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Reeling in the best employees

September 19, 2010
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When Ken Galo, co-owner of Brookfield, WI-based L&K Facility Services, finds a well-maintained building, he turns it into an opportunity to recruit the cleaners for his company.

Following his game plan, Galo returns in the early evening hours in an attempt to catch some cleaners as they come in.

While talking with the team leader or supervisor about his or her job, Galo asks if the individual might be interested in other employment opportunities.

Recruiting the most effective and efficient workers employed by your competition provides one way to boost your company’s productivity.

But, whatever method you use to obtain your next cleaner, who you hire will effect how your business performs.

To aid in your quest for the perfect staff member, we’ve compiled advice from industry pros in various segments of the JanSan industry, as well as in-house and building service contractor (BSC) managers on the CM/Cleaning & Maintenance Management Online Bulletin Board (

Read on for tips, tricks and takes on recruiting that may help you find your next star employee.

The in-house manager

Jim Brewer, executive housekeeper, University of Texas at Arlington

During the years, I’ve learned that reliable, hard-working employees can only be attracted to a cleaning operation by reliable, hard-working employers.

People looking for work in our industry will gravitate to businesses offering three things: Good pay, job security, and benefits.

Good pay — although not a particularly good motivator for current employees — initially attracts job seekers because it’s one of the few ways to compare prospective employers.

The rate of pay needs to just exceed par for the area serviced by your company.

Job security is the next most important factor. People want to work for a place that will not go out of business and leave them without an income.

Potential hires compare the companies to which they apply in terms of how long they have been in business, and how organized and stable they seem to be.

An intelligent person — the type of employee you want working for your company — generally won’t give up a secure job to take one that may pay a little more, but puts them at risk of being out of work.

The management profile of a company — as reflected by present employees, owners and supervisors — will give the impression that either it is a fair place to work with opportunities for good people, or that it is simply a place for a temporary job until something better comes along.

While some job hunters may only seek an in-the-meantime position, this is not the type of employee a well-run business wants to hire.

Offering benefits will also add to the pool of prospective employees your company can choose from, since many potential candidates will consider sick time, holidays off, vacation time, and health insurance when deciding whether to submit an application.

By providing some or all of these benefits, you will garner employees even if your pay scale falls below the area’s prevailing wage.

With good supervision and intelligent bidding, even small companies can offer these professional perks to full-time employees.

As independent companies mature and grow, it is possible for them join a cooperative group that, together, has enough employees to get favorable rates on health insurance and other benefits.

The last factor in recruiting — and possibly the most important — is to hire often and overstaff.

You can achieve this by hiring two part-time employees for each new job opening. Give additional hours to the employee who meets your company’s needs, and immediately hire another part-timer.

Continue this cycle until you find a stable and responsible employee to fill the position.

When this has been accomplished, hire another part-timer as a fill in, and replace him or her as needed until you find a staffer suitable to replace the next cleaner who leaves.

If no one leaves, the result is a slight overstaffing, but the peace of mind is well worth it.

The BSC and consultant

Don McNulty, president, Bio Cleaning Services of America, Inc., Blue Springs, MO

One of the greatest roadblocks to growing a business lies in the art of hiring employees.

Many of my self-employed peers have said they cannot expand their businesses, or even worse, they are giving up because “they just can’t get good help”.

In the past, as a building services contractor, there were several times I went after a competitor’s employee who, I thought, had it all together.

On many occasions, my competitor was happy I hired the person so the company could avoid the hassles of firing the employee and dealing with unemployment compensation. However, a few employees worked into our organization very well.

I would try to spot these employees in buildings that passed my personal test for cleanliness. Once I saw a building that was kept clean, I would stop by every couple of weeks and walk through.

Once I convinced myself the person or crew was good at keeping the building up, I would arrive on site at the end of the day so I could make contact with the janitor(s).

First, I would comment on how I thought they were doing a good job, and then tell them I owned my own company and I wished I could get good employees like them. Usually, the conversation went my way, and I could schedule an interview.

But all in all, I thought hiring was just a crapshoot — sometimes you win and sometimes you don’t.

After a short, 10-minute phone interview, I would make a judgment and ask a seemingly qualified candidate to come in for personal interview.

Following the initial amenities, I would ask the candidate to fill out a short application.

The entire process would take about one-and-a-half hours per candidate. Then I would make my best judgment call, run our background checks, and hire who I believed was the best candidate.

However, the new employee often fell short of my expectations, and my company lost time and money; the cost of a mis-hire is estimated to be eight times the annual wage of the position.

