by Allison Hester
There comes a time when every long-term cleaning business reaches a standstill. The company cannot grow without additional help. But hiring and managing employees – especially cleaning technicians – can be one of the scariest, most frustrating aspects of running a business.
When it comes to technicians, what qualities should you look for?
When I asked this question in our recent reader survey, several people just mentioned the basics: no tattoos on face or neck, someone who can pass a drug test, someone with a clean driving record. But is that really all you want when it comes to someone representing your company?
“Put yourself in the candidate’s position. Does drug testing, background checks and heavy lifting as the top requirements sound appealing?” pointed out Shane Duebell of Method Carpet and Tile Cleaning in New York. “Your best candidates are NOT desperate to find a job, so you have to lure them out. People stimulate poorly and then complain of the response. Kinda like running $99 deals then complaining about price shoppers.”
Remember, your staff is an extension of you and your company. While you may feel an almost desperate need to hire someone, you will likely lose more in the long run by rushing the process. But to get the right person for the job, you’ve got to be willing to make it worth it for them. You need to look at them as more than just a worker, and rather invest in them as a person.
“If your customers like YOU, it’s important to find someone you like and has a personality like you,” explained James Long of Innovative Glass in Knoxville, Tenn. “Then your customers will like them too.” Any time you post an ad anywhere, “you’re going to get a ton of undesirables with that ONE person. The trick is remembering you hold the cards and it’s OK to hold out for the right candidate.”
That said, have you read this month’s cover story? If not, STOP RIGHT HERE. Go read about Curt Kempton and 5-Star Window Care, then you can come back and finish this article. Hopefully you will have a better perspective on what is needed to truly build a staff that fits your company’s culture, not just a bunch of hired help.
Define Your Company
In this month’s cover story – and if you’re following directions, you should have read it by now – Curt Kempton reformed his staff by restructuring his company. He took what was a boring, frustrating window cleaning business and made it “sexy.” And he did it by redefining his company’s culture: “A customer service company that just happens to do windows.” So before you look at hiring workers – whether it’s your first technician or your 50th – you need to know what your company stands for. What’s your company’s mission? What are your core values? If you believe in strong customer service, then you need staff that promotes that. If you believe in a professional image, you need workers who represent that. If you need technicians to work as a team, you need to find people who are team players.
SIDENOTE: When interviewing for potential staff, several industry members warned about hiring “entrepreneurial” types because they often will learn the ropes, then take off and start their own companies. It’s something to consider.
To help you figure out what type of person you want to hire, consider the attributes of your best workers. If this is your first hire, talk to your industry friends to find out what they look for in a technician. Or think about the attributes of people you worked well with in the past. What was it about them that you liked? At this point, you’re not looking at cleaning experience. You’re looking at personality and behaviors, groups they belong to, and their hobbies. Past cleaning experience can be a benefit, or it can be a hindrance. It all depends on if the candidate is teachable.
Define the Role
Writing a job description is imperative. While it may sound easy, to do it right, you need to put some real thought into it. The more detailed you can get about what is needed, the more easily you’ll weed out those who don’t fit the job description. This is important whether you are simply taking referrals from friends or whether you are blasting a classified ad across Craigslist.
Writing out the description makes it easier for people to know if this is the right job for them (although some unqualified folks may apply anyway), and for you to know what you really need. Bill Kinnard of Tom Grandy and Associates, wrote an article entitled “What Makes a Great Service Technician.” In the article, he lists a number of qualities that service-industry employers should look for when hiring technicians, many of which you may not have considered. Below are a few highlights:
Behaviors: Technicians must be able to interact with others (i.e., be “people” oriented, not just “task” oriented); work well with customers and make them feel good about your company; and be able to change directions/plans with little notice.
Values: Technicians must feel rewarded by practical accomplishments (i.e., completing a job well), must value structure and be comfortable working within a system, and enjoying learning and improving skills.
Skills: Technicians must accept personal responsibility for their actions, be able to prioritize and complete tasks within allotted time frames, be able to quickly recover from adversity, handle criticism well, and be able to work toward goals despite obstacles that may get in the way.
While this all sounds great in theory, how do you figure out if a candidate has these skills? It’s not easy.
Organizations, such as Grandy and Associates, have assessments that can be utilized to measure these types of characteristics. Otherwise, it requires a lot of work on your part: checking references and asking poignant questions. For example, “Tell me about a time when you faced an obstacle in your last job and how you handled the situation.” Or, “Tell me about a job you found enjoyable. What did you like about it?” Or, “How would you respond to a customer who accused you of damaging her grandmother’s rose bush?”
Finally, try to figure out how well they listen. Assign them a simple set of directions – maybe an unusual way to complete a common task – and see how well they follow instructions.
“In my experience, the absolute most important thing for any successful employee is communication,” said Amar Ghose, CEO of Zenmaid Software, San Francisco. “You have to find employees who understand your requests and can communicate when there is a problem. Being able to communicate means you’ll be able to really give feedback and improve your cleaner’s productivity. If you hire people who are poor at communication, they may be all right cleaners but they won’t be able to improve as much with your help.”
Write Out the Job Description
• First, give a brief history of your company and the services you provide. For example, “ABC Washing is a professional exterior cleaning company that has been beautifying area residences since 2010.”
• Second, list the opportunities for the position. Benefits. Pay scale (optional). Opportunities for growth. Possible overtime. Being part of a team.
• Third, list your desired attributes: clean appearance, punctual, team player, customer focused. “We are looking to hire a customer friendly, team-oriented technician who enjoys working outdoors, learning new skills, working with customers and maintaining a professional appearance and attitude.”
• Finally, provide a list of “must” attributes. These are the deal breakers. Must have a clean driver’s record. Must have a valid license. Must have transportation to and from work. Must pass drug test. Must be able to lift 50 pounds, climb ladders, and so on.
Where to Look for Employees
When asked where to find potential staff members, referrals seem to be the method of choice. Friends, friends of friends, friends of family, and so on. “We have found most of our best employees through our current staff,” explained Dani Einsohn, owner of Corporate Cleaning Concepts, Inc. “Many of our cleaners know friends or family members who need work and can vouch for their reliability and attitude. Those are also the two qualities we look for most. Skills can be taught, but a positive attitude and willingness to commit to doing a great job are the qualities that result in a good long term employee for us.”
Another suggested option is to even ask customers for recommendations, and offer a bonus if the person they suggest is hired. Beyond that, Craigslist seems to be a favorite place for posting ads, and again, the more detailed the description, the better the chance of weeding out those who don’t fit your culture. Finally, using a temp agency has proven effective for some. A temp agency does the initial screening for you and weeds out those who don’t fit the bill. They do charge a high premium for their services, however, but then again, you are saving a lot of man hours having to search for and weed out prospects yourself. They also take care of filing employment taxes for you.