Cleaning & Maintenance Management Online
August 2014 Cover Feature

Attract The Best Employees

Steps for finding, hiring and keeping dependable employees.

July 31, 2014

Business leadership is a concept that is discussed endlessly online, in print, on television and at industry events.

Executive-level decision making past, present and future is commonly mulled, studied, criticized and debated.

Yet, the best executives and managers always understand that they do not work in a vacuum.

Though CEOs, directors and regional managers obviously have an impact on the day-to-day operation of a business or organization, it is employee motivation and teamwork that frequently makes the lion’s share of success possible.

Especially in the world of commercial cleaning — no manager can complete a full day of cleaning and safety responsibilities without dependable employees.

No matter how smart, experienced or dedicated, a manager must depend on his or her team to successfully meet the needs of each facility.

Simply put, a manager’s goal should be to find quality workers, get these employees on the same page and convince them all to (figuratively) pull in the same direction.

Even in this difficult financial era, there are proven steps that can help cleaning departments and companies flourish.

While the process of finding new employees and motivating workers often feels like an uphill battle, the joy and excitement created by a well-built team functioning at a high level will prove worthy of the struggle.

In The Field

Experienced facility managers and building service contractors (BSCs) have tried-and-true hiring practices that they have learned through decades of accepting applications and interviewing potential employees.

But for inexperienced managers and newer businesses, finding and hiring workers based on trial-and-error can be a painful process.

Finding employees: Many managers and businesses understand that current employees can be a good source for referrals, and organizations sometimes boost this process by offering referral bonuses.

One modern update to referral programs is a longevity-style bonus for the referring employee — the recommended hire must stay with a company for a set amount of time before the employee is paid a bonus.

By offering the referring employee payment after 90 days or a longer length of time, employees are more likely to recommend someone that is a better long-term fit for a position.

Matthew Kastel, manager of baseball operations and events at the Maryland Stadium Authority, says his operation still has success with basic job listings.

“With jobs being in such demand, we have had great success from posting positions on our internal website as well as the standard trade industry job postings,” Kastel states. 

Still, the job listing’s description remains important.

“We want to be clear in what the job entails and what types of qualifications an applicant must have,” Kastel explains. “Then, we only interview candidates that meet those qualifications.”

The facility and environmental services management team for the McWane Science Center in Birmingham, Alabama — this month’s A Clean Sweep profile (page 47) — stresses the importance of job listings as well.

Phillip Moore, McWane’s director of facilities, states that the McWane job listings concentrate on experience in the industry; the description says an individual must have at least two years of environmental services experience as a qualification.

Also, during the hiring process, the management team does their best to look in depth at the resumes and pay attention to the references, Moore says.

Over the years, the McWane Science Center has seen low employee turnover based mainly on two applicant factors: Job experience and length in previous employment.

“We have four full-time and five part-time positions,” Moore notes. “The folks we have on the full-time positions are very experienced. That’s taken into strong consideration, their length of employment.”

Interview process: Once specific applicants have been selected, the interview process is the next important step to find the best fit for an opening.

Kastel states that his operation calls on a group to conduct interviews.

“We use the team approach in interviewing employees, meaning we usually have at least three different people asking questions during the interview,” Kastel says. “This way we are getting the perspective of more than one person during the interview.”

According to Kastel, the team uses a preset list of questions to make sure they don’t miss the important aspects of what they are looking for.

This team approach to the interview process has definitely evolved for Kastel’s team over the years, and it has become more formalized as time has passed.

“By getting a group’s perspective on a potential employee, we found we have made less mistakes during the hiring process and have hired a higher caliber worker,” Kastel states.

Building Sturdy Success

A cleaning manager or BSC has done his or her best job to hire excellent employees and pieced together a successful janitorial team.

How can management encourage this team and push for exceptional results on a day-to-day basis?

Rich Karlgaard (www.RichKarlgaard.com), Forbes publisher and author of the book The Soft Edge: Where Great Companies Find Lasting Success, offered a number of tips as part of a recent article.

The article showcased various steps to help managers calm employee cynicism and build a successful company culture based on trust.

The most applicable tips to develop a strong team and retain quality employees are included here.

1) Never lie or hide the truth.

Karlgaard says there are many things a manager is thrilled to share with employees: “Our customer satisfaction scores are 15 percent higher this year,” or, “Our first quarter profits exceeded our goal.”

Yet, there are other things someone might not be so eager to share: “We’re going to have to downsize,” or, “There aren’t going to be any raises this year … and by the way, we may have to reduce your benefits.”

Tell employees anyway, Karlgaard says.

“Even when the news is bad, people should never feel they’re being kept in the dark,” he insists. “Transparency and trust must coexist.”

2) Show employees that you care.

When people don’t believe their leaders care about them, not just as workers but as human beings, of course trust can’t thrive, Karlgaard notes.

While it’s true that fake or contrived caring only increases cynicism, genuine caring dissolves it.

This means leaders must be “people persons” who stand up for their employees’ best interests and don’t mind showing (appropriate) affection.

3) Aspire to predictability.

It sounds a little dull as most managers want to be known as creative, outside-the-box thinkers.

Many don’t want to be bound by routine or limited by “the way everyone else does it.”

Karlgaard says that’s fine, embrace innovation to your heart’s content in areas like development and marketing campaigns; just don’t be unpredictable in your behavior, priorities and values.

“Unpredictability destroys trust,” he explains. “As a leader, your team should have total confidence that you’ll do what you say you will. They should have no doubt that you’ll keep your promises, act with integrity and look out for their best interests.”

4) Make it safe to speak up.

When your employees make an honest mistake, can they admit it without being scolded and belittled?

What about input and ideas?

Can they share those things and expect to be taken seriously?

Hopefully, the answer to these questions is “yes.”

Karlgaard states that everyone should feel confident that they can participate in meetings and projects, say what’s on their mind, be respected for their opinions and ideas and admit mistakes.

Either trust or fear rules an organization, and Karlgaard says managers and owners have to choose.

Fear-based culture can kill employee curiosity and quell exploration while dulling creative and stunting growth, according to Karlgaard.

In climates of fear, people are afraid to make mistakes, and fear saps performance, teamwork and morale.

5) Celebrate grit and gumption.

If a manager wants employees to be worker bees — performing the tasks that management designates, on a set timeline — compensate them with paychecks only.

If an operation wants employees to be partners, they’ve got to reinforce employees when they act like partners, Karlgaard states.

In other words, take notice when they display passion and motivation (grit) and initiative and guts (gumption).

“When employees do the things you want them to do — persevering through tough tasks, innovating, taking calculated risks — reward them,” Karlgaard instructs. “A simple ‘thank you’ can go a long way. So can public recognition at a meeting or through a company-wide email. The point is, notice and celebrate the behaviors you want more of. ”

6) Constantly drive home the “meaning” of the work people do.

One of the best methods to increase trust is to identify a greater purpose, your operation’s “true north,” as Karlgaard calls it.

Why do you exist?

What meaningful value do you offer to employees, customers or society?

A great purpose should be aspirational, not merely financial.

It should create a common cause and promote a collective effort.

It should answer all the tough questions of why:

  • Why commit?
  • Why persist?
  • And, most important, why trust?

“Figure out what meaningful things your company provides customers, whether that’s peace of mind, easier lives, reliable support or something else, and look for ways to convey that purpose at your company,” Karlgaard concludes. “It’s hard to be cynical about your work and your customers when you actually do believe in what you’re doing.”