One of the problems many service providers have—whether they are in professional cleaning, carpet cleaning, landscaping, roofing, or a variety of other industries—is staff turnover. Although the numbers can vary, in some sectors the turnover rate can be more than 50 percent. This means that half the crew working for a contractor must be replaced every year.

And it’s not just contractors that must grapple with high turnover.

In a recent study by the Society for Human Resource Management (SHRM), it was found that nearly half of all hourly workers leave their new jobs within the first four months, and half of the senior hires—those in executive positions—move on after 18 months.

As you can imagine, this is a significant burden that can have several adverse outcomes. It takes time, energy, and money every time a new person is hired. Further, constant worker turnover can negatively impact service quality. Safety concerns, both for the staffer and the customer, can mount. And for carpet cleaners specifically, the dreaded “redos”—where the contractor is asked to come back and reclean the carpet to meet the customer’s satisfaction—can become an ongoing and costly problem.

What if we could turn this around from the very start? What if employees decided to stay on for more than four months, or even more than 18 months? Contractors could save a lot of time and energy and reverse all the complications we just discussed. Although it may seem impossible at first, the solution to this problem is within reach.

Enter Onboarding

It all starts with having an active “onboarding” program that begins before the new worker arrives for their first day on the job and continues for months after that. Onboarding refers to the first steps taken to assimilate a new hire into an organization. Many of the essential parts of an effective onboarding program are tangible and include making sure the new worker is supplied with

  • A company uniform or shirt ready to be worn
  • A name badge
  • Forms and manuals that will be used for training purposes
  • Business cards/identification cards, if this is something your company requires all staffers to have

It also involves intangible items, such as ensuring other workers in the company, the new hire’s supervisor, and the relevant training personnel are available to meet the new staffer. Further, the new staffer should be asked to jump in and start working with the crew on their first day. Having the person start working right away encourages engagement; you want the new worker invested in the company from the start. Plus, hands-on learning is a key first step in the training program that lies ahead.

The onboarding process should also  be viewed as a two-way street. Be sure to ask new staffers if they have any concerns about the tasks they will do—and how they see your staff performing them—if they want to meet with a supervisor, or if they do not understand the way a task is completed or a machine is used.

A few weeks into the onboarding process, interview the new staffer and ask for feedback about their initial days with the company. The goal here is to improve the process for future new hires. This interview completes the onboarding stage.

Understanding What’s Expected

Many contractors I work with have a misguided belief that if they hire competent people and the new hire has already learned, for instance, how  to extract carpets, there’s not much more that needs to be taught. This is misguided because the new worker has not been taught how your company performs carpet cleaning tasks. The staffer is going to bring their previous training to your company. This is not what you want.

The on-the-job training that started on day one is considered the most effective way to train a new worker, especially if they are paired with a trainer or supervisor from your company. Training should not be turned over to another staffer.

Further, the training must be structured. The quality and depth of training can vary depending on who is doing it. To reduce this variability, contractors should formalize their training programs—in writing—so that the same list of tasks, procedures, and subjects are covered with this staffer and each new staffer.

Further, these training programs do not necessarily have to be with just new workers. Ongoing training programs in all aspects of the job, including such topics as customer relations and practical communication skills, should be taught and retaught to all staff members. Typically, these are referred to as continuing education programs or continuing professional development (CPD).

These programs have two very specific benefits, one of which many contractors may not be aware of. The first is obvious. CPD programs help ensure workers are performing their duties following best practices and the way your company wants tasks to be completed. Outdated working procedures have an unfortunate habit of resurfacing.

But the other reason is that ongoing training is a form of engagement with workers, new and old.

It reminds them that their employer has made a commitment to their education, their safety on the job, and their welfare. It also indicates opportunity. Many workers see few if any opportunities for growth or advancement in their jobs. They consider it a dead-end position. Continuing education helps them realize just the opposite. And when workers see that the road they are on is leading somewhere, it makes them want to stay around a while.

The three-pronged approach of effective onboarding, training, and continuing professional development has been shown to reduce turnover considerably. Demonstrate to your employees that you are invested in them and their future with the company, and they will invest in you.

Ron Segura is president of Segura Associates. His company works with large and small contractors helping them build their businesses as well as streamline their operations so that they can reduce costs and operate more profitably.  He can be reached through his company website at http://www.seguraassociates.com

Onboarding Tips

Follow these tips for an effective onboarding process:

  • Clarify your company’s values from the beginning; some contractors have a mission statement, purpose, or vision for their companies. Share these with new staffers as soon as they are hired.
  • Pair the new employee with a current, experienced worker.
  • Explain company jargon; new staffers will not feel integrated into a company if other staffers are using terms and words they do not understand.
  • When onboarding several new staffers at once, find ways to personalize the process; the smaller the group the better.

Have an onboarding timeline and make sure new staffers are aware of it. Many contractors adopt a 30-60-90 day plan. The first 30 days feature the most intensive training and supervision. The next 30 days are focused on review and supervision.  After 90 days, check-ins are typically all that are required.