“There must be an easier way” Janet thought. After staring her business just over 4 years ago, she seldom paused to think, but once in a while, in the wee hours of the night, when she falls into her Lazyboy from exhaustion at the end of the day, Janet cannot help but have a small moment of satisfaction about how all of her toil and labor has paid off, and she actually is a successful business OWNER. She does not often tempt fate and think about her accomplishments in that way, and instead thinks about all of the usual sources of the day’s frustrations…the staff headaches, the dog that escaped and had to be chased for thirty minutes, the invoices she was way behind on, and the constant state of never having enough time to do all that needs to get done. But, underneath all of the layers, despite the daily anguish, Janet was just a tiny bit proud of what she had accomplished with her little business. After all, nobody that Janet knew ever really thought she could actually make a “real business” from cleaning houses. “Just wait until you hire employees…you’ll see,” is what the dream-crushers would say.
That’s why days like today are so difficult. The thrill of victory and the agony of defeat! Oh the agony of defeat! After building her business brick by brick to $350,000 a year, 8 employees, and even a Trainer Janet was watching success slip away right before her very eyes. “I quit” said the text from Janet’s brand new 2 weeks-in employee. This was the employee that was going to change everything, turn things around from the vicious circle the company had been in. This was the 6th employee that has quit before their 2 month point in the last 4 months. And, in fact, the 19th employee in the last year. “What is going on?” she thought. “There has got to be an easier way!” Janet thought as she picked up the phone to make yet more excuses to her clients about why their house will not be cleaned on time this week, and notify them that there will be another change in cleaners.
Desperate to find out why employees were leaving, and how to stop it Janet became obsessed with tracking down her exited-employees and finding out “what went wrong”. Nobody retuned her calls, of course. They had moved on, and left all of that drama behind. Janet called and texted, offering prizes, bonuses, letters of recommendation and the like…anything to get someone to contact her and let the cat out of the bag about what disease her business has that is making everyone leave. Finally, one day, a clue…the recently departed employee, Maria, comes in to pick up her final paycheck. Eagerly, Janet invites Maria to come sit down and have some of the chocolate chip cookies she just baked while she prints up the check. Maria says “Ok, but real quick because I have to go pick up my kids.” Nibbling at the cookie Maria says curtly “well, at least now Karen can find someone to do the job right.” Karen is the Trainer, but “what does that mean?” Janet thought. “What do you mean” Janet asks. Maria replies “Oh nothing. It is just that maybe Karen will be able to find someone who doesn’t do EVERYTHING wrong now… She’s never happy, you know.” A red light went off in Janet’s mind…maybe this was it…Did Karen and Maria have a fight and that is why Maria is leaving. Janet took a little longer than necessary to print the final paycheck so she could investigate further as to what happened. Janet was so surprised to hear Maria’s story about how she came to the company excited about the possibilities, but then felt that she was thrown to the wolves with Karen on her every minute, about every little thing that she did not know and did not do right. Maria felt “stupid”, and unwelcome. She described how she knew she was going to have to learn the cleaning system, but she did not want to feel lower than dirt every moment she was at work. Each day the dread of coming to work became heavier and heavier, until she decided to quit. Janet tried to lure her back into the job, promising to keep Karen away, but it was too late, Maria had already taken another position. As Maria left Janet thanked her for her honesty and promised to make the company better based on what she learned today.
What a shocker!! “You mean, Karen, my best cleaner ever, who knows my system inside and out, and never misses anything, has been pushing staff out the door?.” In a flash of panic Janet grabbed the calculator on her phone, with a horrific thought of “oh my gosh, how much has this been costing me?” Recently Janet had read an article stating that the average turned over employee cost a cleaning company $750 each…and fingers pounding on the keypad as quick as they can…”Holy Money Loss!?!” Sixteen of the 19 people lost this year left within a few weeks of starting, and $750 x 16 people is $12,000! “I have lost $12,000 this year because I hired someone who showed great promise, was fully vetted, and then we ran off? That is a new economy car, or a payoff of my visa balance,” thought Janet.
How devastating! How did this happen? Karen was so dedicated? Janet read through everything she could get her hands on for employee retention and she found that 80% of all employees decide within the first 3 days whether or not they will stay with a company. There may be a number of things that she could do to improve her improve her employee retention, but by just focusing on those first 3 days and the first impression that the company makes on a great new hire, could make all of the difference. So Janet headed out the door to watch Karen in action with Trainees, and she discovered Karen was not the only problem. The experience that new hires were experiencing was a mad, chaotic rush, with a hint of “suck it up newbie, we’ve got to get through this day”. Now looking through this lens she could see this was all wrong!!! No wonder everybody was leaving…”I would leave too”, thought Janet. She rolled up her sleeves and got to work crafting an excellent experience in the first 3 days, and actually the first 60 days of a new hire’s existence. The experience demonstrated the company’s values, its purpose and the commitment the company has to its valuable team. She worked with Maria to see how important her approach to welcoming, leading and mentoring is during an employee’s first few days. Over the next year Janet’s company lost only 3 people within the first few weeks of starting, and the company was finally able to regain growth, and built a strong passionate team. Janet is now ready take her business to the next step.