Turning Employees into AllStars
Turning Employees into AllStars
Chris Lambrinides, owner of Window Cleaning Resource and WCBO Magazine, also owns a very successful window cleaning company in Northern New Jersey called “All County Window Cleaning.” In the last issue we got to hear from Don Taylor, a manager at All County Window Cleaning, about the hiring process they have there. Don is in charge of hiring the great crew they have on staff now and training all of the new employees they hire. Not to mention the million other things Don does on a daily basis to keep things running flawlessly in the office and out in the field. Somehow amongst one of the recent training weeks we got to score some time asking Don how things actually ran and how he molds (or tries to.. it’s not always a success) new employees to being professional window cleaners.
WCBO Magazine: So you’ve hired a bunch of guys, what’s next?
Don: Next is two days of orientation/training at our facility. We do this so the newbies can go out into the field knowing what we will expect of them and so they don’t appear clueless in front of the customers. When we were smaller we used to just send them out into the field and have the supervisor train them. That’s how my first day was. It was embarrassing just standing in front of a window at a customer’s house for an hour trying to perfect fanning while the rest of the crew cleaned all the windows on the house.
WCBO Magazine: What kind of training exercises are they put through? Is everything hands-on, or are there safety videos?
Don: We do it all. We go over our company handbook and our training manual. They watch videos on ladder safety and fabricating debris. Which they are then tested on.
There are tons of hands on as well. I set up an obstacle course with cones, buckets, and tires for them to walk/climb through while carrying the 32 foot ladder. I show them how to set up the ladders to safely work from them and of course they clean all the windows in the facility. Sometimes the girls in the sales department help by pretending to be angry customers yelling at the guys for leaving streaks and drips. The whole time I’m talking to the newbies, telling them stories about experiences we’ve had over the years, telling them about the other people that work here, and correcting their mistakes as I see them happen.
WCBO Magazine: Do all of your trainees actually make it through training? About how many would you say make it through out of a bunch?
Don: Well it’s not really training. The training never really stops. During those first 2 days at the facility the newbies only learn about 2% of what the job is actually like. I call it “Orientation” now. The rest happens out in the field actually doing the work. In those first 2 days we usually have between five and ten come in, and by the end we always lose at least one. We commonly lose them because they didn’t pass the drug test, or are really afraid of heights and just didn’t know it yet, or they showed up late.
WCBO Magazine: Can you tell ahead of time the ones that will quit and the ones that want to stick around for the long haul? Are there ever any warning signs you’ve noticed throughout the years?
Don: Nope. The very few times someone left us for a “better” job it was a surprise. Losing an employee is the most discouraging for me. It’s such a huge waste of time, effort, and money.
What’s funny is a lot of the time they come back to us within a year or two. Only those going to college do we really expect to leave and we’re prepared for that when they are hired.
In the beginning everyone wants to stick around. Also, no one really leaves us. The majority of the time it’s us ending the relationship.
WCBO Magazine: How long are newbies actually “in training” when they start going out on the job?
Don: Two months. If after that they show they can handle supervisor duties we start to work with them in that direction. Sometimes though they just like to clean windows and that’s it. I know! It’s odd to give up a chance to make more money isn’t it?
WCBO Magazine: Do they even get to clean windows on the job within the first 3 weeks of being hired?
Don: They start cleaning windows their first day. By the end of the day they know the seven steps to cleaning windows just like everyone else: scrub, scrape, scrub, squeegee, detail, clean sills, clean screens.
WCBO Magazine: What tools are they given (if any) to start/work with?
Don: They’re given a tool box with a tool belt, a hammer loop, a BOAB, an 18 inch strip washer, a ten inch strip washer, 2 different size squeegees, a scraper and a sill brush.
WCBO Magazine: Beyond what they’re given, what if they want to try something new or something breaks?
Don: If they want to try something new I just ask that they show it to me first. I have to be sure if they are bringing something they made from home that it’s safe and will not differ from what we advertise or what we tell our customers about how we clean windows. And, if something we issued them breaks we replace it for them immediately.
WCBO Magazine: What is the hierarchy amongst the employees, what are their titles?
Don: Starting from lowest pay rate to highest:
Window Cleaning Technician
Lead Window Cleaning Technician
Supervisor Window Cleaning Technician
Senior Supervisor Window Cleaning Technician
WCBO Magazine: Once they’re out in the field working, how do you gauge their progress?
Don: I spend half my day meeting up with crews to see how they are doing and to offer advice when needed. At this time I get to see them in action and speak with supervisors to get their input on how they are doing. All of our supervisors are accomplished window cleaners so I really trust their opinion.
WCBO Magazine: Do you reward employees for good behavior or for doing good work? Are there any incentives laid out to do well, or up-sell jobs?
Don: We pay commission for every up sell. We offer a hiring bonus where they can earn up to an extra $300 just for showing up on time for the first 6 months. We also offer a $500 referral bonus if they can refer a friend to work here for a period of time. Other than that I just keep reminding them their good behavior and work ethic will be rewarded in tips from the customer. It’s possible to make up to $100 a day in tips. Sometimes more.
WCBO Magazine: How do they get punished for bad behavior, work? Is it an immediate fire or are there warnings?
Don: That really depends on the severity of the case. I’ve fired employees right on the spot. And, others I could understand their issues so I would offer ways to remedy them. We give warnings and document every single instance.
WCBO Magazine: Is it tough to keep employees?
Don: It’s not tough to keep them from quitting. Everyone wants to work since it’s a great work environment that is provided for them. What’s difficult is to keep me from firing them. We are located in an area where there are not many jobs and a lot of applicants to choose from. So, It’s much easier to get rid of an employee quickly that doesn’t produce or is spoiling the rest of the work force with their bad behavior. But, please don’t get me wrong and think I’m a firing Nazi. I’m not waiting for a reason to fire someone. That’s stupid. I bend over backwards for every one of our employees, trying to work with them and be as fair as possible. We are a very strict business with strict policies in place. We have to be since we are in people’s homes.
WCBO Magazine: Does it get frustrating always having to re-train new people? How often is training/do you hire new people?
Don: Nah, it isn’t frustrating at all. It’s what I do. We train every spring depending on the weather and we hire more employees in the fall just for gutter cleaning season. They don’t learn anything about window cleaning because they are only around for about a month or two until everything freezes. But if they do well in that time, then we offer them a window cleaning position in the spring.
WCBO Magazine: When you do have great employees, how do you get them to stay rather than them quit and go out on their own?
Don: I would like to say it’s because when we hire newbies I am able to make them truly feel they are joining a family and the success of this company so greatly depends on them being here. With this in mind they feel as though they really are a part of something bigger than just cleaning a window when they work and the work is then extremely rewarding because their success here helps the success of everyone they work with. This is what I try to express in every orientation and the continued training of customer service. As much as I like to think that’s why they don’t leave, I know it isn’t the real reason. The main reason they don’t go out on their own is the non-compete agreement we have them sign.