– By Courtney Wisely

Your employees are a reflection of your business and your name, therefore you need to be 100% confident in their ability to uphold your reputation. You have spent a ridiculous amount of time and energy crafting your business and creating a rock solid reputation and the last thing you want is to have all that destroyed by one bad choice in hiring.

How do you make sure this doesn’t happen? This guide will teach you some tips and tricks to not only avoid the landmines in hiring, but to keep your employees happy and beat the terrible employee retention rates that our industry is known for.

1. Be Picky, Not Desperate; You have the higher ground!

It’s ok to be picky! Remember that your company and the job you are offering is worthy of excellence. Don’t hire out of desperation. This is when you end up making those bad hiring decisions where you say…

“Well, even though she hasn’t stayed on a job longer than three months, I feel like this time would be different because she seems really eager…”  

How many of you have tried to convince yourself of that? Then what happens? You know the answer…

The exact thing that you knew would happen all along: You pour your time, energy, and money into training them and then they quit less than a month later. Why didn’t you see it coming? You did. You just didn’t want to admit that at the time, you were desperate and settled.

Overstaffed > Understaffed

Until you change this pattern, you will always be doomed to hire the wrong people because you aren’t prepared to wait it out for the great ones. So how do you change this?

  1. Always be one step ahead of the game by constantly interviewing.
  2. It’s ok to hire someone even if you can’t offer them a full schedule right off the bat.
  3. It’s ok to tell them that until they prove themselves in skill and reliability, they will start off slow and then ramp up.

There is absolutely nothing wrong with being overstaffed! In fact, it actually forces you to grow! If you are constantly understaffed, then you are actually hindering your ability to grow because you may be turning work away or halting marketing because you are filled up.

So, what scenario would you rather be in:
A growing business with a limitless future OR a stagnant one that is shrinking and limited by employee count?

Set your hiring goals straight

The great thing is that it is very easy to get out of the stagnant business model and start growing. Set your hiring goals based on where you want your business to go, not where it is now. Hire for that business you know you on your way to being. Watch how it will magically start growing because now you are prepared and ready to handle the growth.

2. Create a valuable reason for them to stick around besides needing a job

Let’s just be real, this is a hard job and it isn’t for everyone. How many people have you hired that said they just love love love to clean? Now, how many of them are complaining about how much they are sick of cleaning after a month? It’s a little thing called burn out…

Why does burnout happen?

That’s because this job wears on you fast and hard. If you are seeing a pattern of people quitting around 1-3 months in, it’s time to think about what you are offering and if it’s worth it. I can tell you that if you are paying your cleaning techs $10-$13 an hour, it’s not worth it to them.

It can be frustrating when the employee was enthusiastic in the interview about the chance to make $13/hr but then acts as though it’s a huge imposition when you ask them to clean one more house at 3pm. You assumed they would continue their enthusiasm well after their interview, but forgot that they will get tired, worn down, and just plain exhausted. The physical demands on their body are only tolerable if they truly value their job.

So how do you create value?

Compensate Reasonably

Obviously, the first step is to pay them a wage that they know they wouldn’t get anywhere else. I recommend at least two and a half times your state’s minimum wage is. This will allow them to not just pay their bills, but actually enjoy life a little more because they can afford it.

The feeling of making a difference

Then make sure they understand how important they are to your company and vision. Employees just want to feel like what they do makes a difference in someone’s life so show them that. Gather reviews from your clients and make them feel great about themselves. If your employees see value in what they do, they will stick around for the long haul.

3. Take Training Seriously

Training your employees should not be a fly by the seat of your pants process, but I’m betting a lot of you have found yourself doing just that at some point in your business if you aren’t doing it now. If you have ever hired an employee out of desperation, chances are you were too busy with clients to train them properly.

Confidence

A solid training program is one that is structured and dedicated to making sure that the new trainee feels 100% confident in their skills every time they walk into a house. They should know exactly which products to use on which surfaces, and which not to. They should be able to navigate any room in any type of cleaning without missing a beat.

Clarity

Whether you use the speed cleaning method or one of your own creation, the fact is there has to be a trainable black and white method. Without that framework, you will find inconsistency across the board between each cleaner and in each home. Furthermore, having a solid training program in place will allow you to truly measure whether the new trainee is a rockstar, or just a pile of rocks weighing you down.

