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More than Hide and Seek
The experience can be somewhat discouraging. You are driving to see one of your accounts, and because you are in a hurry you decide to stop at one of the local fast food places for lunch. As you pull in their driveway you see the "now hiring" sign that we are all accustomed to seeing in front of nearly every business.
But today you notice an additional sign; one that indicates they are offering a "$300 signing bonus". As you ask the manager about the new sign, he explains the bonus is paid when the employee completes the first ninety days of work. He tells you he has picked up a couple of new employees since first using the sign.
However, when you order your lunch and pay for it, you observe how the fast food staff struggles to complete the order and make the change for you. Obviously, the idea of a signing bonus may not be the best solution for finding quality employees. Where are the good employees hiding?
Surely your goal is to create a team of employees, both front counter and production end of the shop, to make your business profitable. Achieving your goal will also allow you a level of comfort in knowing how your business will function when you are out of the building.
One common misconception occurs when you begin the hiring process, and you are expecting to "upgrade" the quality of your staff. The printer that decides, "I am going to build a great team, and it will begin with this new employee" will find that the current team will bring the new hire down to their level quicker than you can hire more people to surround this new employee.
To prevent this problem from occurring in your print shop, you should be having regularly scheduled staff meetings. Unless you have staff that work both the front counter and production end of the business you may want to have separate meetings for the different sections of your staff.
From personal experience, meetings that work best are those that are held after the shop closes, one hour in length, bi- weekly, and covering topics such as new papers, inks, and ways of better using the equipment you now have. You may even want to occasionally invite one of the sales representatives that call on your shop to be a guest speaker.
The ongoing educational program is crucial to your demonstrating to any new hire that you have a commitment to improving the quality of your staff. From that point we can continue with our efforts to improve your hiring. Let's begin with the ad that you might place in a newspaper. If you begin your ad with information about what the person is going to be doing in your business, you will be eliminating a lot of the questionable applications before they even cross your doorway or call on the phone.
With the individuals who do visit your shop, you can again clear a lot of the unqualified applicants by first having them read the job description for the position they are applying. Your job description does not need to be a two or three page document, but can easily be a half dozen bullet points which in one sentence each, explain the various tasks. One point may be to greet customers by way of telephone or walk in. At this point in the job description you do not need to go into the explanation of how to greet customers or answer the phone; this is material that can be detailed in your class and in a policy and procedure manual.
A second point of the job description may be to discuss with the customer what they are looking to get from the job they are asking your shop to do. This again will require further explanation, but what we are wanting to do is make sure the front counter person talks with the customer about what they are doing. If the counter person asks questions, experience has shown that the interaction with the customer provides you with additional information so that you are creating what the customer wants, as compared to being what they have asked for.
This interaction has also shown to increase sales, as a trained counter person can ask if the customer has sized up the job correctly. After all, how many times have you had a customer walk in to pick up a print job and upon looking at the material say, "This is not what I wanted?"
And the return statement of, "But that is what you asked for", does little to earn a long term customer for you.
Your other job description points may include handling of the cash or invoices, and for some shops may even include the applicant having the skills to operate certain pieces of equipment.
In giving the job description to the applicant first, you are demonstrating several things. The first is that your shop has a structured way of doing things. Secondly, you have expectations of the applicant which can be stated in writing. And lastly, you are working to eliminate an unnecessary waste of the applicants time, and your time, by providing extra detail of what you are looking for.
After the applicant has reviewed this form, have them sign it to indicate they understand the job and accept the responsibilities that go with it. Then, have them complete the application form. Hopefully, in an effort to give a better impression of your shop, you are using an application which you have printed in your shop as compared to one which you have purchased.
Of course, applications should have room for individuals to provide you with detailed information about their past work experiences, as well as allowing you to ask some in-depth questions. Questions such as, "Why do you want to work for our business?", "What skills do you bring that we may utilize to better serve our customers?", or "What would your last employer want to tell us about you?" allow you to get a strong impression of the type of individual you are about to interview.
These questions can work much better than those standard forms which ask about outside activities, and military service. Of course, as you go about creating your own application you will want to check it out with your attorney, or at least make sure you have seen the same question on one of the "standard forms".
With regard to the interview, this is the occasion when many of the best intentions go awry. One of the reasons for this problem is that in most cases it is the owner of the business who is doing the interviewing. And if your business has grown during the past 10 years, when the occasion has arisen that you need additional counter help, you have probably just diminished the amount of time you are personally spending making outside calls.
What happens is that the owner of the business gets overly anxious to get back to making outside calls and "paints" a slightly exaggerated picture of the business. At the same time, the applicant may have a tendency to take everything you say with a grain of salt when they are told you are the owner.
What can work better for you is to allow two of your best employees to conduct the interview. It may be two from the front counter, or one from the front and one from the production end. Whatever the combination, the interview gains several advantages for you.
The first is the picture your employees paint of your business is more believable by the applicant. The second, is the applicant is more apt to provide truthful answers as compared their telling you what you want to hear. The third, and most important advantage occurs because you are utilizing two of your best employees. And that is, they will work harder to hire someone who is more like them.
They want to work with someone they enjoy being around, and by their conducting the interview they are most apt to find that individual. There is also a residual effect in that your current employees will want to show you they are capable of doing the task you asked them to do.
And with that, they will work harder to make sure the new employee fits into your business. Finding a new employee that you will be glad you hired takes more than just a better application, or learning to ask better questions. It requires everything from working with your current employees, to the newspaper ad, job application, and the interview process. And by utilizing each of these, hiring the next employee will not be a game of hide and seek.
This article is copyrighted by Tom Shay and Profits Plus Solutions, who can be reached at: PO Box 1577, St. Petersburg, Fl. 33731. Phone 727-464-2182. It may be printed for an individual to read, but not duplicated or distributed without expressed written consent of the copyright owner.
Profits Plus Solutions, Inc.