Is it Really Just About Finding Good Employees? NO!

I hear one common thread from most retailers in the last six months, “You just can’t find good help these days.”  I have heard that for so many tears I could scream!

Let me give you a prime example:  I was reading the Wall Street Journal and a major retailer had one or more branches that were asking employees to call in before they come into the late shift or to stay longer if it gets really busy.  If businesses really think you are going to build a loyal staff pulling stunts like the above then it is no wonder employees are getting fussier where they work and they work they do.

On the other hand, I know people really don’t learn many trades in schools anymore.  In other words, employers are going to need to hire someone with basic skills and teach them your culture, policies, procedures, and basically teach them all the tools to keep your customers satisfied.

Before you start to disagree with the last statement, wouldn’t you want to know that your employees were educated specifically for your industry, store location, culture and you know it works.  You and your staff have been running the business effectively and you know that this combination of training has been very effective because you still continue to have clients coming to your store to experience the shopping, trade, professional advice, etc.  You have worked to make the clients’ presence a thing of value and the clients keep coming back because they are confident that your staff will continue to be informative, helpful and always be there to help.

Develop a cross training plan and implement it immediately, if you are looking to keep the most helpful staff in town in your industry.  From my past experiences, your clients will love these changes.  Do it TODAY!

PEP Offering Hiring Seminars & More

As I read back on my last months’ worth of blogs, I wondered what ideas could spring forth that would help the average business owner the most in their near future.  What I found that could help local businesses the most would be to attend a hiring seminar.  This will help you place the right staff and grow your business’s success sooner rather than later. 

I truly believe that  business owners need another leader in place to be successful and limit burnout, which could lead to an unproductive crew.  I also offer a free leadership seminar to business owners that truly want to move forward and minimize the burnout for the owner.

I have several oter seminars that I think would belp overworked business owners get back into the position of creating ideas and leaders.  Stay with us the next few weeks as we describe some of the seminars we will be rolling out. 

If you have ideas that you think would help as well, please let me know and we can try to work those in too.  Give me a call anytime, (701)751-1500.

Hiring New Employees the Right Way

Again, I walked into a store and the cash registers were full of clients emphasizing that they were short of qualified candidates.  In their search for qualified candidates, I would surmise, that many of these businesses are not using the same questions to all candidates.

Why is this important?  How can you possibly interview multiple candidates without asking a minimum of the same questions to all applicants?  It is necessary to do this to actually find out which applicant is truly the best candidate  for the job that you are currently hiring for.

I will also bet that most employers are not even calling for references on candidates.  Many employers have never called references.  They seem to think that input from someone who knows the candidate won’t share information.  I have found that at least one of my questions would almost always get input from the reference which either made me happy because the input was good, or the references would bare their soul to me and provide me with information that which saved me from a bad hire.

If I were to venture a guess, leadership is a prime reason that many quality employees will not stay at a place of employment.  If the employer doesn’t have consistent leadership that educates, encourages, and mentors employees as needed.  It is also of utmost importance that these leaders lead by example or your staff will never be top notch in your industry or community.

If you are interested in learning more on hiring in today’s economy?  We will be offering hiring seminars this fall.  Currently we are offering these hiring seminars at no charge.  Take advantage of this and join us to pick up hiring pointers.  Our seminars are small group (10 employers max) to allow for more interaction and idea sharing.  Call today, 701-751-1500.


Matching the Right Applicant to Your Job Opening

The easy part many times when looking ahead to the next year for your company is forecasting sales.  This entails looking at the previous year sales, expenses, and net profits while working on improvements to surpass the previous year in profitability with your employees being a large part of that success.  The hard part when looking to the coming year is matching the right person with their personality, background and experience to the correct job.  Let me clarify so there are no doubts of what I am saying.  You need to think ahead and hopefully have a current job description in place.  DO NOT rush into hiring the first warm body that applies for this position.  During the interview, keep track of the applicants personal traits, their motivation and use their resume to discover if they had a similar position in the past.  Take your time, call references and call them in for a second interview if you like what you see.

