Hiring and human resources management are a giant pain for most employers. At a recent networking event I was sitting at the table with employers from six different industries - insurance, accounting, handyman, locksmith, storage, and housecleaning (that’s us!). To get to know each other better, we swapped some critical information about our companies, including: what’s your biggest challenge now? To our mutual surprise, every single one of us replied: “EMPLOYEES.”
At our company, Superb Maids, we devote a lot of effort and time to hiring and developing talent. It’s a challenging environment because the work itself is very hard and the quality of the applicants can be uneven. And the competing employers - major hotels - offer high compensation and numerous benefits. But, because our business - even more than perhaps many other businesses- depends on quality of our people, it is critically important to us. We hire less than 1% of the applicants. And in two years we managed to build a team of over 50 employees who are dedicated, professional, and smart. Here are some of the things that we learned that help us find and hire the best employees:
- Become a great employer for your current employees.
This is the most critical step. What’s the point of hiring new employees if the old employees are constantly leaving due to being mistreated? Most employers consider themselves fair and reasonable. But, objectively, are we treating our employees the best way we possibly can? Do we respect and support their personal lives, dreams, and aspirations? Do we communicate clearly and remove work stress and frustrations where possible? Are we investing in employees’ safety and wellbeing? Do we provide them with help when they need it?
When the employer treats employees well, not only do those employees then perform exceptionally for employer’s clients, but they bring their friends and family as new applicants. A large portion of our staff were brought in by friends or family. They work well together, get to see the person they love daily, and save money on gas when sharing rides. It’s a win-win-win.
The best part is - it costs almost nothing to be a great employer. To visit your employee in a hospital when she is sick. To give him time off when his children need it. To say: “thank you!” when she is doing an amazing job. We all wish we could be Google and provide free daycare, massages, and gourmet buffet to our staff. But most people will appreciate genuine kindness more than organic arugula and pancetta salad. I said most.
- Hire always.
Most employers are so dependent on their employees. Many have employees with severe attitude problems that cannot be corrected but don’t let them go because someone has to do the work. This poisons existing staff who now have to do the other person’s work and be stressed out about it. All people enjoy working with competent co-workers. So you need to weed out the bad ones asap. To be able to afford to do so - you need to always hire. Keep that ad running and have the process that runs like a fine-tuned machine.
- Constantly look for A-players.
At Superb Maids, we hire people for their attitude and intelligence more than for their cleaning skills. The latter (unlike the former) can be taught. But the A-players are typically gainfully employed - and appreciated by their employers - elsewhere. So you need to find them and steal them away. There is an amazing waiter in a small Flagstaff pizza place named Roger and an unknown Amazon female delivery driver who were surprised when I approached them and offered them a job cleaning homes. They didn’t apply. Yet.
- Strengthen your job ad.
Most job ads look like they were written by the same boring person in boring gray clothes, glasses, and boring expression on his face. Put a little life into your ad. Google “best employment ad” or “awesome job ad” and see what can be done! Use photos. Use exciting language. Think about it from the applicant’s prospective. What’s in it for them? Also, don’t just promise lots of money and benefits. Otherwise you’ll get applicants who only care about that. People who you want are the ones who also care about excellence, improving life of others, working with a great team. Put that into the ad.
- Place the burden on applicants.
Ask every employer about applicants who don’t show up for interviews. Or to the first day of work. You’ll get a lot of sighing, eye rolling, and sad stories. You’ll NEVER hear an employer say: “Wow, what’s incredible!” I only had to sit at Starbucks by myself three times after complete no-shows before we shifted the burden on applicants. It’s the applicants who have to call us, e-mail us, text us for every step of our lengthy application process. If they drop out along the way - that’s fine. It’s a flakey-people sorting machinery.
- Check the references and background.
So many employers skip those steps. Yet, they are so critical in identifying the super-employees. “This is the best employee I’ve ever had!” and “Um… This employee was late like five times in one week” is an extremely valuable information. Don’t have time to do it? Ask one of your other employees to perform this task. It’s important. Also, you can check background online. It’s inexpensive and worth it.
- Ignore the resume.
Resumes are a giant waste of time. Yes, it’s somewhat helpful to know generally where this person is coming from. However, in 15 years in law and business I’ve seen enough people with stellar resumes and shockingly poor performance and the opposite, that I’ve learned to simply ignore the resumes. Do the job test instead.
- Test on the job.
Obviously, the job test will vary for each industry. However, make it as close to the actual job the person will be performing. Even if he or she is not yet qualified to do it. It will tell you so much more than the resume ever could. At Superb Maids we give the applicants a small task of cleaning a bathtub or a shower. We watch the performance to see how thorough, careful, and energetic is the person. How well they can communicate and follow the directions. What’s their overall attitude? Do they act like they’re doing us a huge favor or like they can’t wait to get started and really want this job? Also, are they super cute and happy? So when our clients open the door for them one day - would they be delighted to have this person to step into their homes?
- Onboard well.
Once you found your non-flakey, happy, superachievers, do you dump them into your system and move on? No, you need to make sure they’re plugged-in well and they stick. Orientation, training, handholding, until the new employe understands company values, job objectives, and how things work around here. Without it, there will be a high turnover after the hiring and during probation period. This is the area that can be organized well with online training, documents, checklists, and different technology. Keep an eye on your new employees, make sure they’re happy and also performing well.
- Designate the growth path.
Most A-players will grow. We need to provide them a room to grow within our company. Or else they will grow elsewhere. You may have an idea in your head and grand visions for that employee. But they’re worth nothing unless you communicate them and turn them into a plan. Schedule periodic performance review meetings with your staff and outline goals. Try to understand how you can make this person’s life and professional growth better (even if it’s unrelated to working for your company) and help her get there. For example, at Superb Maids we have a Home Buying Assistance Program. We help our employees with credit counseling, saving, and applying for mortgage for their first home. We even contribute to the down payment. Professionally, we think about what management position would fit our employee well and help them develop the skills needed for that position.
We, employers, sometimes get aggravated and dispirited by the hiring and management issues. However, it’s neither expensive nor complicated to improve the situation dramatically. But it does take time, patience, and consistent effort. As a reward, we get to hear: “I LOVE MY JOB” from our employees and “OMG, YOU GUYS ARE AMAZING!” from our clients. And what can be better than this?