We've all heard the saying, "Insanity is doing the same thing over and over, expecting a different result." Well, in my 10 years of recruiting, I've seen many employers that either aren't willing to change or haven't taken a step back to see that they need to.
For some companies, hiring good people simply isn't going to happen unless they make some major changes. This may mean changing your company and maybe even yourself.
The bottom line is: the best people will always go to work for the best companies. So, are you one of the best companies? Ask yourself these questions:
1. How often do I make an offer to someone that never starts working for me?
2. How often do applicants not show up for our scheduled interviews?
3. How often do applicants not return my calls?
4. How often do I lose good employees?
If you want to hire the best people, you have to be perceived as one of the best companies to work for. If your expectation level for the quality of your employees is higher than what you can provide them in return, it simply doesn't work.
Just like in marriage, if one spouse doesn't feel like they're getting enough out of the relationship and the other spouse doesn't provide them what they need, they get divorced. Once someone is working for you, it's a marriage, but many of us can't even get past the first date.
To hire the best people, you need to provide them with a clean, organized and friendly office environment, honest business practices, clean and dependable company vehicles (if they're in a service/maintenance/installation position), the right tools to get the job done, good health benefits to provide for the well-being of themselves and their families, paid vacation and personal time so they can spend quality time with their families, work schedule flexibility so they can attend family functions or their children's activities, ongoing training to help them be better at what they do, your commitment to help them achieve their career goals, appreciation for a job well done, and oh yeah, a paycheck that doesn't bounce.
It all comes down to "Quality of Life." Is the quality of their life better working for you than it would be working for someone else? If the answer is yes, it's a good marriage. If the answer is no, you get divorced. If you haven't been providing a good quality of life for your employees, word spreads fast.
Why do you think that one company can't get anyone to respond to their employment ads in the paper and another company doesn't even have to run them? In many cases, it's because of their reputation.
If your company has a bad reputation in the market, it will take you years to fix the damage. You could have a great reputation with your customers, but you can't take care of them without good employees. Your employees are your customers too, and should be treated that way.
THE COURTSHIP BEGINSSo how do you attract the best people? Let's start with their initial call to your company in response to an employment opportunity. Think of this as the courting process. If you were trying to get someone to go out on a date, you'd go out of your way to make them feel comfortable with you and you'd want them to like you.
From the first person that answers the phone to every single person the applicant interacts with, the experience needs to be comfortable and friendly. If the people they talk to act like it's an inconvenience that they're calling, the applicant starts out immediately with a bad impression of the entire company. If you were immediately rude to someone you wanted to ask out on a date, what do you think the odds would be that they'd actually say yes? Not good.
Next, when the applicant comes to your place of business, it's just like inviting your date back to your house. If you've got boxes stacked everywhere, dirty floors and walls, an overflowing trash can and dirty laundry lying around, your date probably won't stay, and if they do, they probably won't come back. Your office doesn't have to be a palace, but it does need to be clean and organized, inside and out.
For field service, sales and installation employees, their company vehicles are their offices and should be treated that way. The vehicles should always be kept clean, organized and in good working order. When people see your company vehicles on the road, they get an impression of what kind of company you are.
The same thing happens when a prospective employee pulls into your parking lot. If there are old, dirty, and broken down company vehicles parked outside, it's a sign that you don't have much pride in your company and what you've built. It also stands to reason that if you don't take care of your company vehicles, you probably don't take care of your employees either. In addition, anyone might get the immediate impression that your company isn't very successful and may not be able to afford anything better. That's definitely not the impression you want to give to prospective employees or customers.
TRUTH IN DATINGIf you're not completely honest with your customers and employees, it will always come back to bite you. People tend to associate with people like themselves. Honest people only associate with other honest people and it stands to reason that the best potential employees are honest, ethical people.
Do your employees try to sell services to your customers that aren't needed just to make more money? If your answer is yes, you'll never hire the best people until you change your business practices. In addition, do you as the owner/manager do what you say you will? Employees and customers need to know that your word is good. If there's any doubt, there's a trust issue.
I've been talking a lot about courting, dating, relationships and marriage. Does any of this sound like advice from a relationship or marriage counselor? It should. How many marriages or personal relationships continue without trust and honesty?
A common thread is that all of these things are either seen or felt by a prospective employee. You don't have to tell them your staff is friendly if they really are, you don't have to tell them that you have a clean and organized office and company vehicles if they are, and you don't have to tell someone that you're honest if you're actually honest. People will see these obvious characteristics if they exist.
CEMENTING THE RELATIONSHIPYou may not be able to offer the level of benefits of a Fortune 100 company, but you have to provide the bare essentials; health insurance and vacation/sick days. You should pay for at least 50 percent of the cost of the health insurance for your employees and if you can afford to, a percentage of the cost for their dependents.
By offering and assisting with the cost of the health insurance, you're showing that you care about the well-being of them and their families, and the paid time off shows that you value the time they spend with their families.
Show your employees your appreciation for what they do for you and the company. Tell them thanks in as many ways as possible: thank you cards, free tickets to a movie, dinner for two, etc. Don't play favorites; treat every employee like an MVP, from your administrative staff to your top salesperson. The unfortunate fact is that most companies don't do this at all.
Are you the type of owner or manager that will yell and scream at an employee in front of their peers? That type of emotional abuse simply drives away good employees and should never be done. It not only negatively affects those that you're screaming at; it makes everyone around feel uncomfortable. If you went home every night just to be yelled at by your spouse, how long would you stay around? And, your employees won't stay around either.
People need to feel good about coming to work, not threatened. The bottom line is that you need to treat your employees the way you'd expect to be treated.
One of the characteristics of many top performers is that they always want to better themselves and advance their knowledge about their chosen profession. If you aren't willing to promote and support their quest, they'll find another company that is. Helping your employees to better themselves benefits you directly. The better they are at what they do, the better they can serve your customers.
You can't just support them verbally though, you need to make it possible for them to attend the training classes and seminars without losing pay for missed time or having to go after work or on the weekends when it cuts into the time they spend with their families. By not only paying them for the time they're attending the classes, but paying for the classes themselves, you're showing them that their goals are important to you as well. If you're worried about the cost, don't. You'll make back the few days of pay and the cost of the training classes with dedicated employees and low turnover.
SO, WHAT ABOUT THE MONEY?Money is rarely what attracts a good employee or keeps them with your company. It's the intangibles. It's the way they feel when they come to work. Don't get me wrong, money is important. If you're not paying market value or above, you'll never attract the best people, but if you paid someone 10 times what they're worth and gave them nothing else, how long would they really stay?
People need to be able to pay their bills and provide for their family, that's why they have a job. But, they spend more time at work than anywhere else in their life and it needs to be a pleasant and rewarding experience.
There are perhaps hundreds of ways to help you to be perceived as one of the best companies to work for, but if you make the decision to do any of them, you have to be 100 percent committed. It will solve so many of the problems and day-to-day struggles in your business.
You may never be able to hire people with the same work ethic or dedication that you have as an owner, but by creating an attractive environment for the best people, you'll get real close. If you could walk away from your business for weeks at a time and everything keeps running just as if you were there, you've got good employees that care about the company and truly appreciate what you do for them.
Isn't that the whole point, to have the freedom as a business owner to be able to enjoy life a little? Well, you can't do that without good employees, and you can't attract the best employees if you're not one of the best companies to work for.
Mike Mayberry is the founder and president of HVAC Agent (www.hvacagent.com) and Plumbing Agent (www.plumbingagent.com), the largest employment resources for the heating, air conditioning, refrigeration and plumbing industries.
Publication date: 01/23/2006