Many years ago I knew a cleaning business owner that had a nightmare happen to her business the likes of which keeps us all up at night. She had a staff of six people, and ran a bustling cleaning business. She was kind and giving to her staff, but never seemed to be in the loop about what was going on with them. Employees would quit without notice, promise to do things and then not follow through, give her a sob story about being ill, and then be spotted later at the movies. Things were busy but she never seemed to get ahead because every time she would gain new business, she would have some crazy employee turmoil that would keep her from being able to capture the business. When she contacted me she told me that she was ready to start adding some structure and make her life as an owner simpler. A good training program, continued learning, incentive programs, policies and procedures to safeguard her business, and some other things were on the goal list. Unfortunately before we had an opportunity to enact any of these plans disaster struck! Four of the six employees got together and left the company taking many of the customers that they serviced with them. The owner was left with a fairly uninforcable non-compete agreement and less than half of her business left. She decided to close her doors.
The shame of it all was that she had great potential but just an unfortunate bout of luck that she could not overcome. Had she had a chance to take action on her goals, the problem would likely have not occurred. Her staff was unhappy and she didn’t even know it — despite her best intentions, and working like a dog to build her business.
The key problem that she had, I feel, was the type of “relationship” that she had with her staff. Her relationship was more like a personal relationship than a boss-employee relationship. From my own experiences, I have learned that these kinds of “personal” relationships end up causing the owner a lot of work and heart ache. I have told this story before, but maybe you haven’t heard it. When I first started my cleaning business I hired a relative to work for me. And, I know a lot you will be going “Ohhhhh boy” because you may have been down this rocky road. Well here is how the debockle unfolded. I would send him out on jobs at the beginning of the day, and then receive dozens of all calls all day long about how he needed gas, he had to stop for lunch, he was out of cash, he’s not feeling well that day, advice on what he thinks I should do, and then at the end of the day receive calls from all of my clients saying that he never showed up! Needless to say, I kept losing my temper, and explaining how upset he was making me — none of which influenced his behavior. This is how personal relationships go — you try to emotionally manage the relationship and behavior.
In a professional relationship you have much more control, and better results over an employee’s behavior — and thus a less stressful, and more balanced life.
So here is my recipe for building a professional relationship, gaining more control of your business, and being prepared for whatever comes your way.
Create Job Descriptions
Job descriptions tend to fall lowest on the priority list for many, but are actually essential in hiring and retaining quality employees. Your job descriptions should include the skills needs, tasks performed and knowledge required, as well as expected competency and attitudes. Set standards that can be measured and rewarded.
Review and Update Staff Training and Materials
Consider both initial training and a continued learning plan. Effective programs improve your staff’s performances, skill level and motivation. The training program does not need to be expensive, but should train staff members via as many forms of communication as possible (i.e. written, verbal, visual, demonstrative, physical).
Provide Top-Notch Resources
Technology and office supplies are relatively cheap, and a worthy investment for your quality people. Broken vacuums, inadequate supplies, back-aching tools, and awkward instructions not only inhibit performance, but also equate to a “you are not valued” message to your staff.
Feedback, Feedback, Feedback
People want and need to know how they are doing. I recommend both frequent evaluations, and informal feedback. The primary goals of the feedback are recognition of accomplishments and motivation.
Beef Up your Compensation and Incentive Programs
Does your Compensation package reward all aspects of your employees? Do your employees do everything on the list, but drop the ball on follow-up customer service? Wages aren’t everything. Try to identify job tasks that are not being rewarded, and implement a creative incentive program.
Remember Internal Marketing
In today’s employment market it is often more difficult to find good employees than it is to find good customers. So, implement an internal marketing plan that highlights your employment attributes, and reinforces your mission.
Plan for Turnover
You may be able to decrease your turnover rate, but you cannot eliminate it — so plan for it. Why risk stressing your staff with over-work, for something that can be planned for.
Perform Exit InterviewsValuable information can be gained by interviewing employees that are leaving your organization. If you find out what your employees really want, then you can give it to them. It is not always money, like you might think.
Be a Great Boss
Take seminars, read books, hire consultants or whatever it takes to learn how to get the best performance out of your staff.
Create a Recruiting Plan
Now that you have the best jobs in town, you just need to find the right people. Create and implement a plan to find the employees that you need that includes everything from newspaper ads, to word of mouth, to recruiting events and contests.
Be Objective, and Look for the Best
Use your job descriptions to make an objective list of what you are looking for, and don’t settle for less. Quality people are out there, and are looking for a place of employment that rewards and appreciates them.