Strategy & Leadership

Have You Taken Stock of Your Techs’ Toolkits Recently?

At your company, do you see your employees pouring out all of their energy and goodwill into their tasks? Do they feel acknowledged and compensated, even if a big part of that is just being shown recognition and respect? Do they act as if doing their job is an important and positive thing in the world, as opposed to something to earn a paycheck through gritted teeth? If you can’t answer yes to all of these, the good news is you can immediately improve the performance and results of your service company by absorbing and implementing the following tips for supporting your employees and growing a team that is invested in its work.

When your employees feel disconnected from the company’s core mission, lacking a passion for their job, every aspect of the company suffers including revenues and profit. Often, it’s little things that make someone feel great about being at work, and having managers who cultivate those small positive experiences pays off immensely.

Tools & Resources

I remember a time I sent a service tech to perform a simple job that should’ve taken 45 minutes. When he came back three hours later and I asked him where he’d been, he replied, “I spent two hours getting the fan blade off the shaft of the motor?” When I asked if he had a wheel puller he had no idea what I was talking about.

Image: RawPixel

You can’t expect your employees to do their best work if they have inferior, broken, or missing tools and resources for solving problems. An effective car mechanic has all of the mechanical necessities laid out neatly in a multi-drawer toolbox, with printed car manuals nearby. Similarly, your employees need to have work tools, technology and information “aid out so they can find the right piece when they need it.

Ask your workers, “If you had a magic wand, what would you wish for that would make your job easier?” Even if you perfectly equipped your employees at the beginning, industries are constantly changing with the introduction of new codes, technological standards and ever-evolving customer needs. As a service business owner, it’s your responsibility to keep the team and its tools up to date.

Expectations Equal Results

Often, managers and owners get frustrated with what they perceive as a lack of results or low performance. However, just as often managers and leaders neglect to explain the company’s goals and priorities in the first place — they just assume employees will figure it out. And we all know what happens when you assume.

As a service business owner, it’s your responsibility to keep the team and their tools up to date.

A service company has to have performance goals so each employee knows exactly what’s expected. Have a mission statement with a clear list of top goals and non-negotiable points when it comes to employee conduct and performance as well. The higher ups need to define the essential vision, which translates into actions. This will convey to workers not only what they need to be doing but also why they need to be doing it.

Training, Not Explaining

As you build a team of top tier service professionals, you cannot rely alone on experience accumulated on the job.

Onboarding is essential for everyone who joins the team in order to take that team to the next level of understanding and preparation for all of the pressures and contingencies they may face. To achieve this, invest in frequent training in logical problem solving and in person-to-person communications. These enhanced skills will greatly improve interactions between your service people and their associates, customers and superiors.

Additionally, design some sort of final exam to mark the completion of training. The biggest mistake a company can make is to train people but then not test them to make sure they can demonstrate their understanding. So if you show employees how to fill out service tickets, end the training by having everyone write one up and show you before they leave the room.

Humans, Not Robots

Treat a worker like a disposable machine part and see how they react when other job opportunities arise. It doesn’t take a tremendous amount of time, energy or money to put a little bit of human interest and curiosity into your interactions with employees.

See them as a person, not as overhead. Talk to them as a friend, not as a superior.

No one’s saying to spend hours in deep personal discussions, but you can and should ask your employees about their interests, hobbies, passions, lifelong goals and what they feel are their weaknesses. This will only help them feel more appreciated and understood, which will create a better working environment and stronger results in the field.

See them as a person, not as overhead. Talk to them as a friend, not as a superior. Once you find out what motivates your people, then you have everything you need to help them be successful.

Be Willing To Be Judged

I’ve done hundreds of employee evaluations. But one in particular stands out. As I verbally shared my words of wisdom with an employee, I noticed he’d stopped listening. He was playing with his cell phone instead. When I asked him if he was paying attention he said, “Oh, I didn’t think you were talking to me. I thought you were just thinking out loud.” Then I realized that it was I who did not listen or check in with my employee. Nor did I allow him to say a peep about my performance as his boss. I realized I was creating employees who were confined to grumbling to a co-worker about my shortcomings.

As a manager in a service business you must constantly ask your employees for honest feedback on your and other supervisors’ performance. Explain that you want to improve your managing skills and approach and ask what you could be doing differently to better support your employees in their jobs.

A Small Gesture of Appreciation Goes A Long Way

Announce and recognize employee achievements and milestones in ways that are truly appreciated by the person who gets them.

Create a company hall of fame plaque for employees who hit all-time milestones. Give out graduation certificates for those who pass training programs. The number of employees who display them in their cubicles or trucks may surprise you. Money is temporary, but recognition is an emotional experience that lasts forever.

A Bad Culture Ruins Everything

Your vision is the way you’d like to see your company operate. Your culture is the way it actually operates.

If your company culture is not what you want it to be, ask yourself about how things operate on a daily basis. What kinds of stories, discussions and jokes do employees exchange in the office and out in the field?

It’s up to you to listen and learn what’s really going on at ground level. Are people universally having fun with the humor or is it destructive, being aimed by bullies at the expense of others?

As the leader, recognize this starts with you. Help encourage and model a culture of confident, happy and optimistic employees. One simple way to begin this is to remove sarcasm in your communication with employees.

Consistency Is Golden

Unfortunately, your initiatives and improved methods won’t take your team and company very far if you let them fizzle and die just weeks or even days after starting.

Employees become very cynical very fast about any great new direction for the workplace when they see you discard new ideas as fast as yesterday’s fad diet. So how do you make change stick? You need to stick with these adjustments and maintain them on an ongoing basis. It also helps to create timelines as you prototype changes. If the change works then transition it into permanent policy. It then becomes permanently ingrained into the management team’s thinking and the rest of the team absorbs it as reality and not just cheap talk.

Your employees are the most valuable thing you can offer your customers. Honor those employees and do not take them for granted. While there are people who come right out of the gate motivated and high performing, most employees need a combination of factors to line up at their job in order to show peak achievement and interest.

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