Is it okay for your Employees to ask for help at your company?
You might say yes. But, I wonder if that’s true.
The reason I wonder if that’s true is because at my shop it wasn’t. We had a typical New York shop full of “know it all” mentalities. That meant it was dangerous to expose what you didn’t know because at the very least it was cause for your boss and co-workers to unleash a ton of ridicule.
The other reason I know that your staff is probably highly unwilling to show you what they don’t really know is because I, myself, the boss’s kid (as someone who had risen to be the 2ndbest Tech at our shop of 25 Techs) would spend time talking Customers out of repairs that I wasn’t fully confident I could do.
Yes, that’s right I, the boss’s kid, would do that.
Also, the reason I believe that your staff won’t show you what they can and can’t do is because they probably oversold what they actually can do when you first hired them. Now they’ve become overly protective at exposing these weaknesses they have to you or any other management team members at your company.
Here’s what I know. All your employees have holes in their knowledge, and until you make it safe for them to share what they do and don’t know you’re going to be at risk. There will be lost productivity, mistakes or worse things like insurance claims or a sting operation that makes the news and makes you look bad.
This applies to all your Field Staff as well as all your Inside Staff.
This is why years back at my shop, my brothers and I decided a change was desperately needed to change this flawed dynamic. We made the following known to all our current Employees, “Whatever you don’t know is now our responsibility to teach you.” You could see the fear within them recede.
The things that allowed us to make good on what we said were:
We had created an Organizational Chart (aka Org Chart) which showed them where they were on that chart and who they report to so they knew who they could go to for help.
We had manuals for each box on the Org Chart that made the filling of these holes a lot easier for all concerned.
We had weekly meetings where the Manager would continually teach and train on what it took to fill the box they currently occupied on the Org Chart.
We had ongoing cross-training to help people fill more than one box on the Org Chart which gave us depth at each position and once again filled any holes they might have.
We had a hands-on Training Center where we could take Techs and teach them the repair and/or replacement in a safe environment.
The trick was we made it safe for them to share what they were unsure of or just didn’t know. It then allowed them to perform way better and began showing that they were ready to ascend the Org Chart to the next levels and be building their career vs. stalling out and losing them.
But here’s the big question:
If you get them to show you or tell you in a convincing way what you trained them on (either in the field for Field Staff or in the office for Inside Staff) and then they don’t do it, is it a training issue or a discipline issue?
The answer is it’s a DISCIPLINE issue.
And that means you’ve got to engage your Steps of Corrective Action or you’ll find yourself training, training and training on the same things to the same people over and over and living with their potentially costly mistakes.
The Steps of Corrective Action and goal for working with this Employee is:
First, the informal writeup and talk.
Secondly, use a Corrective Action Document that gets signed and dated along with any evidence you’ve collected to go with it.
3rdtime is suspension and advice to go home and think about if you want a career at your company.
The goal of using the Steps of Corrective Action correctly is to get them either back on your “Staffing Train” or get them to off your “Staffing Train.” This is why you have them read what’s in the manuals aloud so they hear themselves saying the words that apply to where they went off the rails and then asking them if they see their career path with your company.
If they do want that career, let them know they aren’t demonstrating it with their current behavior but when the door opens to your office they can change that.
Example of poor behavior:
They’re not showing you they can show up consistently–or consistently on time. Just know they’ve typically got one foot out the door or they don’t see the big plan which is “We offer careers not just a job.”
The “Two Week” last ditch effort:
The last step…. ONLY IF…. you want to save them or at least feel you did all you can is “The two week” last ditch effort.
This is where you tell them where they are and where they’re headed based on their demonstrated behavior. And say something like, “If you’re in, I’m in. For the next two weeks, we’ll work hard together and here’s the plan: after the two weeks are up, we’ll either have you back on course to building your career or we’ll part ways as friends. So, are you in?”
The more proactively you make it safe for Employees to show you what they are unsure of or just don’t know (with the knowledge you’ll help them vs. judge them), the better your Customers will be served, the better the Company will run and staff and you will feel better about one another.
Al Levi teaches contractors how to run their businesses with less stress and more success through his book, seminars, webinars and his exclusive 1-to-1 consulting practice.