Abs are made in the kitchen: a labor shortage analogy

“No, we cannot use kettle bells, Hartmann. Where did you get that idea?” my trainer said, scowling at me.


My new gym membership included three sessions with a personal trainer. My trainer was Justin. In his late twenties, he was 6’ 5”, weighed 275 pounds, and maintained 8 percent body fat.


He was a synthetically-enhanced beast.


“Lemme guess,” Justin began, sarcastically. “You were reading your wife’s US Weekly magazine again and there was a story about the magic of kettle bells to give you six-pack abs.”


I claimed that was not the source.

I lied.


He pulled up his shirt and demanded I examine his abs. They were chiseled.


“I don’t do ab workouts. Know why?”


I didn’t.


“Because abs are made in the kitchen,” Justin said, aggressively poking my doughy stomach with his index finger. “Your abs are already in there . . . somewhere. If you want to see them, quit eating a bunch of fatty foods that hide them. Focus on the right activities to get what you want.”

As the construction boom continues, executives continue to be challenged by the lack of qualified craftworkers.


“Our backlog continues to grow,” the executive said as he massaged his temples, “but we cannot find enough qualified craftworkers to get the work done.”


With a 90% Hispanic workforce, I asked what new initiatives his team had implemented to attract, on-board, train, and retain new Hispanic craftworkers.


The answers I received were the construction equivalent of doing 90 minutes of abdominal exercises, only to return home and eat seven chocolate chip pancakes bathed in whip cream and Aunt Jemima’s butter rich syrup.


The people you need to achieve your goals are out there. Below are recommendations to help you focus on the right activities to get what you want.


To connect online, go to Facebook.
“That makes a lot of sense, now that you mention it,” the executive said slowly. “I guess I’ve never thought about Hispanic communities being online.”


Hispanic communities thrive on Facebook and serve as trusted sources on a range of topics, including local corporations. Be part of that conversation.


Who in your organization—or outside of it—can serve as the bilingual contributor to help the community?


We recommend helping community members solve their problems, sponsor soccer teams, and then begin to share testimonials from current Hispanic employees—in English and Spanish. You have already succeeded in making your company a great place to work for many Hispanics (right?); share those stories.


To connect offline, go to churches.
Offline, churches represent a physical hub within the Hispanic community. Who on your team can get involved? Are current employees already members of local religious organizations? 

To gain new perspectives, ask for them.
The executive proudly mentioned the creation of a new 5-person Hispanic Council to serve as a steering committee for activities targeting Hispanic workers.

When asked who the five individuals were, the executive surprised himself. There were no Hispanics on the Hispanic Council.

If you have a Hispanic Council, get Hispanics on it. If you don’t have a Hispanic Council to ensure you’re effectively examining perspectives other than your own, consider forming one. Hispanic councils can offer unique ideas and cultural insights. Its formation also sends a message to the organization about your commitment to diversity.



To encourage new behaviors, use incentives.
Look at your current Hispanic workforce—how many are related in some way? Probably a large percentage. That is because extended family bonds in the Hispanic community are extremely strong. Word of mouth travels fast and carries significant weight.


Do you have an incentive plan to reward employees for referring other qualified candidates? Is it in Spanish and easy to share—online and off? If not, can you create an incentive program that financially rewards new employee referrals?



To develop trust, play the long-game.
Before engaging in communities, online or off, develop a strategy (on paper, including a budget for capital, talent, and time) and prepare to make an 18-month commitment, minimum. Thinking you can jump on Facebook, write a few posts in Spanish, and expect new hire applications to spike is delusional. Relationships built on trust take time.


National demographics don’t change quickly.

Prepare to play the long-game.



To grow your team, keep the ones you’ve got. 
Last year a Red Angle client asked for help recruiting more Hispanic workers. With employee turnover exceeding 100 percent year-over-year, we helped them implement a series of operational changes to improve retention, not recruiting.
If you eat two Big Macs and a large fry every day for lunch, more ab exercises isn’t the answer. Abs are made in the kitchen.
Focus on the right activities to get what you want.
Justin stared at the crowded mass of middle-aged gym members performing ab exercises.


“Look at all these people spending hours each week doing ab workouts without any results. It’s activity instead of progress, man,” he said, shaking his head. “They’re focusing on the wrong activities when the answer is on their plates, right in front of them.”


“Abs are made in the kitchen,” I repeated.

“Damn right,” Justin said. “So don’t mention kettle bells again.”

“And quit reading your wife’s US Weekly. It’s not healthy.”


Thanks for reading. For additional recommendations on recruiting and retaining Hispanic workers and the labor shortage, read this earlier post titled, 9 Ways to Close the Back Door.

If you’d like to read the first two chapters of my new book, Good to Excelente, email me at bradley@redangleinc.com with “Free G2E” in the subject heading. For additional book excerpts, visit goodtoexcelente.com.

Categories: Jobsite Leadership

Tags: , , , , , , , ,

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: