By Bruce DeLoatch

Why can’t I find good employees? They just don’t want to work! I feel like a babysitter. They make dumb mistakes, come in late, and bring their personal drama to work. When I do find a good employee and train that person, I always end up losing him to a competitor.

Sound familiar? If so, you are not alone. The issue most expressed by successful business owners is difficulty attracting and keeping good employees.

I have been in the cleaning and restoration industry for more than 25 years as an owner, trainer, coach, and consultant. And I have seen my share of technicians.

Some become excellent employees who create a great career for themselves and greater profits for the company. These superstars are the keepers, the kind of long-term employees that help grow the company. Others seem to start out great but end up failing in the company mission. They may have personal issues, conflict with leadership, or face other problems that prevent them from carrying out their responsibilities. These employees usually don’t last very long.

There are also the employees who seem to do just well enough to avoid getting fired. Because they lack motivation, they need constant reminding, prodding, and occasional reprimanding just to keep them pointed in the right direction. This leads to frustration for you, fellow employees, and customers. Mediocrity becomes the norm. It is with this group that you may find your greatest opportunities as the business owner.

By all accounts, these are good people. They don’t steal from you or your customers. They come to work ready to perform. They wear the company uniform. They do their jobs—maybe not exactly the way you want all the time, but they do it. You may find yourself wondering, “Where is their drive? Why don’t they take some initiative? Why don’t they go the extra mile? Why aren’t they more like me?”

The truth is they are ordinary people. There is nothing wrong with that. Ordinary is normal. Most people are content working for a living, collecting a paycheck, and living an ordinary life. They are motivated by needs and wants. As long as the job provides most of their needs and some of their wants, they will be content.

You cannot effectively motivate people beyond that. If you try, you will create frustration for yourself and the employees. But you can inspire them.

Motivation versus inspiration

Motivation comes from outside; inspiration comes from within. Motivation comes from a desire to avoid pain or move toward gain. Inspiration comes from a desire to grow, build, and improve.

Interestingly, the word inspire also means to inhale. Just like we physically breathe in whatever is in the atmosphere, your employees will be inspired by the atmosphere, culture, or environment that you create within your company. What are your people breathing in? Criticism, negativity, fear, and frustration? Or positivity, constructive feedback, and opportunity?

Be honest. When you meet with your people, is it mostly to complain, find fault, and make rules? Or do you celebrate the wins, praise performance, and share the bigger vision? Do you help your people dream? Do you help them create and attain worthy goals? Do you help them see how their successes and the success of the organization are intertwined?

The truth

Here’s a hard fact that you might not like: Most long-term employee problems are really the result of leadership problems. Sure, you get a bad apple from time to time, but if it keeps happening over and over, look in the mirror—the problem may be looking back at you.

Effective leaders inspire people to do their best without constant supervision. Leaders make the company mission crystal clear in addition to how the employee fits within that mission. Effective leaders develop the followers into leaders.

Tips for Retaining Top Employees

An environment that follows the tips below will attract talented and loyal people:

Invest in your team. Help them grow; leverage their strengths rather than obsessing over weaknesses; and invest in training opportunities for them. Find out what their dreams are and help them achieve them.

Be kind and cooperative. Remove the fear of making mistakes. Yelling, criticizing, belittling, and ridiculing an employee is just being a bully. It is mean and counterproductive.

Provide a fair compensation package. Pay more than similar jobs pay. Provide other benefits like paid vacation, sick days, and holidays.

 

The best leaders are humble and leave their ego at the door. They put their people first. They invest time and money in training and employee development. Effective leaders grow their people and their people grow the company.

The solution

How can you attract and hire good people? They are all around you. Notice I used the word attract. Create the kind of place where people love to work.

Employees don’t leave companies to work for other companies. They leave people to work with other people. Why? Because they believe that they will be better off. It’s that simple. Your job as a leader is to create an environment that attracts good people who, once inside, don’t want to leave. They should feel that they are better off with you than anywhere else.

The very best people tend to work for the best companies. Like diamonds, they are a precious resource that you may have to polish before you can see the full potential value. Developing yourself as an effective leader is the best way to develop your people. Read leadership books and attend seminars. Learn from successful leaders. Find the full potential in yourself as a leader, and you’ll be able to awaken the full potential of your employees.


Bruce DeLoatch has been in the cleaning and restoration industry for 24 years. He holds three IICRC master certifications and is an IICRC approved instructor, an EPA Lead RRP instructor, and a behavioral studies accredited trainer. He can be reached at bruce@cleanerscoach.com.