Sr VP of Business Development
Dealing with employees can be one of the toughest challenges for a shop owner. By learning some basic strategies of employee management, an owner can reduce stress level, minimize personnel problems, and better ensure the success of the shop.
Let’s start by going over some basic concepts. Employees are people you hire to work with you and assist you in achieving your business goals. An owner needs to have well-defined goals and be able to communicate them to employees to get their support. Good employees want to know what you are trying to accomplish, how they fit into the picture, and how they can benefit by helping you succeed.
To find and hire good people, you need to know what good people are looking for – what motivates them to get up in the morning and go to work. Of course people want money, but good people are also looking for a group to be part of, and they want to know that their work is contributing to something of importance. People always want to get compensated well for the work they do – but it is not the only thing they want. Many people also want stability, a well-organized, working environment with high morale and growth potential. Some look for an employer who can communicate clearly and who stays relatively calm even during times of high stress.
Take the time to sit down with your employees (or potential employees) one-on-one; find out what they want in life and what their goals and ambitions are. Make sure they understand what you expect from them, the level of production you demand, what their compensation will be if they achieve this level, and how this will help them get what they want out of life.
Your employee pay plan should reward high levels of production. It can even be tailored for each individual. One technician might work extra hard for a cash bonus while another might prefer paid vacation days for a reward. Just make sure you do not pay high wages or bonuses without also demanding high production. Many pay systems are based on hours on the job. These systems pay people who do not produce much the same wages as those who produce a lot. In companies with these systems, employees learn that if they just show up and look like they are working, they will get paid. It is up to the owner to demand high production and to reward it. Do not reward the underachiever.
Make sure you have a system for tracking and monitoring production, and graph and post these statistics weekly. Your best employees will feel acknowledged and, hopefully, the worst will feel the need to improve. Each employee should be responsible for at least one statistic that measures the main thing he or she is producing on his job. For example, each technician’s billable hours should be calculated weekly and depicted on a sheet of graph paper. Post these graphs so that each employee knows where he or she stands. Employees need to know that their employment and pay is based on their level of production and its value to the company – not on whom they know, their personality, or other arbitrary factors. An employer who does not enforce this kind of accountability from employees is likely to make personnel decisions based on guesswork rather than facts.
An interesting question to ask any employee is, “Where does your pay check come from?” Many will respond, “My boss.” Some are closer to the mark when they say, “The customer.” The truth of the matter is that employees’ pay comes from their own hard work and their ability to produce quality products and services that the business can sell to customers for income and support.
The executive of a business must be able to organize the activities of the business and train employees so that they will be able to produce valuable products. Most people want to achieve results they can be proud of and, to a great extent, it is up to the owner to make sure they can be proud of their products. It is an owner’s responsibility to make sure that all employees who come on board are given a clearly delineated job and adequately trained so that they understand how to do their job. They also need to be shown what their job means to the rest of the crew, and they need to know about the overall product the company produces. Unless every employee is aware of how his or her job relates to the final product of the company, you will never really have an efficient team working together to achieve your goals.
Mandatory weekly meetings with your crew will strengthen the concept of a team – that you are not just a bunch of individuals running around frantically trying to get something done – and will give you a chance, as a team, to review how the shop did during the previous week. It is vital to stay positive in these meetings, to accentuate and focus on the production and improvements that were made in the previous week, and to set targets for the upcoming week. Stay upbeat, and do not let the meeting drag on. If a particular employee did something above and beyond the norm, acknowledge him or her in front of the group. If there are any corrections or improvements you want to see, go over those, too. However, never single someone out for correction in front of the group. If you are unhappy with someone, always address this with him or her privately.
Help each of your employees see the priorities of the business correctly: first, to make sure the customer wins because without customers there is no purpose for the shop; and second, to make sure the shop is winning (viable) because without the shop, there is no purpose (or paycheck) for the employees. Finally, the employees have to win because if they can’t win, they won’t stay. Review these priorities at your team meetings and make sure everyone understands them.
Managing employees is a primary responsibility of an owner. Your success at it will be a reflection of your attitude toward the business. You set the tempo and the pace for your crew. If your standards are high and you demonstrate your commitment to meeting these standards, employees will follow. If you show genuine care for your people, they will respond.