Even though it’s an employer’s market in today’s tough economy, hiring and training the right person for a position within your company is still a tough job. It’s easy to end up hiring the wrong person. After all, hindsight is 20/20, but it’s an error that can be quite costly, so persistence and patience can help one’s efforts pay off.
“Our industry is very demanding,” says Steve Garcia, vice president of SMI Facility Services in Albuquerque, N.M. “From the outside looking in, it may seem simplistic but those in the industry know differently. In many cases key positions require long hours, critical thinking and strong conflict and resolution skills. In my experience, key personnel that learned to love our industry are the ones most likely to find success and move up the corporate ladder.”
Many factors go into choosing one person over another for a position, including skill set, personality, salary needs, experience and education. A question that has confronted many BSCs is the issue of formal education vs experience and which carries more weight.
“My personal view is to not give formal education too much value,” says Gary Penrod, a consultant to the building service contracting industry based in Hilton Head, S.C. “Certainly it is important in many fields that require very specific formal education (medicine, law, accounting), but many times one’s experience can work just as well, or maybe even better than formal instruction.”
Many BSCs agree that experience is golden in this industry, along, of course, with being a team player, having a good work ethic and intelligence.
Adds Garcia, “This industry is one of only a few that allows individuals, who have little or no education, to move up and become successful executives and owners.”
What an applicant lacks in formal education may be more than made up for if they are easy to train and eventually fit their position. But depending on the position, it can be very difficult to find the right person.
“We have found it can be a blessing in disguise to hire management in an economy like our current one,” explains Angela Paolini, owner of ServiceMaster PBM of Lincoln, Neb. “We receive good people that we might not have been able to find because they were happy in their current job but were laid off purely because of the economy.”
Once you have found that right person for your key staff position, which could be any of the following—general manager, supervisor, office manager night manager, day production assistant, director of operations, treasurer, and human resources coordinator— in many respects your work has just begun.
In your training procedures, it is vital that the new employee understands the company’s mission, organization and culture, followed by a specific understanding and appreciation for each position within the organization and how those positions relate to and interact with theirs. Observation and on-the-job training under the guidance of a mentor within the company also plays an important role that should not be overlooked.
“We feel like BSCAI certification programs (CBSE and RBSM) is the most effective training program we can give our people,” says Garcia. “We utilize the content of the program to train our people from day one since it is directly tailored to our business and was written by very successful people in our industry.”
Hiring and training staff is only one piece of the employment equation. Retaining staff is just as important to avoid a revolving-door syndrome, which can wreck havoc on company morale and on your bottom line with the constant costs of having to continually retrain. There are a number of factors that will make a person stay with your company or, conversely, leave for what they perceive to be greener pastures.
“Make them feel appreciated,” says Paolini. “Give them praise and recognition for a job well done.”
She adds that simple gestures such as a thank you note and inexpensive gift cards for lunch, gas, food or groceries can really go a long way in conveying your appreciation.
“I think key staff tend to leave when they feel they are in a dead-end job without the ability to move up or they do not understand what their role truly is,” adds Garcia. “Burnout is also rampant in our industry. We have to learn to read the signals of burnout and help guide them through those difficult times.”
When it comes to compensation, it must certainly be fair and competitive and coupled with achieving a sense of appreciation from management.
“Performance-based compensation works well, providing that the performance expectation is achievable and clearly defined,” says Penrod. “The employer is obligated make sure that the employee’s goals are within the capability of the company to provide. If they are not, it is unlikely that the employee will be satisfied.
Taylor Bruce, president of IH Services in Greenville, S.C., adds that you don’t have to provide the highest compensation, but it has to be competitive for the position and the geographic area. “An employee will leave mainly over mistreatment, favoritism or due to a lack of respect.”
Some employees may be taken away over compensation, but Bruce says that this is generally a small percentage.
“Compensation is a complicated thing. You have to evaluate the position, the local competition, the hours of work, and the flexibility of schedule. Don’t let a few dollars get in the way of the right person. Someone could be more expensive than another person but deliver twice the value.”