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The Exclusive Magazine for the Building Service Contracting Industry Since 1981

Hiring or Recruiting

Written by  Richard D. Ollek, CBSE


It’s no secret that the country has experienced higher than normal levels of unemployment over the last several years. But even with so many people looking for work, many BSCs are still having trouble finding and retaining good employees. Sure, there might be lots of people looking for a paycheck right now, but an increase in the quantity of job applicants doesn’t automatically translate to an increase in the quality of job applicants. BSCs should always focus on recruiting the best employees, rather than simply hiring the first people that walk through their doors. To do this, you need to convince potential employees that what you’re offering them is a “career” as opposed to just a “job.”

It is easy to get complacent in an economy with high unemployment numbers. As employers, we tend to think that we’re in the driver’s seat, but the economy will eventually recover and the job market will inevitably improve. And when it does, most of those computer technicians and administrative professionals you hired during the downturn will go back to their previous careers, UNLESS you have taken the necessary steps to keep them excited about a career in this industry.

Career Minded

Recently, five different BSCs called me in a single week, all lamenting the fact they couldn’t find reliable help and their turnover was so horrendous they were losing accounts. In fact, two of the five said they’d lost sizable accounts because of the constant turnover. Although each company had their own unique circumstances, one thing was consistent in all five cases: Rather than making a conscious effort to recruit well-qualified employees for career positions, they were simply hiring whoever happened to be applying at the time.

Unfortunately, such hiring practices are quite widespread. It’s common for employers in service industries with high rates of turnover to think, “Employees are just going to leave as soon as they find a better job, so why spend a lot of time with in-depth interviews and training programs?” Having this kind of attitude turns into a self-fulfilling prophesy because when employees sense your ambivalence in the interview, they don’t place a high value on the job either.

It’s important for us to change the way we view the positions we’re filling—it’s time to start thinking in terms of careers, not just jobs. But what if you’re only hiring part-time employees at low wages; should those positions still be considered as valuable? If someone enters this industry looking for a career, then every position is a potential opportunity to advance. Did you grow up thinking you’d have a career as a BSC? Probably not, but somewhere along the way it became your career. Now you can help someone else make it their career as well.

Hiring vs. Recruiting

How a prospective or current employee views their own position at a company often mirrors the way the employer views the position. To this end, it’s important you begin to RECRUIT employees instead of just HIRING them. What’s the difference? Hiring is an attempt to fill vacancies by whatever means possible. By definition, hiring is a reactive strategy. For instance, when hiring people, you’re simply reacting to the immediate needs of the day. A supervisor comes to you and says, “I need someone to start tonight at the south location and work from 6 pm and until midnight. They will need to know how to dump trash and run a vacuum cleaner.” Think about what typically happens in such a situation.

You’ll probably begin by going through that stack of applications on your desk (Remember, in an economy like this, you should have plenty of applicants). Then you formulate your hiring strategy by thinking, “I’ll call the first three applicants on top of the stack. I don’t really remember them, but I kept their applications, so they must be good.” Of course, the first two people you call don’t answer, but when the third one does, you put them through a tough screening process that likely goes something like this:

“Have you ever dumped trash?” you ask.

“Sure, my wife has me take it to the curb every Thursday morning,” they reply.

“Great, have you ever run a vacuum cleaner?”

“I vacuum my carpets every Saturday morning.”

“Sounds perfect. Can you meet with a supervisor at our office at 5:30 pm this evening?”

When they arrive at your office, they don’t exactly look like a top recruit. They certainly don’t match up to your mental image of the person you spoke with over the phone. At this point, you’re not sure if they are even breathing. Plus, you didn’t remember to tell them the job was 25 miles from their home, and after the second night of work, they realize their old car that gets 12 miles to the gallon is using 8 gallons of gas every night just to get to and from work. At that point, they let you know what you can do with your job. Or maybe they don’t let you know, and you find out when you check on the work and discover no one has been there. Or worse yet, the customer calls you the next morning to let you know that no cleaning was ever done.

Is this an exaggeration? Maybe, but if you really think back, chances are good that you’ve hired someone in a similar manner in the past (Or was that just yesterday). When hiring people just to fill open slots, you’ll take whomever you can find because you’re merely reacting to the current situation (nobody to do the job), in spite of the never-ending supply of available applicants.

