“Nobody dreams of being a janitor,” says Mary Miller, the CEO of the highly successful janitoral services company, Jancoa. And yet, she says, “More people have worked in the janitorial industry than any other industry.”
Typical staff turnover rates in the industry are 380%! So how do you keep staff motivated in a job like that? Mary and her husband, Tony, found the answer: Help them dream. Then help them achieve their dreams.
In a recent interview she talks about how they turned their company around by taking a closer look at what truly motivated their employees, and what barriers prevented them from being great employees.
What Do Our Best Employees Have In Common?
This is the question Mary and Tony asked themselves after a consultant they had hired to help them with business strategy fired them, saying they had a people problem that needed to be fixed before anything else. Before you read on, think about how you’d answer that question for your business. What do your best employees have in common?
I bet you thought about things like initiative, drive, willingness to work hard…
Those are all pretty abstract, and could apply to anyone if they have something to work hard for.
Don’t Assume. Do Research.
For their employees, it turned out that what the best performers had in common was transportation!
Think about it: if your employees have to work nights and weekends doing a job no one ever sees or thanks them for, and on top of that they have to spend hours every shift waiting around in the cold and dark hoping that a bus will come on time so they can get to work, is it any surprise you’ve got issues with absenteeism? That people quit as soon as they can find something a little closer to home?
So Tony went out, bought a van, painted it with the words Jancoa Employee Shuttle, and for the first two weeks he drove it himself, collecting employees at their homes and delivering them to work and back.
Seeing where and how they lived, listening to their conversations (once they got used to the fact that the boss was driving the van and forgot he was there!) provided tremendous insight. He and Mary came to realize that instead of fighting an impossible fight to keep great workers forever, they should be helping those workers move on to something better.
Lower Turnover By Encouraging Turnover?
Sounds paradoxical, but this insight led them to design programs that resulted in dramatically lower turnover. And the lower churn let them raise pay to above industry average rates, guarantee full-time work, offer extensive benefits, and offer high quality service with a smile to their growing list of customers.
Helping employees discover that they can live a better life, and helping them get there, gives employees a reason to work hard and well. Much more powerful than avoiding being fired.
This is a version of an article that first appeared on the Frank Reactions website. To hear the interview with Mary Miller or download a transcript of it, visit http://frankreactions.com/1 or find the Frank Reactions podcast on iTunes or Stitcher