Employees: Asset or liability?
I offer this treatise as a response to a phenomenon in our current society that affects all of us more than we think. Everyone wants excellent service, right? One of the many plights of the human condition is a desire to receive more than we give but it amazes me that many workers aren’t willing to contend against this mentality. Entitlement, slothfulness, and selfishness have become the hallmarks of many workers (Thank you Labor Unions and wimpy employers). We have become a nation of consumers rather than producers. Many workers expect to be treated like kings when they are the customer but refuse to extend that same service to others in the course of their employment. (Ultimately this thinking isn’t even self serving as it does nothing to insure long term job security!) I thought this situation might improve with the recession because employees would value their jobs more… I was wrong.
We are finding it increasingly difficult to hire qualified employees who share our passion to do the best job humanly possible and give the customer and their employer true excellence. To qualify for a position at our company, quite frankly, one has to be extraordinary (I must say, since “ordinary” or “average” has become such a pathetic standard, the word doesn’t have quite the same meaning that it used to.) There is a standard of excellence and a work ethic that has to be met. I’m amazed that employees often assume that their “best” should be an acceptable standard. What if that employee’s best doesn’t meet our company’s or the customer’s standard? This is a prevailing postmodern attitude that I see more in younger people who refuse to take responsibility for their own actions and who get offended or angry when they’re offered constructive criticism to help them grow. I’m guessing more energy and time was put into building their self esteem while growing up (?) than developing character and integrity… but that’s another article.
We live in a culture where people expect others to accommodate their laziness, bad habits, poor decisions, and selfish desires. Many American workers these days have no problem “doing the job”, as long as it fits into their personal agenda. Integrity has been lost. Tell a prospective employee that personal accountability and accepting responsibility for one’s actions is part of the job and they will agree. Then ask them to sign an employee contract stating that they are personally responsible for their careless mistakes (with reasonable caps of course) and see how quickly they say “get lost” and walk out the door! A very troubling trend in our culture is this habit of willful deceit with our lips. We should be willing to literally “sign off” to whatever we say. (Maybe they think the saying “Let your word be your bond” refers to an entitlement regarding jail?)
Generally speaking, we have found that the current American labor force finds it perfectly acceptable to “steal” time from their employer (Justification: “They’re not paying me what I’m really worth so I’m going to take some liberties”). Technology has done nothing to hinder the perpetuation of this crime. Some workers believe that it’s somehow “their right” to be able to take ten bathroom breaks a day, check voice mail, check email, text message, make cell phone calls, check Facebook, use company resources for personal frivolity, and eat all day long (apparently grazing is the new coffee break). The workplace has become their personal domain that is interrupted by their job duties.
In order to find the best employees, we typically ask the candidate to write down their answers to these simple questions during the interview:
- What does the employer owe you?
- What do you owe the employer?
This cuts to the chase very quickly as it gives the prospective employee the opportunity to express his or her true philosophy regarding work ethics and responsibility. (Sadly, what many are willing to express on paper during a job interview doesn’t line up very well with their true thoughts and feelings in the matter.)
Here’s what the company owes the employee (entitlements):
- Agreed upon compensation.
- A safe working environment.
- Respect and appreciation.
Here’s what our employees owe the company (obligations):
- Their full attention to their job during the work day (excluding one hour for lunch).
- Their best preparation and performance (I.E: It’s really irresponsible to begin the day’s work while still suffering the effects of the previous night’s partying).
- A willingness to further develop and hone their skills and abilities.
- Respect for authority.
- A winning attitude.
- A dedication and loyalty that has the best interests of the company in mind.
- Personal responsibility for all of one’s actions.
- Personal accountability.
- A willingness to follow instructions with an attitude of humility.
I could keep going but you get the picture. Some workers have attempted to turn this around and make it about them rather than about the customer and the company. (Small Business 101: If the company doesn’t thrive, then customers don’t get the service they deserve, and ultimately the employee is out of a job.) Just to clarify, what our company owes the employee and what we ultimately provide are vastly different. We reward them with raises and other perks at our discretion based on attitude and performance. They are NOT entitlements.
Beck’s European has a great employee retention rate as long as the employee simply does what he or she is supposed to do. We are extremely generous and fair to our employees… and demanding. Ex-employees have said: “Beck’s is extremely difficult to work for”. Gosh, I’m blushing; thank you for the compliment! Our military’s Special Forces are not for everyone. A championship team would never intentionally recruit a bad player. We’re looking for the 2%, not the 98%. It is very sad that the “average” worker in our culture finds our requirements unreasonable and unfair. (That’s ok since we’re not looking for average or mediocre employees.) Society and the government are party to this type of thinking. Here’s an example: Unemployment benefits can be extended to workers who have displayed absolute and total incompetency during their period of employment. (I.E: If an employee at your favorite hand car wash totaled your collector car by carelessly smashing it into a wall they could be fired but they would be eligible for unemployment benefits). Not only does society tolerate incompetency and carelessness, we reward it. This is pathetic.
So how do we cure this cancer that is taking over our American work force? Get rid of the welfare mentality and narcissistic “I’m the center of the universe” thinking. It’s ok to think about our own needs… but not at the expense of helping serve the needs of society. Americans need to return to principles that our founding fathers used as a guide to frame our society. “You don’t work, you don’t eat.” People need to start taking responsibility for their lives and stop playing the victim card. Parents need to do a better job of disciplining their kids, teaching them self control, and to honor others. Take the long view; let children experience hardship and consequences when they’re young so they don’t have to learn later on in life when the stakes are much, much higher. The links of life don’t often allow for a Mulligan. (Quite frankly, business owners are getting weary of re-training spoiled, adult children.) Re-think the need for unions: Their time has come and gone. Employers and managers: Be courageous leaders rather than fearful wimps who allow your employees to walk all over you and hold you hostage. We’re trying to do our part: Because the labor pool has become so contaminated we have begun an apprenticeship program so that we can train up strong employees who share our passion.
At Beck’s European our goals are simple: Serve the customer with the highest standard of excellence, maintain the strength of the company, and provide a good living for our employees. We can’t do this with a sub-par work force. Our customers appreciate our standards and our commitment to them; we couldn’t possibly do this without the hard work, dedication, cooperation, and the skill of our wonderful staff. I am the first to acknowledge that very, very few people have the character and qualifications to work for our company- and that’s exactly the way you want it. We aren’t simply selling excellent Porsche, BMW, and MINI service and repair; we’re selling hope, a relationship, and a “good feeling”. When you spend your hard-earned money with a competent company that has your best interests in mind, it gives you a feeling of trust and confirms that you’ve made a wise decision. Please compare the atmosphere of our business to dealerships or other shops. You know what I’m talking about: That place where you get the negative vibe and the snooty attitude; where it’s obvious that people are not happy with their jobs and they would rather be doing something else other than serve you.
We WANT your business and you’ll feel that when you walk in our door.
Live with passion. Drive with passion