I came to the assessment business, almost seventeen years ago, via a chain of events. In my previous business life, as General Manager of a multimillion dollar commercial equipment supplier, I hired and fired Salespeople, Technicians and Administrative Staff. Like most people, I finally determined I really wasn’t very good at making people choices. My life seemed dominated by running ads, interviewing, training, disciplining and firing people, only to start all over again. All these activities took away valuable time and energy from the more important issue of driving revenue.
Then I discovered assessments. While reading an industry newsletter, I came across a small but powerful ad. All it said was; something like “Having Trouble Hiring the RIGHT people?” My first thought was, how did they know? To make a long story short, I called the number in the ad and my life changed forever. After implementing assessments my batting average improved dramatically. In a short time, every aspect of my daily business life improved. I was able to hire the right people who, in turn, did a terrific job and stayed in the jobs. Turnover dropped to almost nothing and revenue jumped through the roof. I was a believer.
However, assessments alone are not enough to make you successful in the interviewing and hiring process for your cleaning business.
Your mindset, going in to the process, is of equal or greater importance than anything else. The following points are some of the common pitfalls when interviewing potential cleaning employees.
Pitfall #1 – The Mirror Test.
Interviewing and hiring people can seem like a major time drain. Consequently, we all would like to get it over with as quickly as possible. This often results in hiring the first person that can fog a mirror. While being able to breath is important, it certainly shouldn’t be the foundation of a hiring decision. It is critical that you set standards and stick to them. Setting standards is not discriminatory. For example: You would not hire someone who is 15 years old. You aren’t discriminating against them based on age. They simply didn’t meet the age requirement standard. Hopefully, you would not hire someone who has had 15 jobs in the past 12 months. They didn’t meet your work history standard. Set standards that make sense in this industry and are designed to insure a stable and reliable workforce for your business. Then stick to your standards. All too often we rationalize why an applicant’s shortcomings can be overlooked “this time”. It won’t surprise you that these are the ones that you end up losing sleep over.
When, based solely on your subjective “feelings”, you instinctively “like” an applicant, your ability to look at and review the objective data (how they meet, or don’t meet your standards) becomes clouded. Think about how many times you’ve hired the “perfect” applicant, only to scratch your head a few days, or weeks, later asking who this person is, because they certainly aren’t the person you interviewed. Everyone wants a harmonious work environment for their staff and for themselves. However, you didn’t start your business to form a “club”; you did it to create a profit building business. Liking a candidate is NOT a reason to hire them.
Pitfall #3 – The Hiring Event
Good hiring is not an event. Good hiring is a Process. Hiring is not a box you pull off a shelf every now and then, when you need it. Hiring is a process that is always there, whether or not you have an immediate opening. Almost without exception, my clients all tell me that it’s easier to get new customers than it is to get new “good” employees. Generally speaking, that’s because owners avoid recruiting until the crisis is upon them. How different would your operation look if you had 3 or 4 candidates waiting to hear from you? How would your current employees view their jobs if they knew you had 3 or 4 candidates waiting for their jobs? Always be looking. Always be recruiting. Always keep building your bench strength.
Pitfall #4 – The Fishing Pond
There may be some exceptions to what I’m about to say, but I’ve not heard of any. Generally, your state department of labor is the worst place to look for applicants. Many, or most, of the applicants you might get from this source are chronically unemployable. They will often show up only to be able to report that they have looked for a job (required in some areas in order to continue to receive unemployment benefits). They don’t really want to actually work for a living.
Be mindful of the quality of responses you get, by source, from your advertisements. Quantity “may” be nice but quality is far more important. Be aware of the various opportunities, or options, in your marketplace. If you keep getting substandard applicants from a source, change. Depending on your market, you may need to get creative. Grocery stores often have community bulletin boards. You can type up 3 x 5 cards and post them. Churches often have Job Bank ministries. The bottom line is, keep your pipeline as full as possible. (see #3 above)
Pitfall #5 – Reduce hiring by reducing turnover
With all due respect to employees, they are in some ways like children (don’t hit me). My point is, they will test the limits and try to push your buttons from time to time. Also, like children, they need and want discipline. They need to know the rules and they need to be told when they’ve crossed the line. Many owners find it difficult to discipline employees. It does not have to be a big deal. It can be as simple as calling the person aside and saying “At (the name of your company) doing (whatever) is considered unacceptable behavior. I hope I can count on you to not repeat this in the future.” Be firm. That doesn’t mean angry. Be consistent. Enforce your policies and procedures evenly and consistently, regardless of tenure or personal relationships. Be realistic. Set goals and standards that are achievable. Don’t set your people up for failure by setting the bar out of reach. Be an active listener and let your employees know you really “hear” them. Always maintain High Expectations from all your employees.
This list could, potentially, go on and on. The items above, in my opinion, are among the more common pitfalls experienced by many of my clients. Don’t beat yourself up if you struggle with these issues. You are far from being alone. However, for the sake of your business and your sanity, you owe to yourself to make the effort to work on developing your skills and systems and standards.
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Bill Gelderman is the president and owner of The Steering Group, Inc, the supplier of the renowned Orion System to the residential cleaning industry. Bill has hundreds of residential cleaning clients throughout North America and has worked within the industry for over 13 years. The Orion System can help improve your odds by supplying information that is virtually impossible to acquire in the normal interview process. The Orion is all about reducing your risk. You can reach Bill at 866-290-8123 or firstname.lastname@example.org
Cleaning service owners that find this information useful might also want to read “Are You Cleaning Up or Are Your Cleaning Employees Cleaning You Out“, by Bill Gelderman
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