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Business Operations

Take this job and love it!

October 05, 2011
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We all know that anyone out there who has a job, should be grateful for that job. But, unfortunately, that is not always the case. Unless you have completely lucked out as a boss or manager, chances are, you have had an employee at one time that was less than employable. Maybe he or she would arrive late and leave early. Maybe they talked back to you, or fellow employees. Or maybe their shirts were less than tucked in or clean. Last Spring, in our Industry Outlook Survey, we asked what was your top concern as a business owner, and hiring good employees was one of the top three answers. And, it makes sense. Employees can be the "face" of your business. They can perpetuate camaraderie. They can also spoil it. They can charm a customer. They can also make them run for the hills and never come back. So, in order to make sure you're hiring, keeping and properly employing the right people, we turned to key experts in the field, and we are giving you the secrets to making a worker employable, enjoyable and eventually irreplaceable.

The good signs and the red flags

There are some obvious, and not-so-obvious, good signs and red flags when it comes to an employee. Everyone is allowed to have a bad day of course, but there are traits and constant personality personifications to look for and steer clear of when it comes to hiring someone.

Chris Brown, vice president of organizational development for The Khoury Group, said there are two qualities to look for when it comes to a good employee. "I look for two attributes that are common, but rarely seen in the same individual … confidence and humility. Many people are confident, but they demonstrate it in such an overt way that it turns others i.e. co-workers, customers and management off. They are additionally tough to teach, which burns training and management hours. Others on the other hand, may demonstrate humility, but are so meek, they will not stand up for their interests or the interests of their employer. You need both."

Along with the aforementioned traits, Brown also said to look for:

  • Integrity
  • Job stability
  • Controlled enthusiasm
  • Good self-awareness
  • Tenacity
  • Team-orientation
  • Creative problem-solving skills
  • Strong written skills

Now, with the good traits, come the bad, and Brown said in terms of red flags, there isn't a checklist involved, but more like patterns of bad behavior. "Once a [boss or manager] recognizes that someone is ‘descending down the commitment spiral' consistently, they must act on it. If left unchecked, the negative person today will begin expanding their influence."

Some of the examples from Brown include:

  • An existing employee who begins missing work sporadically without good reasons.
  • Someone who takes liberties with a company asset without authorization.
  • Conversations that descend into inappropriate topics.
  • One who shows poor discernment or ignorance that can endanger a company's reputation (and open it up to legal liabilities).

How to encourage employees

Even if you have exceptional employees, it's important to encourage them and make them feel appreciated. Sure, an employee should just do a good job because it is their job, but if you don't let them know they're valued, they will seek work from someone who will give them the proverbial pats on the back.

According to Brown, most companies are structured as a pyramid with the leadership at the apex. "Our focus is in driving performances at the frontline where every dollar comes into a business, so we ‘invert the pyramid,' letting the frontline representative know how critical their role is. We then work with the management team to see the true value of their customer-facing employees. The higher level of respect and encouragement this generates drives good behavior forward."

Brown also said to align the motivational drivers of your employees with the success drivers of your business. "Someone may see a task as menial and dread doing such mindless work. However, if that person is trying to build a business or achieve an advanced degree, their organization skills will become of paramount importance. A smart manager will tap into their aspirations and align them with a task that gives the employee an education, not just a paycheck."

According to Mark Ellis, president of Southland Auto Wash of Grand Rapids, MI, they try to have their company goals (excellent customer service, pleasant and clean facilities, safe working conditions, consistent and speedy wash quality) match up to the expectations they put in front of their team members. "We regularly review and discuss our principles as well as the failures/successes of each team. Communication of expectations and measurement of achievements are very important. Bonuses and incentives should be paid for the achievement of specific and measurable objectives. Each person who is eligible for a bonus or commission should have easy daily access to a ‘how am I doing?' report/scorecard so that there is no surprise on payday," Ellis said.

Also, according to Ellis, managers need feedback through regular meetings on how they are doing. "Every employee who is made to feel valuable and listened to will provide a much higher quality customer service experience than an employee who is not listened to, or not treated well." Ellis said to create objectives (i.e. labor costs as a percentage of sales, or revenue-per-car-goals or targets for a specific sales item) that can be easily measured and will end up providing an opportunity for success. "Employee incentives," he said, "create a feeling of success and ownership."

Boosted morale = boosted workflow

It's no secret that happier employees will result in a better atmosphere and business in general. Also, the less turnover the better, not just for you, but for your customers who like to see familiar faces.

Stephen Richards Covey, the author of the best-selling book, "The Seven Habits of Highly Effective People," once wrote, "Always treat your employees exactly as you want them to treat your best customers." Or, in other words, be sure to thank them for their hard work and services, just as you would thank a customer for their visit and business.

According to Ellis, requiring a site to be manicured and clean, requiring employees to be neat and wear the correct uniforms, and asking them to be accountable for their schedule and their work, are all part of boosting morale. "When little is expected of staff, there is low morale. When a lot is expected, and standards are very high, employees respond with hard work and pride."

A few ideas from Ellis include competitions between greeters; these can work as long as they are easy to measure and understand. Meetings in which company financial information is shared can also allow employees to know that the business is doing well. "Tips can also be an important part of the business," said Ellis. "We prefer a tip jar … which states that tips are divided among production workers."

Brown said boosting morale is one of the biggest issues they have been helping companies with for almost 20 years. He said the best ways to make employees feel valued is to show them that they are trusted, that their input is valued and to use frequent and meaningful communication.

And, most importantly, don't forget to thank them for their hard work. Remember this quotation from Henry Ford, founder of the Ford Motor Company, "Coming together is a beginning. Keeping together is progress. Working together is success."

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