You’ll likely agree that finding & keeping great employees is the largest hurdle service businesses face today. You’ve no doubt heard phrases like “you just can’t find good help” or “kids these days don’t have the work ethic I did at their age”.
Sound familiar? Oh, you’ve never thought that? Right…. Inability to effectively manage employees stunts the growth of many businesses, therefore making it impossible to grow beyond the owner and perhaps a couple of helpers. The honest truth is that effective employee management is often the difference between creating a job, and building a real systematized business that can grow to its full potential.
Here are 3 tips to help you build a top-notch team that will enable your business to grow:
1. Start blaming yourself
This might sound a little harsh, but as business owners, we have to snap out of the ‘victim’ mentality and realize that we have control over employee management. If we are not happy with the results we are getting, it is up to us to adapt our approach. You might be confident in your ability and the techniques you have used for years to manage employees. However, the world is changing and we have to change with it. The ‘employee ecosystem’ is a lot different today than it was 20 years ago, heck even 10 years ago. With the rise of social media and an overall more “transient” minded workforce, young workers are now, more than ever looking to be a part of something special. Today’s rising young workforce wants to get “caught up” in your story. Many of them are idealistic, and the old fashioned method of invoking fear to get your way is dead.
What does this mean for you as the business owner? It means it is your job to make sure your employees buy into your “story”. Of course, you need to know what your story is before you can get others to buy into it. What are you really trying to accomplish? How do you define your company objective? What is the ‘feel’ of your company? This goes well beyond the mundane tasks of selling jobs and doing work. You need to get your team to connect emotionally to you and your company. Create a company culture that delivers more to your employees than just trading “time for dollars”. It is likely that you focus on making your customer’s experience unforgettable.
Do the same for your staff. Make work fun. Once you establish your company’s culture, defend it fiercely. Inspire your team with your example every single day.
Until you make this fundamental change in viewpoint, realizing that the culture of your business is under your control, you as a business owner will be stuck in the same ‘victim’ mentality that we hate in our employees, and this kills the growth of your business.
2. Attract the right people
I will concede one point: When it comes to employees, you have to have good ‘raw material’ to work with. (The 3 little pigs learned that lesson the hard way. Don’t want any straw employees now, do we?) The question then becomes, what ‘raw materials’ are we looking for in potential employees?
While it’s tempting to look for workers with the most skill and experience, the real key is to create the right culture in our business, and then hire people who fit our culture. This is far more important than job experience or skill. Skills can be taught, and experience can be gained. However, if we hire people who do not share our values, who do not ‘get’ our story, and who do not fit into our culture, it will not work and they will actually interfere with the team we already have in place. Culture & values often cannot be taught. Choose employees based on how well they fit your company culture.
How, though, do we go about attracting people who will be a good fit for our company? One good technique to achieve this is to implement a year-round recruiting program that your entire team participates in. When we open our eyes, we realize that there are great people all around us. They might be waiting tables at the local restaurant or working at the gas station. There are smart young people who would kill for a shot to work and grow under your leadership, right? Go get them, and train your team to go get them. Fortune 500 companies head-hunt for great employees. Why shouldn’t we?
Another tip is to gather resumes from competent people even when you’re not hiring. If you wait until you have a need to begin looking, you’ll often end up settling for the best available. You want to have a ‘waiting list’ of potential employees.
By the way, your entire interview process should be spectacular. You’re not just interviewing the potential employee, they are interviewing you. While you’re evaluating whether they are a good fit for your company culture, they will be evaluating whether they want to spend every day working for you. This is a first date of sorts. Don’t just grab an old pair of sweatpants and dirty shirt out of your hamper, so to speak. (Of course, if you run a gym, we won’t judge your sweats. Still, no hamper shirts.) Put your best foot forward and make sure that your company is a place that the type of employee you are seeking would want to work for. This is not all about what you expect from them, it’s also about what they can expect from you.
Remember, if this is not a good fit for both of you, it will not work for either of you.
3. Establish Clarity
Conflict in all relationships typically stems from unmet expectations. (This isn’t marriage counseling, though there are similar truths here. Don’t even think about laying on my couch!) Your job is to lead, not just manage. Great leadership starts with laying out a clear vision of your expectations to those who work with you. When something goes wrong, don’t assume it’s the fault of the pimply-faced 19 year old kid. Often, problems result from a lack of clear communication, and that burden lies on you. So, instead of always looking to place blame, find the holes in your company systems and fix them.
Every person in your organization needs to understand exactly how to fill their role properly, and it’s your job to provide precise instructions. For example, your service crews need to know exactly how they should engage your customer upon arriving at their home, the way they check in half-way through the job, the way that they document & communicate opportunities to up-sell, and the way they handle any conflict. This cannot be left to chance. It must be communicated, preferably in writing, in an easy-to-follow manner. We can even institute role-playing at our company meetings to practice how we would handle potential situations in the field. In this manner, our entire team will be fully equipped to serve as an extension of ourselves, and isn’t that really what building our company is all about?
Don’t expect your team to take shape in a day, because it won’t. You’ll have to lay the foundation for your company culture over time, and that can be a long & lonely process.
However, there is one thing I can promise you: Building a great team within your company is more than worth the effort, and you’ll reap the rewards from the culture you instill for years to come.
Take care and may God bless the work of your hands.