As you interview candidates for the job opening envision how the prospect comes across to you.  Are they chipper and truly excited about the job?  Are you asking the right questions?  Has the candidate actually had a job that is very very similar to a former job in their past?  If the person applying for a receptionist job is scowling constantly and doesn’t sound pleasant then don’t hire them.  Do not make a bad hire and fire them three months down the road because you didn’t observe the applicants mannerisms, interaction with other people or you didn’t hire properly by giving the effort that all new hires deserve.

The next thing on the new hire’s agenda should be to meet everyone on staff, touring the facility they will be working in, sharing the company’s history and giving the new hires their position’s expectations.  Don’t skimp on training new hires.  If you do, you would have been money ahead to not hire anyone at all.  Once you set up these systems you will continue to improve on hiring and training techniques and you will suddenly see why it pays to spend a little more time selecting your future employees.  You will find that time is well spent and your customers will notice and appreciate your establishment even more.  You will not only brighten your days but your entire staff’s as well.  Try it and if you don’t agree with this statement call and we can add value to your efforts, (701) 751-1500.

The Value of Thinking Ahead When Hiring & Training

I really think, now more than ever, especially if your business is in the state of North Dakota, it is imperative that employers just don’t hire the first warm body that applies for any position.  Even with the shortage of qualified employees right now, I still can’t justify adding a “just” a body.

I know I have watched retailers promote the sales person to Store Manager.  These two jobs require two different skill sets.  One would hope that a Store Manager is a fine sales person so as to not only keep sales on target but also train staff members on how to close a sale with plenty of confidence and product knowledge to keep the customer satisfied.

Every business owner needs to have a hiring strategy and we must continue to cross train employees so you are never short of experts in your business.  This is especially critical for what you may see as a future manager in your organization.  Work now at developing key employees in your organization to make sure you are never in a bind in the near future by either having a lack of help or worse yet, lack of experienced help.

Any time I hired a new person for either an existing position or for a newly created position I would access each of my employees abilities and try to anticipate what employee needs the next twelve months would bring if we were to upgrade our staff.  Remember, you should always be striving to improve or eliminate the worst 20% of your staff for continual improvement.

I don’t know many employers that like hiring staff members.  What is not to like?  You are hoping to bring in employees that will fill a needed position or maybe even change your company’s culture.  I am not just blowing smoke!  From 1987 to 1998, I trained 17 out of 19 trainees successfully enough that they were promoted at least twice in their positions.  Most of these future managers came with no management experience but did have a desire to be a successful manger in their career.  I would make sure that these trainees worked in every segment of the business.  Many people say, managers only need to manage staff.  Really?  If management doesn’t know procedures, equipment operation and how to keep staff productive, motivated and happy, your business will not continue to flourish in the future.

I hope you can see the advantages of actually planning ahead to create a staff and management team to keep customers satisfied and coming back for more.

Start the New Year with a New Hiring Plan

Happy New Year!  How many of you have updated your goals and business plan already?  How many of you have vowed to update staff and create a more client friendly approach and have the friendliest staff in town, not to mention the most knowledgeable in your industry.

How many of you have gotten burned out trying to build or rebuild your staff and have either paid too much for a head hunting agency or simply given up on trying to find and educate good employee talent?

After thirty years in retail and three more years recruiting solid management candidates, I have found helpful pointers to get your organization back on track in the hiring process.  I rarely find employers that like to hire, which I can’t understand.  What a great time to upgrade your team and teach good habits to not only the new hires but the existing staff as well.  In North Dakota, we are blessed to have record setting sales no matter what industry you are in.  It is extremely difficult to find above average help if you don’t set some standard practices in place.

