2006 Winter/Spring Volume No. 6
It’s the People…How to Find, Develop and Keep Good Ones
Customers enlist your company to take care of their sanitation needs. However, there are competitors in your area who also can do the job. Customers have choices … what makes them choose you?
The answer usually comes down to one of three reasons—price, service, and people. If you spend all of your efforts concerned about price, you are in a no-win situation. You can never set your price low enough to make up for quality service and good people.
On the other hand, if you provide the best service and the best people, you will never have to play “the price game” and lower your price to keep a customer. They will value what you provide, because you make every effort to provide more value.
Great service builds fortunes in repeat customers. Poor service will drive your customers to your competition.
As we have said earlier, your company’s commitment to provide quality service drives your success potential. That commitment includes how you service, how you train employees, the condition of your equipment, your management objectives, and your employee compensation and motivation strategy.
People Make the Difference
You need quality people to provide quality service. Finding them, training them, motivating them and keeping them can be one of the most challenging parts of your job.
1. Finding Good People
In a service business like portable sani-tation, personality and character are more important than experience and skill. The skills can be taught, however the determination to always do your best for the customer comes from internal motivation.
People who are committed to service have a unique psychological profile. But finding them isn’t as hard as you might think. In an interview, you’ll be looking for “service traits” and they aren’t difficult to spot.
You aren’t looking for the smartest, most experienced, or most successful individual. Instead, you are looking for people who are selfless, giving, helpful and dedicated.
Start an interview by asking them why they want the job. If their immediate reply has something to do with themselves, a new car, a new apartment, etc. there’s nothing wrong with that, however it may indicate they are more interested in themselves than in being a service to others. If instead, they say something about helping their family, learning your business, or helping others—they are outwardly focused and probably a better candidate.
Ask them what kind of jobs they enjoy. If they have trouble answering the question, chances are they are not committed to providing service. If they talk about jobs where they have to solve problems, fix things, help people, or make things better, your candidate is probably a more service-oriented person.
Ask if they have any outside hobbies or interests. If a can-didate mentions volunteer work such as helping with youth sports, church activities, or family interests, you can bet they are focused on being a service to others.
Ask them what they do on mornings off. Service-oriented people tend to take care of chores before going off to do things for themselves.
Ask, what is their ideal vacation? If it has to do with sitting on a beach or by a pool, they may lack ambition. If they talk about plans to do something active like fishing, camping, or exploring new places chances are that they have some ambition, they like learning new things, and they don’t mind working a little to get what they want.
2. Motivate Employees
People have an innate desire to be valued by others. Therefore recognition tends to be one of the strongest motivators. Recognition comes in many forms and is always appreciated if it is deserved and if it is sincere. Superficial recognition is worse than no recognition. A pat on the back is good, but a compliment at a company meeting is better. The important thing is to remember that those whom we supervise want to be valued and recognized for their contributions just as we do. Never miss an opportunity to praise, especially in public.
Another strong motiva-tor is our human need, to be part of a group. Indeed, a major part of anyone’s identity rests with their sense of belonging, whether it's to a family, church or work team. Most people aspire for a real sense of purpose. It is important that all employees know the vision and the values of the company and know they are encouraged to represent these values to the customers. Managers and owners who create an inclusive family atmosphere also create a loyal work force.
What should you focus on to improve employee commitment and motivation? According to The United States @Work Study, US companies need to focus on the following key areas:
Businesses should involve employees in planning organizational changes and in building spirit and pride.
Employers should solidify the link between job performance and pay.
Employers should provide increased opportunities for personal growth at work.
One way to encourage personal growth is to sponsor training programs and skill certification training such as the program offered by the Portable Sanitation Association International (PSAI). You can find out more at www.psai.org.
Training connects directly with productivity. One study in the 1990s indicated a 300% return on investment for employee training. Yet many businesses fail to recognize the importance of continued training. Another common mistake is to train managers or salespeople but not service workers. Smart companies train all employees.
3. Keep Good People
The number one reason people leave a job is the “M” word. You may assume it is “Money” because that’s what leaving employees will tell you. The truth is, most people leave because of “Management.”
Great managers also need to be service oriented. If your main interest is getting people to do the job so that you make more money, you will have a hard time keeping good people because your focus won’t be on what you can do for them, but on what they can do for you.
Since service-oriented people want to feel like they are part of a team or an extended family—that they are all working together to accomplish a greater goal—it is management’s job to set the goal, get everyone involved, and share the rewards when it is met.
To create a family atmosphere in a business, owners or managers need to be genuinely interested in the people who work for them. They should know and appreciate the uniqueness of each employee as well as their personal hopes and goals. Managers need to ask themselves, “What can I do to help my employees succeed?” Then they need to monitor that success, not as a watchdog who barks if they don’t succeed, but as a mentor who encourages them to try again, while complimenting and rewarding when they do succeed.
Employees want to know that their boss will back them up should a more senior manager or a customer question some-thing they did. Workers respond best when they know their leaders value them and “have their back.” Obviously, em-ployees who chronically cause problems with customers don’t fit into this category.
Another way to keep good people is to provide fair compensation. It is essential if you hope to attract, develop and retain peak performers. These days, “fair” means much more than just a salary. Flexible time, profit sharing and health insurance, and retirement programs may be necessary to attract and retain the best employees. These benefits are the norm in other industries and are even awarded to entry-level workers at the local Wal-Mart.
While health benefits may be out-rageously expensive for a small business, other benefits that workers appreciate cost next to nothing. Flexible work schedules, for example, are an easy benefit to offer. In most families these days, both parents work, which makes having someone at home when the children get off school a fundamental need. To make this possible, early mornings or late nights may be acceptable schedules for servicing restrooms, perhaps even more efficient since traffic is greatly reduced during these times.
Often an employee’s decision on whether to stay or go comes down to the bottom line—a competitor is offering them more money. To keep your business from losing its best people, it makes sense to pay just a little bit more than your competitors. In the long run, you may save money by keeping good people and avoiding the cost of hiring and training new ones.
Today’s service revolution is creating a new set of winners and losers. The win-ners will be those companies that provide superior customer service, strive for zero customer complaints, and provide training and benefits to motivate their service employees.
The number one reason people leave a job is the "M" word. You may assume it is “Money” because that’s what leaving employees will tell you. The truth is, most people leave because of “Management.”
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