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The Exclusive Magazine for the Building Service Contracting Industry Since 1981

Our Greatest Asset is Our Employees

Written by  Mark Malerba

DID_YOU_KNOWDid you know that the average turnover rate in the janitorial industry is approximately 250 percent? Turnover is not only very costly, but it creates inconsistency that can translate to loss of clients.  There are several ways that you can attract good employees and, most importantly, keep them.

Turnover is not only very costly, but it creates inconsistency that can translate to loss of clients. There are several ways that you can attract good employees and most importantly, keep them.

At our company, we have been able to limit our employee turnover rate to approximately eight percent—over 30 times less than the industry average. How have we been able to retain our staff and maintain such a low turnover rate? A few years ago, we implemented a formal employee recognition system that encompasses several programs. One of which is the Employee Referral Program that rewards those employees that refer a new employee to our team, who is then hired. Remarkably, 97 percent of new employees hired through this program are still employed by our company. Since we have so many long-term employees that have been with our company for 15 to 25 years, we felt they would be an effective resource to recruit new staff and it has been a huge success.

Concurrently, with the launch of the Employee Referral Program, we introduced the Employee of the Month Program. Formal recognition and positive reinforcement are important components of an employee’s development and this, too, has received nothing but positive feedback. Employees are nominated by their peers, supervisors and even clients. Award recipients receive a gift, a full-page write-up in a newsletter and are publicly recognized on our radio advertisement. When we started doing the radio advertisements, the station manager called to let me know that they had received several calls from listeners who were taken aback that an advertiser was spending expensive advertising dollars to publicly recognize employees. Employees truly appreciate hearing their name on the radio and it is something that their family, friends and co-workers can all share in.

Our company also celebrates with an annual awards ceremony where we recognize award recipients for Employee of the Year, Most Improved Employee and Perfect Attendance. Our entire management team participates in the ceremony, which includes plaques, gifts, speeches, photos, food and refreshments. Other forms of employee recognition include anniversaries, birthdays and retirements.

Communication with employees is paramount. Our company has an open-door policy where any employee can speak to any member of our management team without going through a hierarchy. The one-on-one conversations with employees are important in learning not only about what products or equipment are working well, but also about their personal lives—their challenges, dreams and aspirations.

It is important to speak to staff when there is an opportunity for improvement and when a job has been well done. A formal tool in which to do this is through performance evaluations. Managers and supervisors perform employee evaluations—new employees receive an evaluation prior to the end of their 60-day probation period. Current employees receive an annual performance evaluation that is reviewed with them in order to establish a development plan for improvement. The performance evaluation of managers and supervisors is also performed annually.

Another tool in which to achieve effective employee communication is an employee survey. This year marked the first time that we have ever distributed an employee survey. The reason for the survey was to find out what we have been doing well, where we can improve and what they think about our company. The feedback was excellent and, in some instances, eye-opening.

The survey results were communicated to all staff and those employees that had specific comments or concerns were addressed individually. Perhaps my favorite question in the entire survey was the one that asked, “What are your personal goals?” It was interesting to read these personal goals that included paying off a mortgage, sending kids to post-secondary school, learning to read, write and speak English and going on a family vacation. After reading these responses, I wanted to find a way to help employees achieve these goals. So, I contacted our account manager at the bank and set up banking seminars for our staff to learn about savings plans, investments and retirement planning. In the New Year, we will be introducing group banking that will further assist them in achieving financial stability.

An important factor in maintaining low turnover is hiring the right people. The hiring process is extremely important because it requires patience. If there is an immediate opening, there is a tendency to fill the position as soon as possible. However, this can lead to more problems if the right candidate is not selected. Selecting the right candidate is vital. If you have interviewed five candidates and are unsure about who to select, then it probably means that you have not found the right candidate. There is no harm in waiting and continuing to search for the right candidate. The last thing you want to do is hire someone just for the sake of doing so and then have to go through the process again only days or weeks later. Screen the resumes, create a standardized interview questionnaire and check references. You’ll be surprised at the impression the sixth or ninth candidate makes on you and you’ll be happy that you didn’t rush into hiring someone that you knew wouldn’t work out.

Some other ways to maintain and retain staff include making staff feel like part of the team/family, leading by example (hard work promotes hard work), being transparent with what is happening in the business (employee newsletter), and asking for staff input and feedback. Thank you—two little words that go a long way in helping an employee feel appreciated as well as bonuses, gift cards, event tickets and discussing goals and objectives. This can be done in an informal setting or a formal setting, depending on the situation and topics should include salary, holidays, work schedules, etc.

As an owner or chief executive, it is your responsibility to put your employees in a position to succeed. You must treat your employees with respect and listen to their needs. Giving respect and leading by example earns respect from your employees. Provide them with the necessary tools including the right equipment, cleaning materials and proper training. All of our employees participate in and benefit from ongoing, motivational training programs that include workshops, training videos, seminars and on-the-job training. Training is an investment in our company that also has a positive payback for our customers because properly trained, motivated workers are more productive, more efficient and less costly in the long run. In closing, one of the first and most important lessons my father taught me when I entered the family business was that in order to achieve your goals, you must climb the ladder one rung at a time…a strategy that can be successful by surrounding yourself with a loyal, hard-working and dedicated team.

Mark Malerba is vice president of Metropolitan Maintenance in London, Ont. Visit www.metromaintenance.ca



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