Stop me if this sounds familiar:
In the job interview, the candidate tells me, “Sure, I can do all of that.” Who knows that they can’t? Me! But I hire them anyway—out of desperation.
Here’s the reality. Sometimes, an employee would give us two weeks’ notice that they were leaving our company. And that was OK. Sometimes, we’d get one week’s notice. And that was tolerable. Sometimes, they’d just leave the keys to the truck in the front door mail slot and leave a note attached to their keys that they were gone!
It was really bad because we were always busy and needed everyone to be onboard. We were in the lucky position of having more work at our company than bodies to get the work done. I say “lucky” because we were able to charge the right price and be more selective about whom we did and didn’t work for and the type of work we would and wouldn’t do.
On the other hand, it was a problem because we were always in reactive mode when it came to staffing.
How bad was this approach to staffing? My brother, Marty, called our hiring test “The Mirror Test,” which sarcastically meant that in our desperation, all you needed to do was fog a mirror and there was a good chance you could be hired. We were of course kidding….sort of, anyway.
Well, something had to give, and finally it did.
One day I was chatting with Dan Holohan, noted industry titan and a great friend. He told me, “Al, you need to start thinking of staffing like a moving train. You never know who will be onboard for the whole ride. Some people will be getting on at different stops along the way. Other people will be getting off at different stops because either it’s their choice to leave the train or you’ve chosen to kick them off the train. You need to become proactive about staffing and not reactive.”
As always, wise words from a very wise man.
Dan's insight got me thinking proactively, and so I proposed to my brothers (with the blessing of our dad) to move away from only being reactive to always being proactive.
Here’s what being proactive means:
- We began to always recruit, even if there was no immediate need to hire someone. If someone came in and they were good, we had systems that would make them even better. And we always had more work we could be doing.
- We began to get better at the hiring process. We asked more questions and wrote their answers instead of always talking (which was born from our need to sell them to join us). We also created written and practical testing for each position at the company we hired for.
- We began to spend time in the orientation process. This was brand new to us. Because when we hired out of desperation, we needed them to get to work ASAP and they were never prepared the way they should be. So, we finally created a scripted orientation process onboarded them in a way that set them up for success right out of the station. We even ensured they were with good mentors, which was something we never thought about before.
- We began to invest heavily in training that could be done either side-by-side with the operating manuals in hand for inside staff, or with hands-on training in the Training Center on the common tasks a Tech would encounter in the field.
- Finally, we learned the hard lesson that retaining good people was by design, not by accident. We created career paths, gave them the training to keep on rising up in the company and matched their compensation to that.
Never get blindsided by reactive staffing again. Instead know you can trust that they can do everything because you’ve trained them the right way and you’ve witnessed them doing things the right way.