Employee Relations Rolling Downhill?

Employee Relations Rolling Downhill?

I recently met the husband and wife proprietors of a small restaurant. Never mind the fact that they did not fit the stereotype of “mom and pop.” They were young and vibrant and looking towards their future business endeavors. At the same time, these business owners also respected the history of the business they inherited, and were proud to continue the legacy.

The stories they told me about recent struggles to hire and keep good employees might surprise you. Despite the small, family atmosphere and the genuine compassion I sensed from this husband and wife team, they are facing the same problems I see in larger businesses.

Are any of these issues familiar to you?

  • Employees accept the job but then only stay for a month or two.
  • New employees call in sick at the last minute without any sense of remorse.
  • Employees do not show up on time for their scheduled shifts, or they do not show up at all.
  • When they do come to work, employees are not dressed appropriately.
  • Employees are often distracted while they’re at work by social media or text messages.
  • Employees bring their problems to work and use them as an excuse to under-perform.

I have heard all of these stories from business owners in very different settings. Whether your employees are entry-level or college graduates, you may be dealing with these same concerns. Even employees who come to you with some work history seem to not possess the basic employability skills — showing up on time, focusing on work at work, dressing properly for the job, interacting smoothly with customers and co-workers.

What Happens Next?

If you are reading this blog and nodding in agreement, you are not alone. Chances are very good that you reached the stage where you’re ready to give up on today’s workforce. I know the husband and wife business owners I spoke to recently were.

They realized that these experiences soured them on new employees. They were tired and emotionally drained, and it showed. Since their recent experiences with new employees were so bad, they lost faith in the hiring process. In interviews, they were just phoning it in because they were sure whomever they hired would not work out for very long.

This kind and compassionate couple gave up on welcoming new employees into their family business. It’s hard to make an emotional commitment to new members of your family business when you expect they will take advantage of your kindness and not do the work you hired them for.

At this stage, you become part of the problem and that boulder just continues gathering speed as it rolls down hill. In an attempt to protect yourself and your business, you end up doing all the things that make you a bad employer, and bad employers attract bad employees. Your heart is in the right place as you slip into survival mode, but you cannot solve your employee relations issues from there.

Fix it, Please!

I wish you could have seen the look of relief on their faces when I told this couple they could fix this. As I pointed out how their behavior accelerated the problem, they took ownership and planned a new approach.

The solution to employee relation problems is to revamp your entire approach to hiring and training them. It sounds like a lot of work, but the results can be seen almost immediately. Here are the tips I gave these restaurant owners:

Use the interview — This is your chance to figure out if the applicant is a closet psycho who will steal paper towels from your washrooms and slip them into the sandwiches when no one is looking. Get the applicant talking in the interview and see where it goes. Believe what they say! Stories about past co-worker conflicts or an aversion to authority are red flags that should not be ignored.

Improve your training — You may think everyone in the world knows how to serve food and beverages, but if they have never done it in your establishment, they need to be trained. Do not make assumptions about what a new employee knows. Give them specific guidance on how you would like each task performed. Say the obvious because you never know when it isn’t that obvious, after all.

Make your expectations clear — It is human nature to want to please the boss. Where the trouble comes in is when they don’t know what the boss wants. We all want to be successful, but we need to know what success looks like. Forget about your dreams of hiring a self-starter. That is just code for “I want someone else to figure out how to do this job.” You are the boss. Tell your employees how you want them to do their jobs.

Welcome them into the family — In very small businesses, employees do become like part of the family. Do not wait for this to happen; make it happen. Welcome your new employees on the first day as if they are already part of the team. I know the first day seems too soon, but trust me this works. When employees feel like part of the team, like you are looking out for them, they will look out for you, too. Let your new employees know you are happy to have them working with you. Treat employees like customers, and be sure you are providing everything they need to be successful in their jobs.

Business owners know that when they do not like the way something is going, they have to make a change. When it comes to hiring and employee relations, you have to recognize that you are the one who needs to change. You cannot change your employees, but if you alter your approach to them, you will see a different result.

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