4 Strategies to Save an Under-Performing Employee

As difficult as it may be to find, hire and train good employees in today’s competitive marketplace, a solid strategy of how to handle under-performing employees can be critical to building an effective team.

Keeping the adage “Hire slowly & fire quickly” in mind, are we pulling the trigger too soon? Are there employees who can be saved with the proper procedures in place? By letting these team members go too quickly are we wasting the time, energy and capital that it took to hire and onboard them?

When working with an employee who just isn’t “getting it done,” consider these four strategies before moving toward termination.

Mentor Program

In my early days, I sold yellow page advertising for Bell Atlantic and was part of a 250+ sales operation. As you might imagine finding, training and retaining a group that large was a tremendous effort and expense and when faced with an under-performing rep there were corrective procedures in place.

I found that the most effective tool in retaining and training a rep with potential was their mentor program where twice a week the employee in question would ride-along with top performing sales reps; picking up their sales techniques, processes, efficiencies and drive to succeed.

How can that be used in the remodeling space? In addition to the obvious sales scenario, perhaps production personnel working shoulder-to-shoulder with a mentor in the field. And throwing in an incentive for the mentor as well can go a long way as well.

DISC Profile

Here at Remodelers Advantage you will see and hear us refer to the importance of using DISC profiles in the hiring process; helping identify strengths and weaknesses in job candidates before bringing them on. But these profiles don’t stop there… There are sections within the profile that detail the best way to communicate and motivate employees based on their DISC results.

Perhaps this data can help you reach out to an under-performing employee to determine the best course of action when considering how to get them back to track.

Change Position

With the DISC profile mentioned above in mind, perhaps the employee just isn’t in the right position within your company. Poor salespeople might make great estimators, a production team member who seems great with clients but falls short mechanically might be your next sales superstar.

You hired these people for a reason… If you find good, hard working people for your business, consider alternate roles within your organization before terminating altogether.

Setting Measurable Goals

No matter what strategy you use, set attainable and measurable goals as part of your corrective action plan. These aren’t goals you put out on the bulletin board for everyone to see; these are Key Performance Indicators (KPIs) that the employee in question agrees to (in writing) and they are used going forward with management, HR or whomever might be involved.

Summary

Terminating an employee is one of the most difficult things to do as a business owner. Its stressful and can be disruptive to the success of your business. One thing that will put your mind at-ease is to know you did everything you could to “save” the employee in question before having to make that tough decision.

Build your own corrective action plan and process and implement it as quickly as possible. Hang on to those great employees, as we all know how difficult it is to replace them.

What’s Your Plan?

We would love to hear some of your corrective action strategies out there… What do you do when you have an employee who needs to be “saved.” Use the comments section below to provide constructive feedback.

Survey Results: What You Told Us About Hiring and Training Project Managers

Finding, hiring, and training great employees is critical to your success. But it’s hard, and getting harder. I hear it all the time when I’m working with remodeling companies.

I’m supposed to have some of the answers to those problems. But it’s been a while since I’ve hired and trained anyone myself, so I wanted some real-world data from a range much wider than my experience. With help from the RA team, I created a survey to find out what’s going on now in the remodeling world. The survey focused on hiring and training for the Project Manager role, but what we found can also be applied to the Lead Carpenter position. By the way, I also found out how hard it is to craft a survey!

The results are fascinating. 

I wanted to find out what character traits — not skills — everyone looks for when hiring a Project Manager. I identified 19 traits and asked people to rank their top five (I thought it was 20 traits, but it turns out I only gave 19 choices!).  

Communications skills came up as the clear favorite in my list of 19. There are about seven other choices that rank close together, telling me there’s a wide variety of opinions on what’s needed for this role. But it also made me wonder how much emphasis is paid to communication skills during the interview process. My guess is not enough — even though a majority say those skills are critical.  

We also wanted to find out where remodeling companies find their Project Managers. One of the options for the source was Trade Partners (Subs). This actually received 17.5% of the responses. However, it didn’t tell me if they were referred by a trade partner or whether the company hired a trade partner. Again, I need to polish my survey skills to get more clarity.  

