Some professionals looking for employment in the pool and hot tub industry often contemplate taking training programs, but do not simply because he/she does not have the time. At the same rate, many employers in the industry find they are hiring for the same positions year after year, season after season. That said, there is a way to put an end to this vicious cycle. Employee retention is all the buzz these days in the pool and hot tub industry—and rightfully so. Today, many businesses are finding employee turnover averages around 20 percent and, when the average cost of turnover is considered, the subject is worth its weight in gold.
In fact, according to U.S. Department of Labor, turnover can cost an organization 33 percent of an employee’s total compensation (salary and benefits combined). According to a 2015 report by the Human Resources Institute of Alberta (HRIA), employee turnover costs can range from $13,000 to $20,000 per staff member, depending on the size of the organization.
Making smart hiring decisions
Where does an employer begin to be sure it does not become part of these statistics? It all starts with the hiring process; therefore, it is vital to have a process in place. Calling a potential candidate and hiring them because he/she sounds nice over the phone or meeting them in the parking lot on the way to a job site and hiring them just because the crew may be short that day is not exactly a ‘process.’ Interview procedures should be detailed and have a systematic approach to ensure it is thorough and consistent when hiring for any position in the company.
Before an employer posts an opening in the newspaper or on an employment website, a job description should be written for the precise position. This will be extremely helpful when it comes to listing the job expectations. Include all general information (e.g. job title, the reporting relationship, hours to be expected, and the likelihood of overtime or weekend hours, etc.). The listing should also contain the summary objective of the job, what the general responsibilities are, key tasks, description of the key tasks, relationships with customers, co-workers, and others, as well as what results are expected from that position.
Also include the candidate’s necessary qualifications, such as education, training, technical skills, and any other experience required for the job. Finally, list the special demands or extraordinary conditions of the job (e.g. heavy lifting, temperature extremes, prolonged standing, travel, etc.).
After the above is outlined, employers can move on to the real fundamentals of the employment listing. This includes the job duties, tasks, and responsibilities for the position. Ninety to 95 percent of the work (in order of importance) that needs to be accomplished on a regular basis should be listed, with emphasis placed on what jobs must be done rather than how they will be done (leave that to the training manual).
Once the job posting is complete and the employer is satisfied with the description, it can then be analyzed. Many employers in the pool and hot tub industry find themselves posting the opening and hoping for the best. To avoid this, it is a good idea to come up with a formula to make the posting more efficient and effective. This formula should be followed not only when looking to fill a ‘key position’ within the company, but also when hiring for an opening.
Determine the appropriate place to post the ad
After writing the job description, ensuring it is not only appealing to potential candidates but also clear in terms of what is expected for the specific opening, the employer should take time to research which job search engines suit the industry and the position that is available. For instance, consider the benefits and disadvantages if the ad were posted on Craigslist versus Career Builder, or InDeed versus a local job search site, etc.
Employers should not underestimate trade publications, either—particularly when attempting to fill a larger/key position (e.g. a new general contractor for the construction division or a service engineer for the maintenance department). When looking to fill a position that requires specific skills and experience, perhaps a potential candidate may consider relocation.
Finally, it is becoming increasingly common for people to use social media (e.g. LinkedIn) to search for employment and/or be recruited for jobs. A pool and hot tub business should use all of the social media platforms available to let followers know there is an opening available—especially since these people have already expressed an interest in the company. This also allows people to share and tag people they think would be a good fit for the position.
Referrals, recommendations, and endorsements
Referred employees have a 45 percent retention rate after two years, which is significantly lower than someone who may have been recruited from the other previously mentioned sources. This is because the new employee is working with others they already know and he/she has a better idea ahead of being hired if the position is the right fit.
Further, the person who initially makes the recommendation has prior knowledge of the candidate’s traits and characteristics and, possibly, what his/her work ethic is like. Having a referral program in place to reward employees when they aid in finding the right person for the job can become a valuable catalyst in the success of the business.
That said, it is important not to veer away from the entire hiring process discussed earlier just because a staff member said, “I have a friend that can do this job.” This author has made this hiring mistake in the past and it makes for an awkward situation when the person is not, in fact, suitable for the job. However, this can be avoided by completing the appropriate hiring process, as it helps to ensure the candidate will be successful in the role he/she is being hired to fill.
Do not jump the gun
After the position has been posted, an employer will likely receive a number of great resumes and will be eager to start the interview process to fill the position. Not so quick, however, an employer should be prepared before picking up the phone to make the first call. This helps to ensure the conversation is detailed, clear, and concise. Consistency is also important. Every interview (whether conducted over the phone, in person, or by panel) should follow the same format.
While it may seem like a hassle, this author strongly suggests using a template or a script for each candidate throughout the entire interview process. This gives the interviewer a guide to follow and a place to take notes as well. It also ensures everyone in the company is conducting interviews in a similar manner. The mission of the company and its culture should be uniform no matter who is conducting the interview. Therefore, create a set of core questions that are specific to the business to ask every candidate. When coming up with these questions, consider something a little deeper and unique than “Why should we hire you?”
What to do after hiring someone
After going through the proper hiring process, finding the perfect candidate, and he/she accepts the position, it is important to be ready to integrate them into the job on the first day. This type of preparedness is important. For instance, identify which employee the new hire will shadow for a few days until he/she becomes acquainted with company procedures. Another option is to have a true training procedure that every new employee follows.
This author frequently hears from clients running seasonal businesses that they do not want to hire too soon and would rather wait until they have steady work on schedule. The rationale is they can send the new hire out into the field rather than having him/her sit around the office and no money is coming in to cover their salary. The question comes up if it is worth the investment and this author’s answer every time is “Yes.”
In this author’s experience, the average training period for a new employee in the pool and hot tub industry is a minimum of 18 months. This is not in reference to his/her ability to perform everyday tasks (e.g. pool vacuuming, water testing, loading a pool kit, etc.), but more to the point where he/she can be relied on 100 percent to handle whatever comes their way. They either know how to solve the problems they are facing or have the appropriate amount of knowledge of where to turn or how to research the situation to find the right solution. Getting a new employee to this stage not only takes time, but it also takes an investment on the company’s end.
The average cost to hire a new employee is approximately $1200. This includes the recruitment process, the administrative hours spent reading resumes, setting up and conducting interviews, and the paperwork process when hired. Then, add one-on-one time with management, self-study (whether via video, manuals, or online), and certification programs. The costs can add up quickly.
This is why it is important to be sure the right candidate has been hired before making this type of investment. New and current employees must show long-term commitment in return. This circles back to the important topic of retention. Not only does this have a financial impact on the business, it also affects company morale.
If an employee and employer were to sit down separately and asked the same questions, would the answers be the same? Questions like “Are you actively looking for another job?”, “Do you respect your current management?”, “Do you feel you have the same values as your employer?”, or “Do you feel you are appreciated and valued at this company?” The answers may be surprising.
- 30 percent believe they will be working for someone else in
12 months or less;
- 40 percent do not respect the person they report to;
- 50 percent say they have different values than his/her employer;
- 60 percent feel their career goals are on a different path than what their employers have for them; and
- 70 percent do not feel appreciated or valued.
The question then becomes why are they leaving and how can it be fixed? The following are some of the most common reasons this author has come across:
The job is not what they expected
It is very common that a job posting and interview conversations are not what the job duties entail. Therefore, the importance of consistency between a company’s job description, job listing, and interview questions cannot be emphasized enough. An employer wants to be sure it does not create a mistrust because they lured a candidate in and now have him/her doing something completely different.
This is likely not the first time employers in the pool and hot tub business have heard this phrase before. For instance, are there times when management expects an employee to do the job of two or more people? This means longer hours and working weekends. As a result, employees are forced to choose between work and home.
It just is not the right fit
No matter how much an employer loves a candidate, they should not be hired unless he/she is qualified for the job and will work well within the company structure. Many times, companies hire someone because the candidate is a nice person, but is wrong for the job.
Some employees go out of their way to perform well at his/her job but feel no one notices. This is not to say employees need to be told “great job” for everything they are expected to do, but the need to be recognized for a job well done is in one’s nature. Therefore, any extra praise an employer can give its employees is not only nice but is also effective in building communication by appreciating an employee’s efforts and successes.
Lack of decision-making power
Not many employers will be quick to raise their hands and say proudly “I am a micromanager.” That said, employers should take a second to think about it and ask if they have the characteristics of one. What would employees say? Many know the experience of working with a micromanager and how it made them feel. Employees should be allowed to be comfortable enough to make suggestions. Further, employers should trust its employees to have the freedom to make decisions.
Not enough feedback
Believe it or not, employees like to be reviewed. Employers should take a moment to consider whether they are doing regular reviews with employees and if so, how often do they take place. This author loves employee reviews, as they are the easiest and most effective way to help them improve on his/her performance.
It also provides the opportunity for an employer to provide honest feedback, which is essential to growth, communication, team building, and seeing consistent success in the organization. The only time employers have conversations with employees should not be when he/she is underperforming or if it is in relation to a specific situation.
Just because one did perform his/her job well (and got the promotion), it does not mean he/she knows how to lead others. Keep in mind, there is a difference between managing and leading. It is extremely important the manager who is actually in charge of employees likes people. There is so much to be said about a manager who can motivate and develop relationships with other people.
Lack of growth or development
If a pool and/or hot tub company has three departments (e.g. service, construction, and retail) and each has a manager that is not going anywhere, some employees may begin to think, “Well, they’re not going anywhere, which means I will never advance, so what’s the point in staying?”
The answer to this is not to make everyone managers because this can start a whole other problem. However, as surprising as it may seem, key employees, the ones a company has invested in hiring and training and really want to retain, want to be challenged. These employees are looking to expand their knowledge, gain new skills, and take on more responsibilities. Therefore, if possible, employers should give these employees this opportunity.
No longer confident in the company’s leader(s)
This can occur when employees feel they are being asked to do more while company leaders do less, or if employees were promised one thing and another is happening.
Further, confidence may be lost in the company when an idea is presented and employees spend time, effort, and energy researching, developing, and outlining the strategy, but it is never executed. This can be very frustrating for workers, as this shows a lack of open communication. There is likely another side to these situations and reasons for each, but, if the conversation never takes place, it is hard for everyone to know what those reasons are.
Does money matter?
There is one major topic yet to be discussed and many are likely thinking about it—money. By no means is this author going to say money is not a factor, as it would be a lie. Everyone has bills to pay and families to provide for, which is why, in many cases, an employee will likely make the switch to another company for a mere 10 percent increase in salary. Considering the aforementioned investment, a pool and hot tub company makes to find the right candidate and provide training and education for his/her position, it is not a lot of money.
The important question is, if it were only about money, how many employers would find a way to give an employee the extra $5000 to get him/her to stay? Further, it is also important to consider what may have made this employee start looking around for another job in the first place. For instance, maybe it was one of the nine reasons discussed earlier.
In addition to those already mentioned, the following are some additional strategies an employer can implement to help with employee retention:
- Having an in-house certification program is a great way to keep employees engaged and motivated to stay on track with his/her training timeline without having to spend additional expenses on a regular basis. This author is a strong believer in education for employers and employees. There are some great programs available in the pool and hot tub industry through companies, manufacturers, and industry associations. One can never know too much in a changing and evolving industry. A company that creates its own unique programs can bring all of this available knowledge together to help create a curriculum based on the company’s needs.
- Another strategy is to cultivate company culture. However, most businesses do not intentionally create this culture, but instead simply go along with what is already there. Some companies looking to change their culture find it helpful to bring in an expert, in a consultant role, to help discover, define, and develop the desired culture. Employers can also concentrate on team building efforts; however, open communication is key when doing this. One way a company can get an understanding of what is happening in the workplace is to consider doing an anonymous online survey. Remember, when the survey results start coming in, the goal is to receive open and honest feedback to help the growth of the organization.
An employer undertaking any one of these strategies as a way to manage employee retention must think of it the same way when they perform an employee review—do not take it personally. This strategy allows employers to be proactive by looking for honest feedback from employees.
This article was written by Kate Rabe and originally appeared on Pool & Spa Marketing [link].