CHICAGO — With every hire, employers are looking for the next superstar who will both fit into the company culture and find ways to improve it over the time at the company.
In reality, however, some of the employees dry cleaners hire might bring with them bad habits and attitudes that can negatively affect the workplace atmosphere to the point where management has to get involved.
In Part 1 of this series, we looked at the cost to both the company and its employees when leaders allow bad behavior to go unchecked. Today, we’ll examine ways employers can build a platform of trust and accountability to head off problems before they become an issue.
Starting From the Ground Up
Amy Wischmann, policies and procedures manager at Benzinger’s Clothing Care, located in western New York state, has found that avoiding employee issues starts at the very beginning.
“I’m a big believer in not letting (issues) happen in the first place,” she says. “That means, at the outset, having a really good onboarding process, where the employee is told the expectations for our workplace. ‘These are our values. This is our mission. We’re customer-centric, and we care for one another.’ That sets the stage right out of the gate, and we have them sign off on that.”
Setting clear expectations from the beginning requires leaders to have clear and open communication with the new hire.
“Employers need to have those performance conversations immediately,” Wischmann says. “Go over their job description with them. Encourage them to ask questions along the way, and encourage their manager supervisor to develop a relationship with them from day one. Two-way conversation very early on in the relationship is important.”
Sean Abbas, president of Threads Inc., a software company he co-founded to help organizations review employees and manage performance, has found that an employee handbook is a valuable tool for effective onboarding.
“It establishes the boundaries of the relationship,” he says. “I’m not a huge fan of a 50-page employee handbook — I think you need to have something that’s very modest. And if you’re a small company, there are a lot of resources out there to develop a handbook.”
One of these resources can be the state Labor Department.
“Most states will have guidelines,” Wischmann says. “In New York, the state Department of Labor will look through your employee handbook for you and give you suggestions for free. Ask your state Labor Department if they can provide you with a template, or to review your handbook and ask if anything is missing.”
Momentary Lapses vs. Behavioral Patterns
The best employee can have an off day, and stresses such as family illness or other issues can have an impact on performance. Leaders need to know when this is the case, rather than a lack of work ethic or other behavioral issue at play.
“If it’s somebody who’s done a great job for a long time, and they’re having some personal issues and are a bit off the rails, the first thing I would tell them is how important they are to the organization and that we need them back,” Abbas says. “You can ask them if there’s something that you can do to help or support.”
In order to determine if it’s a temporary lapse or a deeper issue, Wischmann believes that it’s vital that the employee’s supervisor understands them on a personal level.
“From day one, whoever is going to be responsible for that employee has to start getting to know them,” she says. “You aren’t going to know if someone’s going through a rough time unless you know and care about them. It doesn’t take a lot of time — 5- to 10-minute check-ins with them regularly — to get to know them and get a feel for their personalities.”
This process allows leaders to get to the bottom of an issue more quickly, which is a positive for everyone involved.
“If Sally was cheerful and helpful when she started working here, and now she’s calling off work a lot, have the conversation,” Wischmann says. “If she’s comfortable with you, she’ll let you know she’s having difficulties at home. If you take the time to develop that kind of relationship with employees, they’ll reward you for that.”
But if the problem isn’t a momentary lapse, Wischmann believes the quicker leaders get involved, the better.
“You have to call that kind of behavior out immediately,” she says. “There might be uncomfortable situations, but the quicker you nip that in the bud, the better. It’s a simple conversation — ‘That behavior is unacceptable here.’”
Come back on Tuesday for the conclusion of this series, when we’ll highlight ways employers can protect themselves when having to make difficult decisions. For Part 1, click HERE.
Have a question or comment? E-mail our editor Dave Davis at [email protected].