WALT DISNEY ONCE SAID, “you can dream, create, design and build the most wonderful place in the world, but it requires people to make the dream a reality.”

Company founders understand that they need quality, professional people to make their dreams a reality, but this is harder then it sounds. Where do you find these people? And most important, how do you retain them?

First, we have to look at the organizational culture and the beginning vision. Most founders install their personal beliefs and work ethics as part of their vision for the new company.

As the company becomes established and requires more people, the leadership tendency not only is to find people that meet the job requirements but also have the same beliefs and work ethics as the organization. The phrase “birds of a feather, flock together,” can describe the company’s culture.

Founders who are ready to retire are hoping the next generation will continue to maintain the original vision and passion they had. The reality is that successive leaders of an organization, even if they are family, have their own beliefs, work ethics and passions.

Change must occur. Without change, an organization will become stagnant and will not be able to compete in today’s markets. Since many contracting companies are family-owned businesses, avoiding change and maintaining status quo creates problems for the organization and industry.

A Small Business Administration (SBA) report indicates that 33 percent of the organizations will survive the leadership of the second generation. For a third-generation company, the number drops to 13 percent.

Family members, especially sons and daughters of the founder, try to maintain the business philosophy of their father or grandfathers as a tribute to their legacy. Although we believe in dedication and loyalty to our heroes, we must understand that with new management comes new business ideals. The policies of a first-generation company will not fit with a third-generation company.

The search for quality employees

When searching for new employees, there are several ways to obtain applicants. If you advertise in newspapers, use an agency or the Internet to find candidates, then you need to describe the specifications of the position. Candidates need to know what is required of them. After you review the resumes and select the prospective candidates, arrange the interview. The following is a summary of some advice Auren Uris gives in his book “88 Mistakes Interviewers Make ... and How to Avoid Them.”

  • Be prepared—At least a day in advance, use the interviewee’s resume and discussions with key personnel to create an interview agenda, and take at least 15 minutes to review it.
  • Put applicants at ease—Few things are more unsettling to an interviewee than being ushered into an office and watching the interviewer make business phone calls or have an impromptu meeting with a colleague. Take care of business before greeting interviewees, and put them at ease with some pleasant small talk before rushing into the interview questions.
  • Don’t be ruled by snap judgments or stereotypes—Stereotyping is bad for the manager and the company. Curb your tendency to rush to judgment, and always keep in mind that you are dealing with an individual, not a type.
  • Ask result-oriented questions—Ask questions that are designed to uncover not only what the job candidate has done, but also what the results of the person’s actions have been. 
  • Don’t underestimate the power of silence—Many interviewers make the mistake of jumping in during any pause to discuss their own views on management and the company. Silences can be time when the interviewee is absorbing information and formulating a question or comment, and these are usually worth waiting for.
  • Close the interview with care—Some interviewers let the session drift on until both parties begin to flounder about or lose interest. Others close an interview abruptly when interrupted by a phone call or a colleague. It is best to plan a time limit for the interview and to bring it to a natural close, rather than let an outside event terminate the conversation prematurely.

Who are these people and how do we retain them?

They are people you already have in your organization. Executives sometimes forget that the people they hire for a position are capable of growth.

Good management will have a career growth plan that is shared with each employee during yearly reviews. If an employee feels there is no opportunity for growth, he or she will search outside the company for opportunities that recognize his or her potential. When employees leave, they create a void. This void costs money and time in finding a replacement. Understanding employees is essential to good management. Despite what employees and employers may think, people do not only work for a paycheck. Employees don’t quit because of money. They quit because of lack of opportunity, recognition, appreciation and respect. They quit if they don’t know what they are working toward because they don’t know the objectives and goals of the organization. They quit because they feel that they are not a part of the company and feel they don’t play a part of its success.

Executives must structure their organizations to encourage ideas and develop a path for communicating those ideas. Open communication creates change, solves problems and allows the organization to operate more effectively and efficiently. That may require a review of the managerial approach and style. The old-school military, authoritative management style may have worked in the past, but today’s employees might resent that style of management.

To prevent this problem, management must adjust and become more of a communicator. That means giving instructions more reasonably and in a team-building manner, rather than aggressively or antagonistically.

Micromanagement can create an environment of management versus labor. Employees like to be given responsibility. It makes them feel trusted and relied upon.

The electrical contracting industry was based on a division of labor versus management, and some of the older organizations have continued this mindset. Fortunately, that attitude has shifted in the past few years. Most electrical contractors have a good working relationship with their employees. Both management and labor recognize that they are partners and not separate entities. Management and labor need to work together to reach the same goals and objectives for the customer, contractors and the industry.

Therefore, to stay competitive and keep the best people at your company, you must do the following:

  • Understand your organization’s history and culture.
  • Develop an organizational structure that can make your employees feel part of the success of the company.
  • Communicate the organization’s direction and encourage input without prejudice.
  • Develop an organization that is adaptable and adjustable to meet the demands of today’s competitive business environment.
  • Review managerial style that is effective or ineffective with your present employees.
  • Develop job descriptions for both current employees and interviewees. They need to know what will be required of them.
  • Communicate frequently with your employees.
  • Understand your staff’s and employees’ goals and objectives.
  • In a family business, develop a plan for the next generation’s career path.
  • Build a working environment that will attract the best employees available and will retain the current staff.
  • Be professional at all times.

Respect your employees and they will, in return, respect you with their efforts, loyalty and longevity.   EC
 

MARTIN is a business consultant for Alan Martin & Assoc., an SBA consultant, a speaker/adjunct instructor for NECA-MEI, and is based in Morris Plains, N.J. He can be reached at 973.540.1298 or necamartin@aol.com.