The best part about this is if you don’t do the hiring yourself, I can teach your most operationally sound employee to take the hiring burden off your plate to give  more time for the other fifty things that are usually on your entrepreneurial plate.  This would include the following:

  • Eliminating illegal questions from the interview process
  • Setting expectations to prospective employees before they are hired
  • Creating the hiring mentality that will continuously work to upgrade the bottom 20% of your staff
  • Asking all applicants at least the same minimum questions
  • Calling references

Give us a call and find out how to maximize your personal effectiveness as well as your staff’s productivity.  It is easier than you think and I believe this to be very reasonable on your budget.  I developed these hiring steps while I was managing a retail store and cut employee turnover from 50% to 0% for the next 16 months.  These steps were crucial in not only slowing turnover and saving on new employee training but sales, morale, and customer service all improved during the process.

Let us help your organization experience the same results.

Shortcuts Can Be Good But Not When Hiring

In North Dakota, the unemployment rate is still the lowest in the nation.  Demand for anything and everything, it seems, is still running rampant.  Every business person I know says it is so busy most of us can’t get caught up with all our clients’ needs, orders and maintaining just enough help to keep up with the rush.

GREAT problems to have isn’t it?!

However, if we don’t handle new hires correctly, we will not get out of the hole that we have dug ourselves into.  Sales aren’t the “hole” that I am talking about.  The “hole” is finding any warm body that can work a schedule that we need to fill and we hire them without a background check, without a reference, without an interview that was long enough to allow us to recognize if the person sitting on the other side of our desk is truly capable to execute the duties that we require of the position in question.

Hiring is not an area we can afford to take shortcuts.  The wrong hire that can’t or won’t perform the required duties of the position and fit your company culture will hurt us far more than help us.

However, if we feel this person is able to be educated into the position that’s open and we see more positives than negative we may decide to take a chance on this person.

We can’t assume that they know how to perform everything to our liking, standards or habits.  We may need to teach even the basics to new hires.  I don’t our society has been very diligent in educating the workforce.  I think, what was once commonplace, is no longer common at all.  I am amazed at how many people can’t spell or don’t even know how to find out how to spell words correctly.  How about filing, answering phones, taking messages, asking clients if they need help or using software?

Don’t let your company culture slip by the wayside because you didn’t educate all new hires on what your company stands for and the things that are done consistently every time.  Give them expectations and follow up to be sure they understand and can excel at these expectations.  Do not settle for the next warm bodies that stroll in and assume they are going to be plug-and-play, like electronics.  You will need to find out their strengths and weaknesses very quickly to keep clients coming back and keeping pride in your company.  Do not take shortcuts in hiring.  It took me awhile to find the system that works.  Call me and I can aide your company in moving in the right direction as well.

Maintaining Effective Hiring Techniques

Back in my retail days, I was promoted to recruiting manager in 130 stores in 12 states.  I was then promoted to Field Administration Manager where I covered 50 stores in seven states.  I was expected to not only find qualified people to train for our management positions, but I did all initial interviews and passed the good ones on to the District managers to be sure they could work with the prospects that I recommended.

In three years, I interviewed 1,000 candidates.  When one interviews that many people in a relatively short period of time, it is tough not to interview everyone consistently.  If you want to hire the best person available I feel one need to ask all candidates the exact same questions for your basic interview.  That doesn’t mean you can’t ask more questions of some candidates, especially if you are trying to qualify a candidate that made some outlandish claims or was vague in an original answer.

I interviewed a candidate for my financial services company ten days ago and I did a dreadful thing that I always taught managers and business owners not to do.  I got so carried away selling my company to the applicant that I forgot to ask the right questions to hire the best candidate.  I remember sitting in on three interviews with a district manager ten years ago where each interview lasted about twenty minutes and the district manager only asked about three questions that were not all the pertinent.  He hired what was most likely the best candidate but that person only lasted about two months.  Mr. District Manager did not ask enough of the right questions to gather enough information to hire the candidate with the most actual experience as well as the want and desire to succeed.

My confession, after not conducting many interviews in the last eight years, I didn’t ask enough hard hitting questions to really find out what this applicant was made of.

That made me wonder, how many managers and business owners go through the motions that I did?  Did you feel that you didn’t gather enough information to be sure you were hiring the best candidate that you could?  Unless, you are hiring on a regular basis, I think it is difficult to keep on task and continue asking the most pertinent questions you possibly can.

