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Best Practices

Best Ways to Retain Employees

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This information was provided by one of the focus groups at the seminar organized by Uri Ben-Yashar at NPE 2006. This focus group provided an overview on GPS systems as they apply to parking area sweeping.

Topic area moderator was Gabe Vitale, principal in C & L Sweeping Service, Inc. Presenter was Rodd Moore, manager of sweeping and maintenance company, C & J Sweeping, Inc..

by Ranger Kidwell-Ross

Rodd Moore First off, all at this focus group agreed that every sweeping company should be a member of the North American Power Sweeping Association (naPSa). Significant help is available through that group to assist in virtually any employee-related situation.

One of the toughest challenges is to retain good employees. Turnover can be tremendous. One of the most important factors is to hire the right person to start with. Because of the pressures of time, one of the tendencies is to hire anyone with a clean driver's license. The fact is, there are some other important determiners of how well an operator or other employee will do.

Be sure to do the background checks, reference checks and then spend some time to be sure the person will be a good fit for you. Beware of people who have been making significantly more than you can pay them, since they'll probably only be with you until they can find another job like the one they had that paid more money.

Consider that it takes about $1,000/week to train someone. At C & J Sweeping they have established a training form that the trainer fills out each day they do training of a new employee. By being able to check the training daily on an objective basis, we are able to make better decisions.

Clean Streets Insurance Program

A good way to train is to send the new person out with an experienced operator to run a blower for the first couple of nights, then drive the sweeper from account to account, then try sweeping in some easy places. Through this process, the person is evaluated by the trainer. In addition to the objective scorecard of the training form, we also solicit positive or negative comment from the trainer on a verbal basis.

One of the things that many sweeping contractors don't do is have a written job description for workers when they're hired. Best practices are important to have, but the only way you'll continue with them (and improve upon them) in the long term is to have them all written out. Especially for all the jobs in your company that have significant turnover, having a written job description is a way to save training time and, at the same time, ensure that best practices are maintained over time.

In some instances, reading the job description will keep an unsuitable person from applying in the first place, thereby saving you the time it takes to let them find out during training or on the job that they don't care for the job they'll be doing. When you consider hiring someone, you should be able to hand them their job description to take home with them.

Background checking: Resist the temptation not to actually follow through on checking someone's background. Call the job they just came from and ask if they would hire him back if he decided to come back. At least one contractor said if the answer was "no," then he wouldn't hire the person.

Drug testing: Make your drug testing program independent from anyone in your company. That takes away your liability from the testing process. [For a way to reduce the cost of drug testing people who won't pass the test, check out the our Tip #97 from our Sweeping Tips Clipboard.]

When you get a good employee, no matter what job they do, take care of them. Take steps to make sure they'll stay with you. Provide them with the benefits they need, because these types of people are few and far between. One way to take care of someone is via money. However, there are other ways, including benefits. If you can afford to pay any portion of benefits, then pay the portion your company can afford to cover. It will be appreciated.

You should look at what the health benefit options are, for example, different deductible levels. You might be able to offer a larger % of the cost when you have a higher deductible plan. As one contractor pointed out, when a wife knows they have health insurance because of the husband's work in your company, she's going to do what it takes to get him out of bed and to work on time every day.

Do some research to see what you can do in the area of 401k plans. Offer them even if you can't afford to match them. Sometimes, employees don't feel comfortable contributing to a 401k just because they're afraid they won't get their money back. Be sure to educate them about how these plans work. The more you can do to lock the employee in to your organization, the more likely he will stay with you.

Look for ways to find people doing things right and tell them what a great job they did, preferably in front of other employees. It's so easy to find reasons to criticize, but what really makes an impact is when you can find reasons to compliment and build up an employee who's doing things right.

Develop a bonus system. Recommendation was to make it a performance bonus available only for good performance. That allows it to be taken away. C & J Sweeping, for example, gives a bonus on a weekly basis to everyone who drives a sweeper for them. They start it at $.50/hour, and for most drivers it's raised before long to $1/hour. The bonus is given as long as there were no complaints on someone's work during the week. Get complaints about your work; lose your bonus.

Likewise, the performance bonus is also gone if a worker shows up for work even one minute late. Company policy, hard and fast. What this has done is to make the employees accountable. It makes a difference in many other areas of their actions, as well. And, employees understand that we administer the performance bonus fairly. Plus, keep in mind that this is a bonus, above and beyond their regular pay amount.

Get the workers' families involved with your company. For example, we keep track of the wives' birthdays. At several of the restaurants we sweep, we trade out for gift certificates that we receive once a month. These are used as gifts to employees and their families. When the family members are involved with the company in this way, the experience is that the worker will do a better job and have fewer missed work days.

Attendee Comment: One contractor said they'd been told that when they terminated an employee in their state they should not put the cause on the termination slip. The reason was so if the employee went to an agency to complain, the agency would have to call them for the reason. That way, they'd have an opportunity to explain what had happened that was cause for termination.

If you'd like to take a look, there is an overview of the ideas discussed above available as a pdf form in our 'Forms' section.

If you have any questions about any of the above ideas, feel free to contact the Team for a further explanation.

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