Last year, as field strategists were warning of an unprecedented staffing challenge one practitioner starting recruiting for 2022.
Now, with the phone ringing from existing and new clients looking to stand up paid field GOTV programs, Chris Turner’s Stampede Consulting has the staff to meet the demand.
“We really did spend and invest more time, resources and effort in the off-cycle recruiting program than we ever have — times ten,” he said. “We hit our top performers’ list in Q1 and gave them the opportunity to sign up for a project in Q3 even before we had any [contracts].”
He added: “It was a risky thing to do. You’re not sure about the return on investment until you get there, but our team feels like we have our shit together better than ever. It’s paying off now.”
Paid field is one the entry-level campaign jobs that most people leave and never look back. But Turner has sought to change that through his recruiting efforts — his firm has a network of some 12,000 former employees — and management style that eschews metrics like doors hit for positive encouragement from team leaders.
That may sound like blasphemy to old school field practitioners, but Turner said it’s part of how his firm has maintained robust staffing levels amid increased competition for workers from other sectors.
Part of the new performance metric, he explained, is that the firm’s field team leaders also get graded on the quality of training they provide to canvassers, which is measured in employee satisfaction surveys. The combination of training and gratitude calls from team leaders has been a winning combination.
“When you do that, the canvassers work their asses off because they love their team leaders because the team leaders love them,” he said. “It’s amazing what people will do when you treat them well.”
Field’s long-time staffing challenge was expected to escalate this year as an anticipated worker shortage and rising wages were set to collide with campaigns’ limited budgets. Long-time field strategist Duc Vu told C&E last November that a perfect storm of higher costs — everything from hotel rooms and plane tickets to gas, rental cars and wages — were going to hit field budgets in ’22.
“We’re competing against every service industry in the country to get articulate, thoughtful people to come to the door and have conversations,” said Vu.
In fact, Turner said that costs for his services are up 20 percent or potentially higher if he has to bring in team members. That may have deterred some campaigns and groups from starting programs earlier in the cycle, but a flurry of late-money is bringing field back into the strategic picture.
Now, with only day left in the cycle, there’s still time to deploy a field program, even if a client is starting from stretch, Turner said. “We’re delivering six-figure door knocks with new customers in the last 10 days.”
Still, he cautioned: “You just have to come in with the mentality of moving quickly. Every day you wait you just lose capacity.”