company at the same time which in turn, helps your customers. I am a strong advocator of hiring the best at whatever the cost whether it’s a contractor or an employee. If you’re the best at what you do, you need to be working for me! Oprah Winfrey said her discipline to be the best is what got her to where she is today and with that, she only hires the best. Once you have made the commitment to be the best in yourself and strive for it every day, you will have an eye for talent that too, is the best or potentially the best in your own operations.

So how do you recognize true talent when you see it and actually know its talent? I like to use personality profiling to gauge a person’s quality rather than by education or background. For one, when I see or experience a superlative worker, working in a business that I frequent, I have usually never seen their resume or know of their educational background. So I pay attention to four different qualities that can be seen from their actions. These four qualities will tell you a 1000X more about their character than any college transcript ever could.

  1. Dominance and ego. While a domineering, egotistical character is generally considered a faux pas in a professional sense, it’s actually a very appealing quality for an employee. Their dominance qualities are something they were born with and or learned from their parents so it’s a natural instinct and not something you will have to teach them, they’ll come by it naturally. Dominate and egotistical demeanors can leave you with a bit of a bad taste in your mouth but if you channel their energy in a positive direction, like sales, marketing or positions of leadership, they will rake in the sales and drive teams. Dominate people beg for challenges, they get results and create action.
  2. Influence ability. An influential person will convince you to hire them even if you don’t want or like them. They never give up until they break you and they love to be challenged by failure. They also have assuredly in themselves that has been derived from experience with failure, and then coming out on the other side victorious. That is self-confidence in its purest form! Clearly, these people need to be in your sales department. The truly influential person is already prepared to be turned down a minimum of 12 different times. How do you compete with someone who is ready for failure with the patience of Job to wear you down until they win? They will also build relationships with your customers. It’s not unusual to see them talking on the phone for hours about personal life things like kids, family, or hobbies with your customers. This is a priceless situation and you need to let them run with it! Influential people create action, enthusiasm, and collaboration.
  3. Steadiness.  Steadiness quality people are my favorite! Steady people will bring reliability to your company and will serve very well as your personal assistant. They can also be a top rate scrounge. Pay them very well for this job! They are the nerve center of your company and will generally orchestrate multiple tasks and groups of your other employees with superlative efficiency. Let them plan the meetings and schedule workflow. The nice thing about steadiness people, they don’t mind being “the heavy” when it comes to cracking down on other employees, terminating employees and they will even do your dirty work for you without complaint if you’re paying them well enough. They don’t mind standing out of the limelight and they like working behind the scenes to make you, the boss, look God-like! Warning: the steadiness person won’t leave you out when it comes to accountability in the workplace so be ready to be challenged within your own company by your steadiness people as if you were just one of the other employees! Not to worry, you could use it from time to time! They will bring support, collaboration, and stability to your company.
  4. Conscientiousness. These people thrive in the details. Challenge a conscientious person with loads of complex information and detailed oriented work. They find the tedious tasking of organization to be a source of satisfaction and pleasure. These people are your project managers. Don’t put them in charge of people or require them to have reports. They need to work alone and in their own environment. Give them the environment they need and let them do it their way and they will produce incredible results. They will bring accuracy, stability and will challenge you as a boss to manage them!

If you find a Conscientiousness person with a domineering ego that convinces you to hire them while multitasking your daily schedule, do not let them go! This person is super-human and will make you a millionaire in no time!

You may recognize this personality profiling is the age-old DISC method of hiring that in today’s HR customs, are somewhat controversial. Why the heartburn on DISC you might ask? DISC is a personality profiling based on who you are on a genetic level, brainpower capacity and how you were raised rather than what your transcripts or resume reflects. The reason HR and legal don’t like the DISC method is that you cannot teach these qualities so it can be seen as discrimination if you don’t do it right! (Not discrimination in a traditional sense like race or gender but rather, brain-power discrimination. In this day and age, brain-power discrimination could be a thing!) The successful DISC candidate has to be born and raised with these qualities and talents and that undermines the whole premise of our entire educational system! While DISC has a formal matrix system you can follow, don’t get bogged down in the little details of it. Your gut feeling about great talent with the assistance of the DISC method will present you with superstar-level talent that is just out there for the picking.

Keep in mind that low-wage sector workers are oftentimes, subtly or overwhelmingly showing you how good they are with their service and attention for the details. Just because they don’t make good money right now or have the education, doesn’t mean they don’t have the diamond-in-the-rough potential to manage 3 divisions of your company with an untouchable efficiency! I am a firm believer in the fact that God puts the people you need in front of you when you need them the most, you just have to see them! Education, Ivy league degrees and born privilege, still to this day, has nothing to do with innovation and creativity. Take heed to my father’s advice when I first started my business. He said, “Dan, always listen to your man behind the shovel, he usually has the best ideas!”

Daniel J Bockman


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