Respectable Rigidness

A company with a real training process in place is also one that is taken seriously by employees and clients alike. Employees want to know what the rules are so that they don’t break them. That feeling of uncertainty makes them uneasy and question whether they are doing a good job or not. Clients feel more at ease knowing that no matter which cleaner arrives on their doorstep, they will receive the same quality of cleaning.

4. The Sandwich Method – How to critique without berating

Having employees and being their boss is a lot like raising children to be honest. They are going to fight, they are going to make mistakes, and eventually, if you raise them correctly, they will make you proud.

All employees want to feel appreciated by the owner and most will be thrilled and proud when you compliment their attention to detail, or the fact that you really appreciate their reliability. However, if you are afraid of being the bad guy and only dish out praise while avoiding the mistakes, they will unfortunately learn that they can walk all over you.

Confrontation can be a good thing

How many of you have employees that talk to you as if you were their peer instead of their boss? How many of you have gotten a complaint because they missed the inside of the microwave, the shower shelves, the top of the fridge and half the picture frames, but you were afraid to confront them with so many mistakes for fear of retaliation, so instead you bring up one or two and hope the others were a fluke… guess what?

It wasn’t a fluke. If you don’t make your employees aware of what they are doing incorrectly and teach them the proper method, then why would you ever expect that they will change?

“Knowing is half the battle” but let them know the RIGHT way. In fact if done properly they would treat it like a challenge and perceive it as a chance to improve themselves to be even better than before!

The sandwich method is by far the best way to give constructive criticism. No one wants to hear constant negativity. It will make them feel terrible about themselves and the job. Instead, think of two things that they did great, even if they are small.

Compliment + Critique + Compliment = Change is coming!

When you need to point out a problem, sandwich it between the two positive things and watch how they can all of a sudden take the criticism without feeling bad about it, and in turn actually wants to fix the problem.

For example:

Compliment: “Jessica I love how much attention to detail you have in these bathrooms…

Critique: “… however, in order to get through the house in the allotted time, you are going to have to pick up the pace.

Compliment: “I can tell you are getting faster each day, so I’m sure you will be up to speed in no time!”

5. Development

Developing a rockstar employee is the dream of every business owner. However, it takes a lot of time, dedication, and money to get them to a level that you consider truly remarkable and most owners never find that diamond in the rough. Even more common are the owners that thought they did find their perfect employee and then watched as they learned everything they could from you, made you trust them, and then stabbed you in the back and stole your clients or your money. You are left in shock and never even saw it coming.

If that has happened to you, take solace in knowing you aren’t alone. Many of us have had to come back from that gut punch and everyone of us has gotten through it. So how do you keep that from happening?

Past & Personality

Well, the first step is making sure to check references before you hire anyone. Check their job history as well as their character. There are many online free personality assessment tests that will give you a pretty good idea of their character.

I would recommend looking into the D.I.S.C. Assessment. It is something that will not only tell you the kind of person they are but also will give you ideas of how to best approach them in every kind of situation and get the best response.

Training doesn’t stop

Also, don’t forget that once they are out of training, they still need ongoing development. This industry breeds complacency so make sure to keep your techniques top of mind by introducing new ideas and revisiting original training methods.

6. Give them some benefits!

A lot of small business owners think that offering benefits is completely out of the question, however there are a lot of benefits that you can offer without breaking the bank. I have had a lot of success with benefits like Aflac and Telemedicine. They are extremely cheap and cost around $10/mo per employee. I also like to give gift certificates for monthly massages. Since this is such a physically demanding job, the cleaning techs absolutely love this gesture. If you can find a massage therapist in your area that will be willing to barter, you can offer this benefit at a really reasonable rate.

Small things go a long way

Employees just want to feel appreciated and any gesture, no matter how small, will go a long way. If they constantly feel like you truly value them as people, they will work harder to make sure you are proud of them and take criticism without retaliation.

They will also be more likely to continue to work for your company longer than most cleaning techs in the industry because they are happy. It’s a simple concept, but imperative one. Keep them happy, and you will beat the employee retention rate problem that plagues so many cleaning companies across the world.

7. Team Meetings

Team meetings are so extremely important for building team morale and keeping things fun and exciting! Our team meetings are quite the event and I make sure they are something my employees can look forward to. You can have team meetings as often as you would like but I recommend at least once a month.

Time & Pay

I usually plan on an hour and a half and of course pay them for their time. Depending on your state’s minimum wage, you can gauge team meeting pay off of that. Currently, our state’s minimum wage is $7.75 and I pay $10/hr for team meetings. You can use that as a basis for deciding your own pay structure.

