Published - April 2006

By Dave Jakielo


In past articles I have talked about the importance of customer satisfaction-after all, our customers are an important piece of the success puzzle. However, even more important than happy customers are happy and competent employees. We have all heard the mantra, "The customer is always right." But we need to keep in mind that there are no happy customers without the right (and happy) employees.

Unfortunately, few of us dedicate the same amount of time and effort to finding, training, and retaining our employees as we do ensuring that we keep our clients happy.

Here are some ideas as to how to surround yourself with excellent employees:

RECRUITMENT: Sometimes we get things backwards when it comes to potential employees. Here's another old saw to remember: Hire Slow and Fire Fast. If you have ever made a bad hiring decision you know the aggravation of trying to rectify the mistake. I recommend that you utilize an assessment tool (if your state permits) when evaluating individuals for jobs. There are many tools on the market; one for you to review can be found at

Assessments aren't the only measure when making a hiring decision, but they are a way to get another perspective on the candidates and they can take some of the subjectivity out of your hiring decision.

Another point to keep in mind is that you should always be in the recruiting mode, constantly be on the lookout for valuable members that you can add to your team. Selecting the right team members can contribute to 90 percent of your success.

TRAINING: Money spent on training isn't an expense-it's an investment. Enlisting a current employee show a new employee what to do just ensures that bad habits are passed from one person to another. Every position in your office should have a policy and procedure "training manual" that coincides with the job function. How can you expect an employee to perform his job in an excellent manner if he doesn't have an instruction manual? The trial and error method of learning a new job is frustrating to the employee and usually costly to the company. Retraining is very important, too. Imagine if you never upgraded your PC from the first model you ever purchased. How useful would that PC be today? The same is true about our team members: they need to be trained or upgraded on a regular basis to alleviate turnover.

RETAINING: Reportedly it cost at least two to three times an employee's annual salary to find and train her replacement. Reducing turnover should be a priority for every business, unless you have an employee that needs to be freed up for other opportunities. Three of the greatest frustrations that employees indicate that causes them to seek a new position are:

  • Lack of direction
  • Lack of feedback
  • Lack of expectations

The three above points can be combined into one category: lack of communication.

Lack of direction is due to the absence of training classes and manuals. Just as it's hard to find an unfamiliar destination without driving directions, it's difficult for employees to find their way without a clear roadmap as to what is expected.

Frustration from lack of feedback stems from our failure to take time to express our feeling or concerns about an employee's performance. Feedback, both positive and negative, needs to be relayed on a regular basis to either reward or correct behaviors. As Stephen Covey says in his excellent program, Seven Habits of Highly Effective People, we all need regular contributions to our emotional bank and the positive remarks (deposits) should outweigh the negative remarks (withdrawals) ten to one.

Lack of expectation occurs when we assume that employees know what is expected of them. Perhaps we think they should be able to read our minds? Many times, when I hear managers expressing their frustration about an employee's behavior, I ask what the employee said in response to having a problem pointed out to him. The manager invariably responds, "I shouldn't have to tell them, they should know." That response always baffles me. We have mouths; employees do not have crystal balls.

Investing in your team members to get the job done is as important as investing in equipment or physical plant. Remember you need your valuable team members more than they need you.

Sign up for my FREE weekly success tips at, and if you have any questions or comments about this column you can contact me at Seminars & Consulting, 86 Hall Avenue, Pittsburgh PA 15205 or at 412-921-0976 or via e-mail at

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