Following various social media posts, I notice that one of the most discussed topics in our industry centers around finding reliable employees and getting them to stay. Members of the various groups mention how they use the different recruiting websites or how they target certain age groups, such as over 55 or college students, etc. Most BSC’s report that despite today’s uncertain business climate, with unemployment still widespread, they still struggle to secure reliable employees.
My take on this popular subject is that finding reliable employees may not be the real issue. People can be found, and there are good ones (and bad) in all age brackets available if we are willing to do some things differently than most of the industry currently does. We are all aware of needing to work with and treat the various generations differently, and some of you have, no doubt, heard me give presentations on that very subject. In addition to dealing with that issue, let me share with you some of the areas I believe employers need to focus on in order to reduce the revolving door of employees:
• Hire for potential careers rather than filling vacant job openings: The definition of “hiring” is filling vacancies by whatever means possible to get the positions filled right away. On the other hand, recruiting is having a systematic way of finding, screening, hiring, and training potential quality employees, based on the idea that your company has career positions and opportunities available. It is an ongoing process. Some of you are probably saying, “But I’m only hiring part time people and they are just looking for a paycheck.” My response is that if we don’t tell them about the opportunities they won’t know about them. My question is: “How many of us started in this industry thinking it would be our career?” I certainly didn’t, and I now have over 50 years in it, and I’m still enjoying the opportunities it presents. In fact, my first experience at running a floor machine was to run the handle right into the wall of a brand new school building. This business was certainly not on my mind when that happened.
• Be creative in how you recruit: Advertising for prospective employees can take shape in many different directions. Some of the most effective recruiting strategies include: 1. If you use newspaper or online advertising, be creative. Don’t try to cut corners with abbreviations like P/T, F/T, etc. Also, let them know you have several positions available, such as “5 immediate openings or 10 immediate openings.” Many times, we recruit people for line positions who don’t have a great deal of self-respect or self-confidence, so if your ads states that you need one part-time evening cleaner, they might think they wouldn’t make the cut for just one position and not even apply. However, if you tell them you have 10 immediate openings, they’ll probably like the 10 to one odds better and apply for the position. For those of you that only have seven openings and feel that you wouldn’t be telling the truth by listing 10 in your ad, let me ask: Do you have three people who you would get rid of if you found 10 qualified applicants? If so, you do, in fact, have 10 immediate openings.
2. Individual headhunting worked well for us. We had business cards that on one side said, “Thanks for the great service you provided me today. If you would like to discuss career opportunities with my company please contact us at the address on the reverse side of this card and give the card to the receptionist to staple to your application.” On the other side was our company name and address. We were able to recruit some excellent mid-level managers using this approach. I have been asked if this was the moral thing to do. Do you think someone else would recruit your employee if they felt they would fit their organization? Enough said.
3. Conducting in-house career fairs, doing neighborhood- specific promotions, and renting flea market booths are a few other effective ways to be creative in locating career employee candidates. We will discuss these and other ways in future articles.
"Too often, the only time employees hear from the office or area supervisor is when there is a problem or complaint from the customer."
• Conduct an effective interview: Do you treat interviews and prospective employees with the seriousness and attention they both deserve? Are you asking the right questions to get the answers you need to make an informed decision, or do you just ask them if they have cleaned before and go from there? Additionally, do you interview them when they are available or do you make them come back between certain hours? Are you open later in the evening, so they can come after their other job to interview? I always find it interesting that so many companies close their human resources office at 5 p.m. or only interview between two and four in the afternoon, when they are hiring people that most often begin work after 6 pm. Shouldn’t the office be open until 7 pm, so the applicant doesn’t have to take off their other job for the interview or worse yet, the good ones don’t come at all because of your limited interviewing hours? What about being open some Saturday mornings? We found some of our best potential career employees by being open on select Saturday mornings.
• Take new recruits through a thorough orientation and initial training program before they go on their first assignment: I believe there should be a written script of the orientation and the initial training so each important subject is covered in detail before they go into the field to their assigned position. Even if the script has to be read in the beginning, do it, so all subjects are covered. In the previous two issues of Services, I wrote a series of articles discussing how to establish an effective training area and in what sequence to do the training. I know that many companies send their new people out to work with an “experienced” employee for a couple of nights to “learn the ropes.” Some of you have probably heard me say that it may also be the rope that hangs them because even the best employees get into bad habits. They don’t do so intentionally, but it does happen more than you think. Not to mention, if you don’t have an effective ongoing “refresher” training program, bad habits can multiply and be passed on to other employees.
• Give your employees constant feedback about how they are performing: Most employees want to do a good job, so working with them and teaching them additional tasks will be greatly appreciated. Too often, the only time employees hear from the office or area supervisor is when there is a problem or complaint from the customer. If they never hear any positive feedback or receive any extra training, they will certainly not view their job with your company as a career. In this case, it really is just another job.
• Make employees aware of available promotion opportunities: Interestingly, BSC’s often complain they don’t have anyone to fill a crew leader or supervisor position, when in reality they haven’t really looked very hard. We frequently feel we have to recruit a supervisor away from a competitor, and at the same time, the competitor is attempting to hire our supervisors. Many times, if we were to ask current building supervisors if they have anyone we could promote, they will give a resounding “No.” Most often this is because they now have a steady crew, and if they recommend one of their staff, then they’ll have to train a replacement and that makes them have to work harder. It happens. One solution is to get to know your people by having ongoing supervisory training opportunities, where you can observe invitees in attendance, and then you are in control of whom you promote. We used this method for years by holding quarterly supervisor meetings, where we would invite people from the various buildings who weren’t supervisors. This gave us the opportunity to closely observe them, and when promotions became available, we made every effort to promote from within.
These are just some of the areas of focus that I believe employers need to concentrate in order to find and keep reliable employees. I have witnessed dramatic reductions in employee turnover when companies have embraced these concepts. Not to mention, the employees they brought onboard for part-time positions that later became career employees with their organization. If you are not already engaged in these processes, let me encourage you to give it strong consideration.
Richard (Dick) Ollek, CBSE, RGC, is the President and CEO of Consultants In Cleaning, LLC, where he provides services to Building Service Contractors. Prior to forming his company in 2005, he spent 43 years as a BSC, 34 of them as President and CEO of his own company. He has written 4 books for the industry on selling, human resources, operations, and the do’s and don’ts of contract cleaning. In addition, he can be heard on a weekly pod cast at www.tripodcast.com. He also writes a weekly blog that can be accessed through his web site at www.consultantsincleaning. com. Dick can be reached at 573.374.1111 or through his web site.