Have an agenda

Our team meetings are structured well before they actually take place. In fact, my operations manager and myself actually have an ongoing team meeting agenda that we add to throughout the month as we come across new items that we need to discuss with everyone.

Praise

Some things that we make sure to mention are the excellent reviews and will call out individual employees to praise. They act embarrassed, but they love to get the recognition as most would.

Refresher on training & Connection

We do things like play Speed Cleaning Jeopardy so our cleaning methods stay sharp. We also have them tell us stories about our clients. I usually ask them to tell their funniest stories from the month as well as their most bizarre ones. This will always lighten the mood and get everyone laughing.

Resolve any issues

After everyone is in a great mood, that’s when I will bring up any constructive criticism that needs to be addressed. I never ever call anyone out individually so as not to embarass them in front of their teammates. We always end our team meetings with praise and goals for the next month.

8. Culture goes both ways

Company culture is something that you should pay attention to from the very beginning no matter how small you are. It is important to get this in place upfront so that as you grow, new employees are welcomed into a culture that they are excited to be a part of. Strive to be the best job in town with employees that are honored to be a part of your success story.

Charitability fulfills the heart

So how can you create a company culture worth talking about? For starters, be the kind of company that gives back. I recommend joining Cleaning For A Reason or any other type of non profit organization. Cleaning For A Reason is an organization that matches women battling cancer with local cleaning services.

Members of the non-profit pledge to clean for them for free two times. It is something my entire team loves to do and many of them have formed special bonds with the patients. It is a really rewarding feeling to be able to give back and make someone that is battling with cancer, happy.

Being heard

Other ways to create a great company culture is to make sure all the employees feel like they have a voice. I recommend giving each employee the floor during team meetings if they have something to say, or even implementing a suggestion/comment box if your team is big enough.

We have a no drama policy and encourage constant support from each other. We constantly remind them that we are all on the same team and are only as strong as our weakest link. We build each other up and make sure they know that they work for a company that truly cares about them as individuals and only want to help them succeed.

9. Be the leader

Remember who is the boss and don’t ever let your employees walk all over you. I can tell you from experience that they will react to the first sign of weakness. If you seem like you are unsure in any way, they will doubt your decisions. This is when you will find that you have trouble with employees going off the rails and trying to do their own thing.

Confidence

Be confident in yourself and your policies and they will follow suit. Employees don’t want to work for someone that doesn’t lead them in a successful direction. If they wanted to be the leader, then they would have their own company. Remember to appear confident in every decision even if you aren’t.

Love to lead

Employees, especially the good ones like to be lead. They want to be lead in the same direction as their coworkers because that is what is safe and comfortable. Employees want stability and to know that they never have to worry about whether or not they know how to do their job. If you explain your policies and procedures right up front and leave no room for grey areas, they will adapt and thrive.

Have a handbook

I recommend having an employee handbook that covers everything from dress codes to requests off. If you have all these things in place, your employees will feel confident that they work for an owner that knows exactly what he or she is doing, which makes them less likely to even consider doing anything their own way.

10. Professionalism

This is a category that I think a lot of us have trouble with. It is very easy to be professional with our clients, but working side by side with our employees can sometimes blur the line. If you are still in the field cleaning, I know it can be difficult to not be candid with your employees working right alongside you. You are going to laugh together and get to know each other on a more personal level, because that is just human nature.

Clear Lines

That being the case, keep in mind that the minute you start talking to your employees as if you are on the same level, that defined line between boss and employee will become blurry. This is when you will have a hard time pointing out things they did wrong, saying no to their requests, etc. It is much harder to be their boss if you are their friend as well.

Add some distance

If there is any way to add one person in between your employees and yourself, I highly recommend it. I can tell you that as soon as I hired my operations manager and she became the direct line of communication instead of me, everything changed. The employees no longer call me or text me with any questions. They ask my ops manager.

Keeping that separation has made our company more professional, not to mention myself more sane! Before this major change, I had a hard time disciplining the employees because of the fact that we were so friendly with each other. Now, if there is an issue, and they have to talk to me, it is so much easier to put on the boss hat because that’s all they have ever seen me as.

Remember your employees look up to you and just want you to help them succeed, If you can learn to separate business from friendship, they will not only respect you more, but will rarely stray off the path of success.