Let’s look at how recruiting differs from hiring.

Recruiting is the systematic practice of locating, screening, hiring, and training high-quality employees. Recruiting is a proactive, rather than reactive, process. In fact, hiring is actually a step in the recruiting process—but it’s only one small part. Unless you’re engaging in all of the steps in a professional manner, you’ll find yourself stuck in panic mode, constantly dealing with high turnover and a never-ending cycle of frustration.

Committed to Excellence

Everyone in your organization should be actively involved with the process of recruiting employees, not simply hiring. One company I’m familiar with that fully implemented the recruiting process reduced their level of turnover to 25-percent below the national average for the cleaning industry. However, successful recruiting requires real commitment and not just a token memo from the front office. Here are a few ways to enhance your company’s recruiting, especially when it comes to the first step in the process—locating candidates.

Newspaper Ads: Some argue newspaper ads are too expensive and not effective enough. That’s often true if you just run a generic help wanted ad. However, if you customize your ad with key words and phrases like, “15 Career Positions Available Immediately,” you may be surprised by the number of responses. Someone once told me they only had 10 positions available, so to say there were 15 openings wouldn’t be true. Then I asked them if they had five employees they would like to terminate—because if they did, then they truly did have 15 career positions available immediately. For years I’ve used ads like this in both good and bad economic times and experienced great success. The keys words to use are “immediate” and “career.”

Career Fairs: Many cities hold career fairs sponsored by the local chamber of commerce or other business organizations, and I’ve found them to be quite effective. But these events are only effective if you convince attendees your company is offering career positions and are able to explain how an employee can advance through the ranks. In several cities, I even held my own career fair, so I was the only company there and didn’t have to compete with higher paying tech firms. I simply rented a hotel meeting room and made a carnival out of it. Such events require more work up front, but they’ve proven to be very rewarding over the long term.

Door Hanger Ads: You can place these ads on doorknobs at an apartment or condo complex near a job site. They should include the details of permanent part-time or fulltime career positions. With the rising gas prices, these hangars can be particularly effective at placing people in positions within easy commuting distance of their homes.

Guerilla-Style Business Cards: I’m particularly fond of using a head-hunter approach by having two-sided business cards printed. The front of the cards read, “THANKS FOR GREAT SERVICE” in big letters, and just below that it in smaller print it says, “My company is looking for GREAT career-minded people that display the positive attitude you’ve just shown me. If you’re interested in an exciting new career, please contact me at the address shown on the reverse side of this card.” Over the years, I’ve recruited several super people this way and some really great middle managers.

A few other effective methods BSCs are using include advertising with ethnic radio stations, at neighborhood malls, in local Penny Power/Penny Saver publications, and with job-placement agencies for the over-55 crowd. Obviously, in today’s business environment, the Internet offers myriad online resources that complement the ones mentioned above, providing us with a tremendous opportunity to get the word out about all of the wonderful career opportunities available in this great industry.

I firmly believe we should start viewing the career we have chosen as something to be proud of and recruit quality people to enhance the professionalism of our companies as well as the industry as a whole. In future articles, we’ll detail the other parts of the recruiting process, such as orientation and training, in order to elevate our new career-minded recruits into career professionals.

So which strategy are you using with your company—hiring or recruiting? The path you choose stands to make a big difference in your organization’s success.

Richard (Dick) Ollek is the senior consulting partner for Consultants In Cleaning, LLC, where he provides consulting assistance to Building Service Contractors. Prior to forming Consultants In Cleaning in 2005, he owned and operated his own cleaning and facility services company for 34 years after managing another company for 9 years. He has written 3 books for the industry on selling, human resources, operations and the do’s and don’ts of contract cleaning. He also writes a weekly blog that can be found on his web site at www.consultantsincleaning. com. Additionally, Ollek is a principal in Tripod Learning Associates, which produces a FREE Monday morning pod cast every week at www.tripodcast.com. In addition, he produces CDs and DVDs for the industry on a variety of subjects that are also available on the Consultants In Cleaning web site. Dick can be reached at 573.873.9500 or via e-mail on his web site.


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