My dad, a job supervisor in construction, always told me, “If you don’t know something about almost any subject, you can usually find the answer in a book” — wise words from a simple-living man I have taken to heart during the years.

After a short search, I read the book Topgrading: How Leading Companies Win by Hiring, Coaching and Keeping the Best People, by Bradford D. Smart, Ph.D.

And, after speaking with a few human-resources departments at large companies, I now practice “topgrading” in my own business and follow the CIDS method: Chronological In-Depth Interview process.

Screening employees takes more than an hour, and the overall interviewing process takes up to 22 hours per candidate — but saves recruiting time in the long run.

Now, we are building a great company with great people.

The head hunter

Alison Rosenblum, principal, Strategic Resources, Albany, NY

A major employer seeking to fill a maintenance manager position, which required second-shift availability, ran online and print ads.

Because of the hours required, many qualified candidates weren’t interested — leaving the position open for months, and sacrificing productivity and safety — so the manager decided to get creative.

She ventured out to the malls and department stores in hopes of finding someone working evenings. Sure enough, she found someone who was looking for a change, and was already accustomed to the shift.

Even though, if you recruit from the competition, they will likely do the same to you, you may end up with new talent and knowledge, leads to future employees and customers, and a boost to your company’s image.

To reap the benefits of this hiring practice, and minimize any potential downfalls, make sure to properly prepare yourself.

Step 1: Sourcing the candidate

There are several ways to target the person you want, such as:

  • Try Google-ing your competition. The Internet is a goldmine of information about other companies.
  • Use a company e-mail address you know to figure out the format and contact potential employees.
  • Search the company’s website for contact info. If all phone extensions are two digits, use that knowledge to navigate voicemail systems. When you hear cues, such as a message stating, “Joe Smith, facilities manager, is unavailable,” you’ve found your person.
  • Attend trade shows, conferences, or other networking events advertised through trade and business journals, local papers, and your chamber of commerce.
  • Look to your current employees for leads. Did any of them work for the competition? Who do they know? Consider instituting an employee-referral bonus incentive.
Step 2: Contacting the candidate

Directly approaching an employee at work is tricky. Keep it brief, to the point, and discreet.

Read between the lines. Since it’s difficult for your target to speak candidly at work, he or she may subtly indicate that you should speak off-hours — so, prepare for an evening or weekend conversation.

No matter what, don’t lose the contact. Even if the person isn’t interested, ask for referrals and obtain a phone number or e-mail address for future correspondence.

Step 3: Selling the opportunity

Once you have a scheduled time to speak freely, move the recruiting forward in an organized and timely fashion.

If you wait too long to interview, or you don’t make a decision quickly enough, you can leave a negative impression on the candidate.

Whether you consider this method of recruitment to be cold calling, direct recruiting, or stealing, it can be a valuable way of identifying talent for your organization.

Always remain honest and respectful of other companies — your demonstration of professionalism will speak volumes.

The manufacturer

Doug Sutton, director, Sales Operations and Talent Management, Kimberly-Clarke Professional, Neenah, WI

People want to be part of a winning team and a winning culture. As the old adage states: If you can’t beat ‘em, join ‘em.

In the ever-competitive world of business, it’s the people who make the company. Kimberly-Clark Professional recognizes this, and our goal has always been to hire the most talented people for every facet of our operations.

Our affective recruiting tools include our brands, our track record as an employer, and our position in the industry.

We’ve managed to achieve and retain our position as an industry leader, which attracts people to our organization, by:

  • Manufacturing the best products and systems.
  • Establishing and nurturing brands that people know and trust.
  • Running a customer-needs driven business and investing in effective, industry-leading business growth strategies.

We continue to attract and retain employees by:

  • Investing in our employees and offering them continuous opportunities for growth. Much of our talent is homegrown, and we retain these employees by providing them with new challenges and opportunities throughout their careers.
  • Providing a comprehensive training program that’s second to none. Kimberly-Clark University gives its “students” all the essential ingredients for success: Product knowledge, selling skills, performance management techniques, and leadership development training.
  • Creating and sustaining a winning culture that makes people want to join, and remain with, our organization.

An outstanding recruitment tool is the respect we’ve earned from our distributor customers.

Our distributor partners — recognizing the excellence of our employees in sales, research and development, marketing, and customer service and support — have helped to spread the word about our organization to prospective employees.

Our best recruitment tool is our reputation. Facilitating strong training programs, manufacturing outstanding products, and having successful business strategies, are all ingredients for creating and sustaining a winning company to attract the best talent in the industry.

Thus, the foundation of a winning business culture is also the cornerstone of a successful recruitment program.

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