In Defense of Employees

Your tech walks up to the customer, invoice in hand. Even though he has been at it for over 4 hours, His smile is genuine and the friendly conversation that follows is as if he had been a guest at a neighborhood cookout rather than working in 100-degree heat. He managed to finish the job 30 minutes earlier than scheduled, all without cutting corners or sacrificing customer service. The customer, awestruck at the experience she has just had, tells him, “I am awestruck at the experience I just had. I am going to leave great reviews on all of the online review sites. And I mean ALL of them. Even Citysearch.” She offers him a sizable tip. Your tech refuses the gesture. Instead, he tips his cowboy to her (because of course he’s wearing a cowboy hat) and says, “Much obliged, ma’am. But it’s all in a day’s work. The only reward I need is the knowledge that my employer has an extremely profitable ROI on the labor and supply costs they expended on this job.” He smiles and the glare of the freshly cleaned windows glisten off his teeth’s enamel in a diamond-like sparkle, while a perfectly timed bell rings off in the distance….

In my last column, I discussed the differences between an “Employee” and a “Window Cleaner”. Obviously, all window cleaning employers want “Window Cleaners” in their crew. They want to know that the people they are paying good money to have the same innate desire and passion to fulfill the jobs they are given to the best of their ability. Yet, we know that the person I described above does not exist. And if he does, please have him call me. Tell him I know where all the good taco joints are.

The fact is that most people who have a job cleaning windows are going to be “employees”. And there’s nothing wrong with that. We owners have the passion because we have invested our own blood, sweat, and tears into our businesses. “Employees” have not. Often, this is the job that allows them to pursue their own passions outside of the secular world. They have no plans to make window cleaning their life’s work. And why would we expect them to?

Since this situation is inevitable, what can you as an owner do to make the most out of your relationship with your “Employee”? Here are three practical things you can do:

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  1. Identify what they excel in. Rather than focus solely on the areas where they are lacking, try to find something that they sincerely do well. Are they really good at cleaning tracks? Then make them the “Track Person”. Do they do a really nice job cleaning screens? Then let them clean all of the screens alongside of you while you focus on the windows. Do they have great customer service when speaking with your clients? Maybe think about moving them out of the field and into the office. Why continually get frustrated with what they can’t do well, when you give them the best opportunity to succeed by allowing them to do what they are good at?
  2. Sincerely commend them. I am NOT talking about giving out Participation Trophies or coddling someone because you hate being the “bad guy”. However, if you point out every single time that your employee makes a mistake, then it would be irresponsible for you to NOT point out when they have made real improvements. Otherwise they’ll just give up trying. I mean, why try when it doesn’t make a difference with how you are treated? When you commend your employee for something tangible and specific, while acknowledging the effort that they have put forth, you give a viable incentive for them to continue doing their best.
  3. Make them feel like they are part of a team. This one is tough because if you haven’t fostered a “team culture” among your crews by now, you are going to have to start from scratch. Typically, an employee is going to be motivated by self-interest. Doing more than what is required to receive a paycheck is not in their self-interest. Conversely, if a person feels like they are “teammates” rather than coworkers, then they will want to be an active part in helping their crew accomplish the goal of the project, especially if they can exceed it. What crew doesn’t like to brag about completing a difficult job in record time? If your employee feels like they are being welcomed into a team, they will want to have a share in that achievement. Give them that opportunity by making them feel like they are a part of something special.

There are certainly other strategies that can be used to help you properly manage your “Employees”. I’d love to hear your ideas.  Did you notice, however, that I didn’t mention monetary incentives? While those certainly have their place in a company, they can teach “Employees” to only give their all when they will be rewarded with something extra. So, if you do decide to use them, make sure you use them wisely. You can’t keep throwing money at a problem like this and hope that it will clear things up. Instead, you must be willing to invest time and energy into helping your “Employees” be the best they can be. Put on your cowboy hat, Partner. It’s time to go to work.

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