The survey shows 33.4% of those responding found their Project Managers from online sources. (Yes, I do have the details of which ones!) But 35% of those hired were from direct contact with people involved with the company. These were referrals from trade partners, clients, and employees.  

I’m always curious about where your Project Managers were before taking the job — whether they worked in the remodeling business or came from outside the industry. I wasn’t surprised to find the majority, 70.9%, had been in either remodeling or new home construction. The rest were pretty evenly distributed across commercial, the trades, and other project manager roles. Trade partners were cited by 8.9% of the survey responders 

Obviously, I’m interested in what kind of training Project Managers get before they’re let loose on the job. The data says there’s not enough training is going on for these pivotal positions. Thirty percent say they train their Project Managers only in the office, with nothing in the field. Twenty-two percent conduct a “ride along” and some office training, and 8% say there’s no formal training.  

I’m using the findings of the survey to help me prepare a seminar on hiring and training at the Purple Production Conference in September. This study shows me three clear results. 

No. 1: More attention needs to be paid to the character traits someone brings to the job, not just their knowledge of the trades. Pick your top five character traits, and then conduct an interview process that will find the person with those traits. 

No. 2: Companies need to be more assertive in reaching out to find Project Managers. You can’t just hope the right people will find you. Things have definitely changed from when I was in the position of hiring — there are so many more sources, and you need to explore all of them.    

No. 3: It’s clear our industry isn’t training our Project Managers enough — more time and attention needs to be spent on it. Too often, the people in these roles may get training on things like policies, office procedures, and technology, but not about the details of actually managing in the field. This kind of training can only be done on the job, and over a period of time.  

Positions like Project Manager and Lead Carpenter are critical to your business — but getting the right people, with the best skills, is only part of the process. There has to be more emphasis on training — you need to give your people, and your business, the support and skills to succeed. 

Want More About This Subject?

Join us on Thursday, August 30th for a FREE Webinar on this exact topic as Tim dives deeper into the results of the survey.

Tim will walk you through the results we received and talk more about how they can help you build out an effective team. Some of the survey questions you will hear answers to include:

  • How have you found successful project managers?
  • Top 10 qualities you look for in project managers?
  • Basics for selecting the right people for the job?
  • Once on board, how do you ensure success?

Click Here to Register for the Free Webinar

Tim Faller’s 4 Ways to Improve Your Production Meetings

Is this the scenario for your production meetings? People file into the room in about the same order each week. They sit in the same chairs or lean against the wall in the same place. They sit quietly while you “discuss” information that you think they will appreciate.

Then you discuss each job and what is going on there. When you are done, you respectfully ask if there are any questions and you get a silence. Then everyone hurries out to do the things they love to do.

Sound familiar? It doesn’t have to be that way!

There are four things you can do to make production meetings better for everyone. For those of you that only have a meeting twice monthly or once per month, you may want to consider holding meetings more often, but these 4 tips still apply.

1. Use the time to say thank you or send out praise.

This is a universal truth, people respond to praise better than anything else. So just in case you haven’t thought about this, going through every job is probably not about praise but about fear for your team. Fear of being off budget, fear of being off schedule, fear of having to justify how the job is going.

So, save the project reviews for your weekly meetings with the on-site manager and use the production meeting to let someone share how they solved a problem that others may face in the future. Also, take time during the week to “catch someone doing good” then bring that up. Learn about the accomplishments of your team in their personal lives and mentions those.

2. Use the meetings to solve problems and develop the team.

Successful remodeling companies create an environment where employees feel that they are on a team that communicates openly and works together. So, discuss what problems the team faces. Be sure you listen and hear what the production team shares. Make a list. Then start working on the solutions as a group.

One company I worked with recently in Seattle has done a great job with this, however to get people talking, it took handing out a couple of gift cards to a local coffee shop. Once the team saw that the general manager was serious about making progress they have chipped in and have really been contributing. Rumor has it that no one is late for a meeting anymore.

3. Focus on forecasting rather than regrets.

One of the major challenges for all remodeling companies is getting job managers to look forward. So instead of having job managers coming to a meeting to talk about what has happened on past projects, have them come and share what is going to happen going forward.

