The end of the year often brings on a lot of looking back, seeing what we’ve done, what we haven’t, and then turning around and asking ourselves, next year, what do we need to do differently? Do I need to focus on my finances more? Or marketing? Or, do I need to finally hire someone? Well, if your answer is yes to that last question and you do indeed need to hire someone next year, be careful what you hire for.
Bad Employees are VERY Powerful
As I was recently indulging my guilty pleasure of watching “Gilmore Girls” in my free time, much to Aaron’s chagrin, I came across a great client experience moment. The incredible impact and consequence of hiring a bad employee.
Now in the episode, Luke, who owns Luke’s Diner, had recently hired a teenage boy named Brennan to wait tables. And he thought everything was going along just fine, until the main character Lorelai informed him, no, things are not going fine. He’s rude. He’s crass. He doesn’t pay attention to customers. You’ve got to get someone else. Luke said give it time, he just needs time to learn.
So on and on it goes throughout the episode. Until … he sees the consequence… a line of people, his friends and usually fiercely loyal customers, waiting in a line out the door of another lunch spot. He stops and asks what’s going on? The woman tells him, “we can’t stand Brennan, so we left.” He again, defends him, but then looks through the window of his diner, and sees him playing air guitar on one of the many, many empty tables and says “give me five minutes.”
The lesson? Well, there’s two really. First, listen to your loyal customers when they tell you that your business has taken a wrong turn, especially if its centered around hiring someone. Two, be careful what you hire for.
Your Employees Represent Your Firm, and You
When you’re hiring someone, be very, very careful. Be very watchful, aware, and observant of how they interact with you, with other employees if you have them, with everyone. Heck, even take them out to a restaurant and see how they treat the staff. Make sure that this is a person you want representing your firm – in the way that they dress, in the way that they treat others, in the way that they behave in general.
An employee is essentially a walking billboard for your firm – a very, very expensive, much more unpredictable billboard – because when clients see your employees, they think of you. They think of your firm. And you of course want to make sure when they see and interact with those walking, talking billboards they think, “This firm is just wonderful. Everyone is so kind, reliable, organized, and professional. They’re just fantastic.” rather than “I really like the designer that I work with, but I can’t stand her assistant/receptionist/junior designer. He/she’s so rude, never calls me back, and always forgets to pass along my message.” Not what you want a beloved client to be thinking.
When You Hire a Bad Employee, Clients Start to Question Your Line of Thinking
And unfortunately the impact of a bad employee doesn’t stop there. When one of your employees, or your firm representatives is how you really want to think of them, isn’t as wonderful as you are, what also happens is this, clients start thinking, “Maybe she’s not as wonderful as I thought if she hired someone like that.” They start to question why you would hire someone that you knew was so difficult. They even start to extend that thought even farther to, is she really as wonderful as I thought she was if she hired someone like that?
But the unfortunate part is, maybe you didn’t know that. Maybe you didn’t think to really look for how someone interacted with your staff, with other service people, with your vendors. You probably hired them because they were a great designer, or had the right experience, or because you really needed someone ASAP, and you didn’t know that their soft skills were so poor until after they were hired. Or maybe, you didn’t know (and still don’t even when they’re working for you), because how they act around you, and how they act around clients is very, very different.
Sometimes Clients Just Can’t Take It Anymore
Not surprisingly, if things get bad enough with employee/client interactions, clients start to leave. Not because of anything you’ve done, at least not directly, but because of what the employee who represents your firm has done. We all know this happens. You’ve done it, I’ve done it, we’ve all done it. Even if we really like a place. Sometimes an employee is just that bad, or difficult, or rude, that we just think, “That’s it. I’m going somewhere else. Even though I’ve done business here for the last five years and I love the owner, I can’t take it anymore.”
Just the other day a family member was talking about how they stopped going to their doctor, who they adored and were friends with, because the staff was unorganized and rude. People stop working with businesses all of the time because one, or more God forbid, employee is just plain rude, or difficult, or unprofessional and clients can’t take it anymore.
Hire More for a “Go Out of My Way, Go Above & Beyond” Mentality & Less for a Technical Mentality
So as you go into this year wondering if you should hire for the first time, or just want to add someone else to the team, be careful what you hire for. The people that you’re hiring of course need the technical skills that you require to get the job done, but those technical skills, are no more important, or maybe even less important than their “soft” skills.
Hire for attitude. Hire for a service oriented mindset. Hire for a “go out of my way, go above and beyond” kind of mentality. Technical skills are teachable. A good attitude and service minded mindset are almost impossible to teach. They seem to just be either in people or not. Sure you can teach people the actions of service, but it will just be following a list of directions. A true service mindset from an employee has to be something that they want to do. It has to be innate. They have to want to go out of their way to make sure that each and every one of your clients is happy, well taken care of, and be proud of the fact that they contributed to that. That’s the only way that it will come off as natural, genuine, and creative. It’s also exactly what you want to be representing your firm.
So the next time you’re creating that job description and thinking of what you want in an employee, spend more time thinking on how you want them to think about their work, how you want them to feel about you clients and your other staff. You want to take more time considering what kind of person you’d like to represent your firm out in the world, in clients’ homes, or even just over the phone. Because they’re a very expensive, walking, talking billboard. So you want to make sure that that billboard, is a reminder of how amazing your entire firm is, not something that makes a client question, is their firm really that amazing?
Share in the comments below, what do you do when hiring employees to make sure they represent your firm well? I’d love to hear!