How to Hire a Great Employee
Ever since moving to Vermont, my wife and I have been struggling to find a good coffee shop. Recently we tried our luck at a little pizza shop that advertised an “Espresso Bar” on their window. As we walked skeptically in, there was no real direction as to how to place the order, there was a sign that read “Please wait to be seated” as well as a small counter that said “Please Place Your Order Here” and to top it off, the “Espresso Bar” was stuck in the back left corner of the room. Luckily there were not many people in the restaurant and the owner came out of the back to greet us. After explaining that we were looking for some coffee, she cheerily asked whether we were just looking for something hot, or whether we wanted something a bit more. She directed us to the menu above the espresso machine and after a few minutes of scanning the chalk writing I was unable to locate my favorite drink, an iced mocha latte. Finally I asked whether they served Iced Lattes, to which her answer was probably the best possible one given the situation… “No we don’t, but I’d be happy to make you one”.
Not only was the coffee the best that I have tasted in this area, but the entire experience was pleasant because the owner was willing to go above and beyond the expectations of normal customer service.
This last weekend we returned to the pizzeria looking forward to our caffeinated treat. As we walked through the door my eyes darted around the business in search of the lady, with no luck finding her we walked up to a sour faced, older lady standing in front of the order window. Right away I knew that this wasn’t going to be a repeat of our prior visit. “Could we have two iced mocha latte’s please” I asked. Evidently we weren’t allowed to place coffee orders at this window, as it was the pizza window, and she told us to go over to the espresso machine, so we took the ten steps to the machine and repeated the order. In the same voice that a nun, angry at a pupil, might haves used, she answered, “We don’t have those”. I explained to her that last time we were here the owner made them for us, but nothing I said seemed to sway her. After a little back and forth between me and the employee, the owner appeared from a back room and recognized us right away. She asked whether we wanted the same thing as last time, dismissed the employee to return to the kitchen and then proceeded to make the beverage from memory. Apologizing for her employee, she told us next time we were in just to ask for her and she’d come make the lattes for us.
As I write this post I think back to that experience and think, what a waste. As an employer, owners and managers spend countless hours seeking out prospective employees in order to invest their valuable time and money, only to have that employee be someone that they have to apologize for. Unfortunately this scenario plays out time and time again in business of all types, and while the employer may not be apologizing, the employee certainly isn’t performing to the standards that should be expected. What’s worse is that in most businesses employees will spend more time with customers than the owners and managers will. So the question becomes does the workforce in your business share the same passion for success that you do? If the answer is no, then it may be time to reexamine not only employee training, but more importantly your hiring practices.
In the next few posts I will examine each of these areas exclusively, however for now I will give a brief overview of each.
Having great employees starts with the hiring the right employees. As one friend, who specializes in human resources, very accurately put it – It is better to hire someone with the right mindset and great work ethic and then train them to do their job, than it is to hire someone who knows how to do the job but has a poor mindset and work ethic. In both cases a type training has to take place, but it is easier to train a skill, than it is to un-train a personality. Unfortunately, because of the busy nature of owners and managers, when it comes time to hire someone for your company you need someone ASAP and don’t have time to perform an extensive search and often time need to settle on the first qualified candidate to apply for the job. This ends up hurting your company in the long run because you end up with sub-par employees who may “work” but do not “Excel”. Instead of sending an inviting message to your customers you send a message that you don’t care for their valuable business.
My next post, which will actually be in two weeks, will examine in detail several key steps you should take in order to hire great employees.
In almost every case, businesses are in no position to fire every employee they have and replace them with new employees and the truth is I wouldn’t advocate for this type of action. There are some things that long term employees bring to a business despite how poor of an employee they may be. These benefits include knowledge of current systems and operating procedures, knowledge of the current customer base, experience in the position, and depending on the employee, speed. Regrettably long term employees and current employees also bring their own vises to the business as well; such as poor customer service, poor work ethics and possibly even less than honorable actions (theft). In the last case, no matter how long or great the employee is you should drop them immediately; however for the other issues you may be able to address the problems through a strong employee training program.
The idea of employee training may be scary at first, but it is a vital program that should always be ongoing, both for new employees as well as for employees that has been with the company for 20+ years. These training sessions allow for valuable communication between you, the employer, and them the employee. Along with skill building it gives you the opportunity to formally express your exceptions for the employee as well as correct any un-anticipated problems that may arise. There are many different strategies that can be used, which I will examine in detail in a upcoming blog post.
Everything comes down to your customers, of which the majority of your customers will interact with your employees. This makes the task of having a workforce that interacts in a way that is attractive to those customers a crucial part of your role as manager and / or owner. In order to develop this workforce it is better to have good hiring practices and hire the right people, however through a good employee training program you may be able to shape your current employees into a staff that is ready to answer your customers’ needs.