This creates the chance for everyone to get an idea of what others are doing and collaborate on personnel, if needed. It also “forces” them to look ahead and be prepared instead of getting hung up on what has happened in the past.

4. Shake things up

As with almost anything in life, variety is the key. Do not do the same thing week after week. Mix it up. You should always be praising someone. But beyond that, use some meetings for systems building and problem solving. Use some for simply having a good time. Use some for forecasting and letting people share the good that is going on with their jobs.

For example, you can create a pattern by having the forecasting meeting on the second Wednesday of each month and the systems meeting on the third. But even with that mix it up, don’t run the forecasting meeting the same way each time.

Summary

With just a little bit of creativity and planning your meetings can be effective and helpful. What about you? Are your production meetings effective? What are some ways that you have made them stronger? We would love to hear how your team has improved your production meetings in the comments section below.

6 Ways to Motivate Your ENTIRE Team

I was reading an article in INC Magazine about motivating sales teams and I noticed that many of the concepts suggested to push a sales team to succeed, would also work nicely for everyone in the company.

So, this article talked about different ways to motive a sales team, beyond of course a commission check, which is often what so many businesses focus on.

Perhaps because so many remodeling companies out there are sales & marketing focused, I wanted to share these 6 ways to motive your ENTIRE team for success.

1. Set goals

Again, beyond any type of quota or commission, what are some group and even individual goals that you can set to keep everyone moving forward?

Get to know your team… what motivates them? Food? Free time? Stuff for the office? Perhaps create a contest or fun way for team members or departments to compete for a prize.

2. Focus on Purpose

Share the mission of the company at your weekly, monthly or quarterly meetings; make sure everyone is aware of the vision and how each of them plays an integral part.

This is especially important to the younger people on your team… they love that stuff and it’s been proven that turnover decreases as more team members commit to a common mission.

3. Build Trust of Leadership

Nothing kills morale more than when a team no longer respects or trusts their leader.

Build trust by being a “firm & fair” manager, being direct and straightforward as possible and make your team feel appreciated and engaged.

4. Work Across Siloes

As your team grows each department may begin to internalize and “silo” and this can breed finger-pointing and blame when something goes wrong.

Think about how your sales & production teams interact, for example.

Come up with some team building exercises you can do, where teams are made up of representatives from various department and each team must solve a problem, puzzle or challenge.

5. Create a Culture of Recognition

While some team members feel more comfortable receiving praise and recognition than others; it’s a great way to motive the team and call-out individuals who go above and beyond.

Don’t just do it at the end of the year… get on a regular schedule of recognizing these “go-getters” at weekly or monthly meetings.

6. Get Creative

Recognition means way more when it’s memorable and personal…

Monthly winners get to sit in a special chair at the weekly meetings and park in the VIP spot for a month. Send a letter home to the employees family sharing the news of the recognition. That always goes over well!

Call them out on social media so their family and friends know what a great job they are doing too.

How about you?

How do you motivate your team members? What tactics have worked best for you? What tactics haven’t worked? Please share your experience in the comments below.

And, if you haven’t subscribed to PowerTips yet, please hit the button at the end of this video.. right after the bloopers…

Thanks, and I’ll see you next week.

How and When to Hire Your First Remodeling Salesperson

Building out a sales team can be challenging, especially for business owners who haven’t done it before.

I think it’s safe to say that most Remodeling company owners are directly involved in the sales process for their companies, if not being the main sales person… So when is it time to add a sales person and how do you do it effectively?

In today’s episode we will take a look at the “WHEN TO” and “HOW TO” when it comes to growing your sales force. What are some of the things to look out for and why hiring salespeople can be different than a typical employee.

What about you? When did you bring on your first sales rep? Did you find a good one, and if so how did you do it? Any problems or horror stories that you can share? Let us know in the comments section below.

Here is the link to the previous PowerTips TV Episode that Victoria talks about in this video.

How To Fire an Employee “The Right Way”

Letting an employee go is one of the most unpleasant parts of owning or managing a business.

We all want our employees to be fantastic in their jobs… to be so wonderful that we never have to think about firing someone. But that’s not the real world, now is it?

