Being an effective business manager means you have to develop and use a wide range of skills. You clearly have to know your business and your people, but you also have to manage your time, the time of your employees, understand when to say "no" and when to say "yes," how to change course when needed, and about a million other things that can come up when you least expect them. It's not easy, but when done right, you'll develop an environment with happy employees, raving customers, and you'll see solid business growth.
In a field service business, there are particular challenges around hiring and managing employees. For one thing, the field service environment is distributed and requires employees to work independently most of the time. They act as agents and ambassadors of your business, and unless they have the right training and incentives, their inability to perform to your expectations could lead to negative results for your business.
There are some key management strategies that will help you create a high-performance staff and one that is not only loyal to you but delivers maximum effort to help your brand awareness and perception. It requires a combination of communication, tactical, and organizational skills, as well as the ability to trust your gut and operate with some flexibility. That gut piece is really important; while some things can be ticked off your checklist, most things require you to work on them to make sure they are baked into the fabric of your company.
Every time one of your trucks leaves the yard, or one of your technicians visits a customer, they represent a part of your business, and what they do can have a major impact on how customers feel about you. Showing up on time, being courteous, and adhering to your company policies and guidelines will make them look good, and by extension, customers will look upon your whole company favorably. If they show up late or appear unprepared, you can bet that you'll lose out on repeat business and might take a hit through word of mouth talk among potential customers.
Because your employees are probably the most important components of your brand, you need to prepare them to be successful. It starts with onboarding and extensive preparation and never stops; continuous education and training are key to maintaining a workforce that knows what's expected of them.
No business has the perfect team. People are human and bring to the job their own style and behaviors. Your job is to bring all those people together and create a professional, awesome team that is going to always improve. Great employees aren't always great when you hire them, but you can make them great.
According to a recent study, companies with engaged employees outperform those without by up to 202%. It clearly makes sense to create an environment where employees pay attention to what's going on and want to perform well for you. Your job as a leader is to get the best out of them. Here is a list of things you need to build into your business management practices in order to create highly engaged employees who are prepared to make your business thrive:
Your employees need to be technically competent; there's no question about that. During the hiring process, find ways to see them in action, and watch how they demonstrate their skills. Now, they may not have everything in order to be 100% capable of handling everything on Day 1, so you also need to assess their coachability. Can they learn new things, are they prepared to try things they may not be totally comfortable with? These people don't have to be masters at their craft right now, so you need to invest in training to help them. Maybe you have a mentoring program where more experienced workers train the younger ones. Or perhaps you find courses they can attend. Showing that you're investing in them will keep them motivated to do a good job for you.
According to the Association for Talent Development (ATD), companies that offer comprehensive training programs have 218% higher income per employee than companies without formalized training. But it doesn’t stop there. When you build a culture where training and ongoing education is valued, employees won’t get complacent. If you have a team that provides the most cutting-edge services and functionality to customers, it will be noticed and appreciated through repeat business.
The fact is, the world is made up of different types of people, and your workforce will be no different. As a business leader, however, your challenge is to fit people into roles where they feel comfortable but can also do their best work. Some people are natural salesmen; they would be a natural fit to bid jobs and be in roles that require a lot of customer interaction. Others like grinding away at tasks to see them through to completion. Those people would be a good fit for the key work your business is responsible for. Assigning employees in roles where they can shine shows that you respect them. It also indicates that you're actually paying attention and rewarding them for their value.
All the talent in the world won't do much for you if someone is rude or arrogant. You need employees who are comfortable with customers and who have the ability to connect with people. They don't need to be back-slapping best buddies, but they need to be polite, respectful, and earnest in their approach. It can be surprising how some have had very little training in this, but that's okay. It's your job to create an environment where they are given the instruction and help so when they go out on their own, they can deal effectively with people. It's not fair to send an employee out without an understanding of how to approach people, deal with unhappy customers, and deal with tough situations on the spot.
Employees will take a page out of your book, so don’t forget to model what you want them to do. Be respectful but be firm, and demonstrate to employees that building relationships can help create and sustain business for the long term.
Even a top-notch team can't do their best work without the necessary tools. That may mean, well, actually tools like wrenches and clamps, but it also means other things, some of which are intangible. And those tools need to be in good shape; that's a cost to you to keep saws sharpened and machines calibrated. Tools that aren't taken care of will cause more work for the employee; it could even cause a job to take longer which could cost you in terms of additional staffing hours you need to pay and jobs that don't come in on deadline.
Think through every step of every job an employee might perform, and then ensure you are providing the corresponding stuff that will help them. That includes things like rags and breathing filters and other things that may not be necessary just for the job, but make the experience easier for the employee. Being in the field, your employees will need a smartphone and access to whatever apps and other tools you use that will keep them updated and informed.
A study of employee loyalty indicates that 77% of employees would work harder if they were recognized by their manager. That shouldn't be news to anyone, but using incentives and making the effort to appreciate employees is too easily forgotten and neglected by employers. Think about using incentives in two ways:
Gifts: Everybody likes a gift. For a job well done, and for an employee who's been working especially hard and has been away from his or her family doing work, maybe you spring for them to take their spouse to a nice dinner. Or great tickets to a local sporting event. There are a million ways to gift someone as a reminder that you appreciate them and their work. Think about the individual and what would surprise them and make them feel recognized. The monetary piece will be way worth it in the long run.
Perks: It may seem like small potatoes, but things like free food and great coffee in the break room, company parties on holidays, and the unexpected free lunch go a long way in creating happy employees. Invest in good benefits for your employees, too - doing so shows that you are committed to them. A recent survey shows that the top three most important benefits in the eyes of employees are: health insurance, vacation, and performance bonuses.
Culture: Employees spend a lot of time at work, so it behooves you to make work a place they like and appreciate. But creating a positive team culture requires more than just high-fiving your employees. You should create expectations about how people treat one another and model that for them. Also, it would not be the worst thing to abide by the great maxim, "Take your business seriously, but don't take yourself seriously." Think about that with your company culture and consider how you present yourself and demonstrate your culture in the ways you communicate and interact with the team. It has to start from their first engagement with the company and continue throughout every step of them being part of the team.
Every business must decide what they want to be and how they want to treat employees. The Golden State Warriors and the New England Patriots don't win championships solely because they execute on the court or field. They like what they do, they look out for their teammates, and they have leaders who believe in them. As a manager, you have not only created a great business but now you can create a business that is a model for the rest of your industry. Once you build and lead an exceptional team, you will see happier customers, more repeat business, and growth in revenue
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