Next time you conduct an interview, ask yourself if you are asking the right questions to really find the candidate that you need most!

Get New Hires on Track Starting on Day 1

My favorite conundrum (and I’m being sarcastic) is attempting to train and educate new hires.

We have seemingly little time to get everything done on a timely basis, which usually means we may try to hire a new person for either a new position or possibly a replacement for an employee that has left the organization.

Typically, because we were so backed up on projects, timely responses to clients and a world of other work related items, we neglected to put this new hire in training immediately.  We tell ourselves we are too busy to train anyone, it will take too much time.  Instead, we are now paying another body and trying to do everything for ourselves because it takes “too long” to train.  That doesn’t make financial sense or keep us sane.

This is a cop-out because we didn’t make the time to establish a training program for not only the current position that was recently filled  but eventually all positions throughout the company.  If we want all new hires to be productive, feel needed and keep them on board for a longer period of employment, we must teach them at least one procedure or job duty the very first day they come on board.  This is a must for effectiveness and it will give you more time to manage other systems, problems, and opportunities.

I would suggest determining where you are currently spending the most time that may not be in your job description and start the new hire on this project, job or area.  Remember, on day one to give the new hire a general tour of the facility, introduce them to all other employees and general equipment training.  You should have already qualified the new hire for the specific job they will be performing.  To make them most effective you need to give them job expectations, an overview on what is most important to you and the things to avoid to remain employed.

Break the training down to one hour periods each day and allow them to take care of their job duties after they have been educated on all aspects of their responsibilities.  Follow up with all new hires daily to be sure they do indeed understand the job duties, procedures, and equipment to perform their job sufficiently.  It is important to give feedback and progress reports to all employees for maximum effectiveness.

Continue to either work with the new employee or assign a buddy system so the new person can still ask questions of an experienced co-worker or supervisor.  If you have followed these general steps, asked the right questions at the interview and identified their strengths and weaknesses, you should be on the right track to making the new employee self sufficient and a contributing member of your team.

If you have neglected some training for all other employees, now is the time to bring them up a level and give them more responsibilities.  Once you fine tune the entire staff and keep them motivated by listening to suggestions from the staff, you should find yourself with much more time on your hands and much less chaos.  Enjoy!

Curbing Employee Turnover

North Dakota may be different than other parts of the United States , one can literally tell your supervisor, “I quit” and be employed almost anywhere you want to work by nightfall.  Last year, our unemployment rate was 2.9%

In this type of market, it is crucial to pay competitive wages, keep the work challenging and fulfilling as well as keeping your customers satisfied.  In my opinion, not many employers would earn an A+ in this category.

In my retail management days, one year I had a 50% turnover rate in employees.  Most were part-time employees but being opened 74 hours a week meant I was dependent on these part-time employees.  I asked the old timers their opinion why the turnover was so high this particular year.  The answers were, “kids don’t want to work these days” or “you can’t find good help anymore.”  In other words, all the same excuses employers use today when they have high turnover.  All the reasons that I was hearing from my staff were not really turnover problems at all.

It dawned on me what the problems were; I wasn’t giving expectations during the interviews for new hires.  I wasn’t asking enough pertinent questions during interviews to really test their interest and knowledge base to see if they truly did understand retail in our industry.

The expectations were very explicit and I mapped out most, if not all, the pet peeves in each job position.  No employee walked past a customer without a greeting or an offer to help them find what they were looking for.  That doesn’t seem to happen very often in most businesses, does it?  Those are the places I don’t shop anymore and I am running out of businesses to shop!

By the way, not only did clients love the efficiency, employee attitude and other positive changes but we didn’t have any employee quit for over 16 months.  When people say, “you can’t find good help anymore,” I tell them they may be right.  However, that’s why we create and teach employees what they need to know and can surprise the client with the great attitude, knowledge, and overall sincere helpfulness, no matter what the industry.

Let PEP help you set up the correct training system and you will be pleasantly surprised how quickly and easily you can transform your staff.  Not only will your clients love the changes but you will love the transformation as well.