In today’s episode we’re going to talk about how to fire someone the right way and give you a few tips and some advice to keep in mind.

Do you handle terminations differently? Is there something you do that helps things end on a positive note for both parties?

Please share your experience in the comments below. And, if you haven’t subscribed to PowerTips yet, please do so by visiting our YouTube Channel.

PowerTips TV Throw-back Thursday: “How to Combat the Labor Shortage”

This week’s throw-back episode goes back to 2015, but the topic remains a top discussion point at almost all Roundtables Meetings here at Remodelers Advantage.

According to a recent article in Fortune Magazine, “60% of contractors reported difficulty finding skilled workers in the third quarter of 2017 due to an ongoing skilled labor shortage…” and “Along with the struggle to find qualified workers, 91% of contractors are at least moderately concerned about the skill level of their workforce.”

Throw in a few major hurricanes in the Southern states and the situation only becomes more critical.

Watch this episode and share any ideas or advice you may have used to win this war!


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I talk to dozens of remodelers each week and one of the most common concerns I hear these days is, “I’m trying to hire more people and we’re not finding anyone.”

Well, unfortunately, this situation isn’t going away anytime soon. In fact, experts predict that high employment in the construction industry will be around for years, so it’s time to start creating a strategy that will help you keep production going and quality levels high.

I’ve discovered that there are ways to build a workforce that can handle the growing labor demand and in this week’s episode, I’ll share the four main keys to doing it.

What about you?

Do you have any advice for R.A. Nation? Share your knowledge in the comments below!


Labor-Shortage

Job Description Creep: “and All Other Duties Required”

The phrase at the end of most job descriptions, “and all other duties as required” is one of the most dangerous expressions a remodeling company can include when looking for your next team member. While it is intended to capture any additional items that are not included in the overall description, it often has very adverse effects.

He’s not your Type

By including the “all other duties” phrase in your description you run the risk of attracting
the individual that really is not motivated to do the job and therefore needs the statement. This individual is always waiting to be told what to do, does not show initiative on their own and often needs to be directed.

Whether the “all other duties” phrase is included or not, it is critical to vet-out this type of person in your hiring process and hire people that are self-initiators.

In addition, you need to identify this quality in your existing team members and either correct it or let them go as soon as it rears its ugly head. This business is tough enough without having to monitor every employee to see if they are doing their job “and all other duties as required.”

Production Managers at-risk

In my experience, adding this “all other duties” phrase can be particularly impactful in the Production Manager role. Most people that move into this role are highly motivated, experienced and very driven to do whatever is necessary without additional tasks being assigned.

Because many Production Managers are skilled at many of the functions of remodeling, including the “all other duties” phrase can lead to them taking on additional tasks, regardless if they have the time to do them. This not only increases the likelihood of primary tasks not being completed on time, it also leads to increased hours for the PM and job burnout.

Without spelling out the job description in detail, the production manager’s primary role is to manage production. There are some pre-job-start functions that accompany this but in general when the job is sold, the production manager and his/her team take over.

As the economy continues to improve, the number of inbound calls taken by a company expands as do the sales. It puts a strain on the sales-to-production process so typically a company begins looking for ways to increase the speed that projects get turned over.

Very often estimating is the process that is turned over to the PM as an “all other duties required.” If a PM is not a solid estimator or is not effectively trained to capture all of the non-production related expenses (overhead, sales margin, etc.) damage to a company’s GP can be fast and critical.

Don’t take it from the field

Another task that often gets assigned to the Production Manager is the ordering of materials and job scheduling. Often there is a presumption that the PM, being as talented as he/she typically is, will be smarter than the field staff so they should order materials and create the job schedule.

Not only does this take time away from their primary roles of managing people and production, it robs the Project Managers or Lead Carpenters of the very tasks that create ownership and efficiencies.

In some instances, the Production Manager takes on these additional tasks to compensate for lack of ability in the Job Manager. Instead of training a Job Manager to do their job properly they take the tasks on themselves and work 60-70 hours a week and eventually burn-out and leave.

Summary

So how do we fix Job Description Creep?

