Right now is a rare time in the labour market, more employees have more choice than they ever have before. It’s driving wages up, people have a choice of what industry to work in and it might seem like job seekers are interviewing you. That to me is a great thing! This won’t last forever unfortunately but lets hope it doesn’t all go back to the way it was either. Lots, and lots of bosses are venting about not being able to find people to work for them. You still can find good people to do the jobs you need filled but maybe not the way you always have. For once it’s the bosses that need to fall in line. These are the things that we do to treat our employees well.
My experience as a boss
Maybe you shouldn’t listen to me because I haven’t been an executive for decades now. I’ve had some experience as a boss but I’ve never had a hard time getting good work out of people in those rolls. As a grad student I worked in a VERY hierarchical environment where you do things the way your higher ups tell you to and you are privileged to be there. The professor is at the top, then the postdocs, the PhD students, then masters and undergrads way at the bottom of the list. I was literally in charge of those below me and was literally ‘given’ two undergrads to do my bidding over the years. My roll really was to tell them what to do and how to do it and at one point the professor was gone for years and no one was above me.
I’ve also seen how honey runs his small business for almost 20 years now and I’ve learned a lot there. For many years now I’ve also worked day to day in that business too. Now I have employees (ok one) for my own business too. In those rolls I’ve had to work with difficult people, people who weren’t a good match and start them working on day one in the field where they needed to know a lot. In every case (so far) I’ve been able to not only make it work but I think make that work a happy place for everyone to be.
One note though for a lot of us we are small business bosses and often our families make up a part of that business. Our family members love us, benefit from our work or even have (or will have) a piece of the pie someday. For those reasons and maybe some guilt, family employees are a special case and one shouldn’t expect that regular employees will be as willing as family members.
Pay people well
In general no matter what the minimum wage is in the construction industry everyone makes at least a little bit more. Paying people even a dollar more than minimum wage tells them that you value them just a little bit more than the government makes you. I think paying more than minimum wage is a great place to start. If your business is so tight that you can’t pay people a little more than minimum wage then you need to take another look at the numbers.
On the other end though I get that you might not always be able to pay industry leading rates. I’m in that position now. New companies and businesses in certain sectors might just not be able to pay what they would like. If you’re in this position have a concrete plan to pay people more as time goes on and share that with them.
Also make sure your employees are paying for literally nothing else. Never make them pay for supplies, work uniforms, safety gear or anything else they need to do their jobs. If you can provide extras like food in a restaurant, materials or product for someone’s home or your time for their benefit, then do that too. Honey really believes that if you eat while you’re at work then he should pay for it. Another nice idea is to give bonuses when you can. If that lines up with the holidays even better. Could you give something extra to employees on their birthday cheques, at the end of the season or along the way for extra effort? Have a really profitable job, then pass some of that on to your employees. People appreciate being noticed however you can swing it.
Always, always pay people on time
The only job I ever quit was after my paycheck bounced. People have bills all the time and they can’t wait for you to pay them. This is a major problem in the trades and if you pay people well but whenever, you should expect to lose them. I ask people how and when they want to be paid whether that’s weekly or biweekly and I will never be late unless you have other plans that day. As a business owner I am totally at the whim of when my customers pay and if they do in some cases. I totally get how frustrating that can be and how quickly that can sideline a business, trust me but that is a boss’ problem and not an hourly employee’s. It’s not ideal but it’s better to tell someone there is no work than to have them work and wait for pay. If you see this problem on the horizon let them know so they can make an informed choice too.
Recognize that this IS a job for them
We all go to work for money on some level. I’m really lucky that what I do I say I would do it for free. That said I’m still not coming to your house and doing it for you for free because that just isn’t the way the world works. If you are the owner of the company you have something that your employees don’t (even if you currently earn less) and that is the potential for great growth. We would love for our employees to ‘go the extra mile’, ‘be passionate’, and ‘be a team player’ but they don’t own the team! Even if you just took a big hit you always have the potential for the next big client around the corner, your employees don’t have that. Your extra work might very well pay off big time for you but it won’t for them.
We found that family working for a business is usually the people that will go that extra mile to help us out of a jam. If I’m truly in a jam that’s who I call to help out and they generally don’t want more than a hug, employees won’t do that nor should they be expected to. I can call my partner or my stepson outside work hours but if I’m going to call an employee I should expect to pay dearly for it and or accept a no. All you should expect from an employee is to do their job for the hours they are paid and that’s it. Asking for more is disrespectful from the outset. The only contact you should have with them outside work hours is passive. That means it should be clear that you don’t expect a response. For example I shouldn’t be asking for extensive notes after work hours about a job but sending an address for the morning is okay.
Let people have some choice in how they do their jobs
Time and time again studies show that workers with the lowest job satisfaction have little to no control over even the minutia of how they do their job, experience an intense time pressure and their performance is closely tracked. Think about a call center worker with a script and sales targets or a drive through worker who always has a series of timers flashing at them. Try to remove as many aspects of this as possible. As long as people are able to satisfy customers and be productive does the rest even matter? My employee moved her mulch in a bucket instead of a wheelbarrow like me. For some reason that bugged me. But she moved the same amount as I would in the given time so it doesn’t really matter in the end does it?
If you can let people choose what to do or at least the order they do it in. We all tend to have the idea that we do things the best otherwise why would be do them that way in the first place? Try to let go of this and instead just focus on it being done right at the end of the shift!
Start asking people what you can do to get them to work for you
And mean it! In the interview process it’s a good idea to ask employees that and along the way too. There are lots of options you might not have thought about. Do they want longer continuous shifts or to work a little every day? Can they work remotely or choose what to wear? I know I like to do a job start to finish and it turns out my helper did too. Somethings are harder but if someone needs to be able to tend to childcare emergencies then you may have to find a way to make that work.
Your best employee might be one that doesn’t take the offer or even apply because they didn’t ask for something that would have been no big deal. In the same way a great employee might be looking to leave and one small change could have gotten them to stay. For me I don’t really care what hours an employee works, any time that it’s light out is fine with me really. If someone wanted to break up their day around childcare that would work. It’s also a good idea to have staff meetings where you discuss this sort of thing regularly. If you’re looking to hire someone new it might turn out that your current employees would rather take on new responsibilities for extra pay. You might also find that someone would like to work fewer hours so that new hire should be full time after all. You’ll never know if you don’t ask and keep an open mind!
Finding people to work for you is harder than it’s ever been before. These tips might help with that but they should definitely make it easier to keep the ones you have. At the end of the day employees make you money and the right thing to do is to be a good boss. Making your workers happy while they are working makes everyone’s life better. What are your top tips for treating your employees as you should because I want to do that too! Leave it in the comments below!
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