  • As you grow, invest in the right people before the function is required. This allows for proper on-boarding and training before their role is critical.
  • Resist the urge to take on work unless you have the structure (manpower in sales & production) to produce it effectively and at your desired GP.

In our Production Manager Roundtables we have found that if a PM can clearly define the additional tasks that they have either been assigned or taken on, they can focus on their primary roles of managing people and production. These “and all other duties as required” tasks can be properly assigned, distributed and trained, leading to greater profitability and job satisfaction.

PowerTips TV Throw-back Thursday: “How to Avoid Costly Hiring Mistakes”

Hiring the wrong employee can cost more than the expense of hiring, training and on-boarding their eventual replacement. Your company’s culture is at risk and irreversible damage can occur and if the new hire is client-facing.

In today’s throw-back PTTV episode, I take a closer look at the hiring process and even offer a free tool to help avoid making costly mistakes in bringing on new team members. Enjoy!


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This week’s episode of PowerTips TV comes from Joe Zieba, owner of Zieba Builders in Southern California. Joe has a great tool for avoiding the costly mistakes associated with hiring the wrong employee.

Did you know that on average, a company spends about nearly $4,000 to recruit, hire and train a new employee? That’s a lot of money to be spent on a bad hire! So today I’m going to share this wonderful technique from one of our top Roundtables members. Thanks for your contribution Joe!

What about you?

Do you have any systems or tools in place to find that diamond in the rough? Please share your hiring successes and challenges in the comments below!

Here’s your free download!

Download Sample

Critical Tips for Beating the Labor Shortage

While some company owners are convinced that “there are no good hires available,” we are seeing others hire superstars.  These successful owners are using three powerful strategies:

  1. Retention of current staff — reducing need to hire
  2. Streamlining systems and resources — reducing need to hire
  3. A powerful and effective recruiting and hiring system — so when you do hire, you hire right

Here are some tips on putting these strategies to work for you.

Retaining Your Current Staff

Today’s worker wants a learning environment, a family-friendly environment, teamwork, empowerment, shared decision-making and more democratic management. Losing a talented, experienced employee is expensive, so reducing this churn is essential.

While it may seem that current employees don’t need as much time or energy from you, don’t take them for granted. Let them know that you appreciate their efforts. Keep them informed about developments in the company. And offer opportunities for training, one of the benefits that employees rank as “most important” when rating a company.

Regularly check in with your key employees to take their temperature about what’s going on with the company. Make sure that they aren’t being overwhelmed with the sheer volume of work. If they are, invest in help. . . whether a temp worker, a support person, or new technology that can cut their load.

Reducing Your Need to Hire by Increasing Efficiency!

Here are several practical ideas that will allow you to streamline the work done by your employees, thereby letting each employee leverage more volume.

  • Hold regular brainstorming sessions with your staff to review all procedures that are currently in use within the company. Focus on streamlining. What work, forms, or overlapping procedures can be eliminated from the company? What is missing that could help you avoid time-sucking mistakes?
  • Outsource more – both to freelancers for office work or subcontractors for production work. More and more folks are using outsourced CAD pros, take-off specialists, or virtual employees.
  • Are there labor saving tools, equipment, technology, or communications that would free up time for you, your office, or field staff? Save an hour here and an hour there and soon you won’t have to hire another person.
  • Check with your suppliers for products they will install (i.e. windows, fireplace units, siding) or products that can save you in-house time (pre-primed moldings). Use their labor instead of yours and benefit from the expertise they have in mastering one task.
  • Check with subs to see if there are additional functions they can take over from your staff. Have your own carpenters?  Keep them but consider subbing large jobs such as decks, siding, insulation, drywall and roofing which can be economical to outsource.
  • Are your field personnel equipped with state-of-the-art labor-saving tools and equipment? If you have 10 field employees and can save 20 minutes a day for each, that’s 1000 minutes a week or 867 hours a year.  That’s 867 hours you don’t need or 867 hours you can sell profitably to another client.  One remodeler keeps a stocked trailer on every job site.  It’s good looking and well signed but it also saves time and running for materials. Many others provide iPads or laptops to help production employees to manage their jobs on the fly with software solutions.
  • Increase training for your field personnel to save time in installations. Check with your manufacturers, subs and suppliers for help in developing short training sessions.
  • Develop a cross-department team to research ways to reduce in-house work.

Still need to Hire?

Write a clear job description that accurately describes the position. This has been called the single best thing you can do to hire well.

Include not only activities to be done but also the underlying traits that are needed to succeed in the job. The Sandler Sales Institute, a national sales training organization, also recommends that every job have a SEARCH description — a list of Skills, Education, Attitude, Results, Cognitive Skills, and Habits needed for the position.

Script open-ended questions that will let you probe for the underlying traits needed to successfully master the position. An open-ended question cannot be answered by just a yes or no.

Plan your hiring procedure/system. How will the applicant apply, who will screen applicants, who will interview, for how long, will there be a formal rating sheet, etc.? What happens if the applicant does not follow instruction. . . such as ignoring the request for a cover letter? Does that automatically disqualify him/her?

Compared to ten years ago, hiring is a much more serious and time consuming task in a business. Be prepared to get very professional about it. On the other hand, you might find that when you learn to hire well and have a good system for doing so, you might enjoy the process.

Round Up Those Elusive Prospects

It’s easier than you think — but only if you think in the right paradigm. Whatever you might have learned about hiring 5 or 10 years ago probably needs to be revised. Finding top recruits for your positions has now become a marketing challenge. There aren’t enough quality employees to go around, so you must have a plan for getting more than your share.

  • Recruit all the time. You often know what your next hire will be even if you are not ready to hire yet. Keep your eye out for good prospects at the grocery, the gas station, the suppliers’, or the association dinner meeting. Some remodelers have had excellent results with talking to subs and suppliers and following up with a letter that describes the position he is filling. Use all of your industry connections/network to help you find the right person. Is there a struggling remodeler who would happily fold their business and come to yours — with their personnel? Sweet!
  • Watch what your competitors are doing. Follow them on social media, watch for ads they may be running. In fact, with your staff, identify your top 5 competitors and then assign one staff person to each of these companies to learn as much as they can about the benefits being offered, the angle of their ads, the training they are offering, and any salary information. While you don’t want to copy, you can learn from their strategies and take this new knowledge to improve your own tactics. In other words, do what they do. . . but better.
  • Post your flier on a bulletin board – your grocer, your veterinarian, your printer, your suppliers.
  • Consider holding a well-publicized early evening or early morning Open House if you have a showroom or good looking office. Have employees on hand to talk and do a short interview.
  • Hand out materials on the job opening(s) and for the best candidates set longer, more formal interview times.
  • Offer employees and subs a referral fee for an employee who stays at least 3 months. If you’re already doing this, up the ante to get more of the right kinds of people.
  • Stay attuned to local business happenings. If there are plant closures or layoffs, that might be an opportunity for you to snag some talent. Laid-off workers could be an excellent pool from which to recruit.
  • In all written ads/fliers/posters emphasize your company culture, intangible benefits, and behavioral descriptors for the position as well as any technical requirements.
  • Brainstorm with your team for unique ideas!
  • Advertise for superstar employees on your trucks and on your website.
  • Use social media! Post ads, current employee profiles, information on your company, awards won, etc. Consider Facebook, LinkedIn, Instagram and others to get the word out. For many, it’s been a great place to find quality employees. See one example here.
  • Offer Amazing Benefits. It’s a job seekers market and a better-than-average benefits package can turn the right heads. How do your current offerings compare?
  • Don’t forget that your best candidate may be a woman, a minority, a veteran or a person from a totally different field who has the right attitude and excellent management skills.
  • Lastly, consider ambition over experience. If you find someone with the right eager, optimistic attitude who wants to learn everything there is about being a great construction worker, grab him. You can always train for the skills that are needed, but it’s pretty hard to train for a good attitude.

Lack of production staff can really hamstring a company, but with the strategies above, you’ll be in a fantastic position to find and onboard people with the skills, the attitudes and the experience you want.

What about you?

Please share your thoughts in the comments below. Let’s get the conversation started!