Good employees are the lifeblood of any successful service based company. Employee retention has been an ongoing issue for many industries such as fast food, hotels, construction, and to be more specific, restaurants, or food processor hood cleaning.

Hood cleaning is a tough, dirty, dangerous job that is usually done during the wee hours when most folks are snug in their beds. It could be 100 degrees or 20 below zero. Hood cleaners deal with high winds, snow, rain, sloped roofs, nasty grease, and a plethora of other obstacles and dangers that cause many of them to scratch their heads and ask themselves “why the heck am I doing this?” Sometimes the answer is “no reason is good enough; it’s not worth it” and the employee gives notice or quits on the spot. At this time, the hood cleaning company has to find a replacement; jobs may have to be delayed or cancelled and good customers are sometimes lost. Training a new employee takes time, patience, and money. It’s certainly not a process any owner or crew chief wants to go through every two weeks. When an owner finds that gem – the hard working, motivated, dependable, conscientious employee who invariably does the job correctly – that worker must be kept. Here are a few ideas on how to accomplish that; some are obvious, but not always practiced, and some may not have occurred to you.

It Begins With Communication

Like developing most relationships, business or personal, communication is key and it starts from the beginning. Make it clear at the onset what is expected from the employee and what he or she can expect from you. The hiring interview should involve questions that enable you to determine if this potential hire is a good match for your company. An opportunity for the person to ask questions in return should also be provided, along with a manual stating the objectives of the company and what a given job entails. Rules and policies must be made clear and applied consistently and fairly. Feedback should be encouraged, and regular meetings should be scheduled to update employees on any policy changes and to go over recent events that may impact the business. Accomplishments should be applauded; a pat on the back goes a long way, along with an open door policy. Employees should be encouraged to offer any ideas involving making or saving money for the company. If a problem arises, either on the job or in their personal life, a sympathetic ear and good advice will lead to a trusting and stronger relationship.

Tools of the Trade

It is of utmost importance that an employee can do the job safely and efficiently. Safety on the job must be stressed frequently. Proper clothing and safety equipment should always be readily available. For example, using sturdy ladders and teaching proper safety techniques is a start to building an employee base which is more safe and informed for this work environment. The worker must know that his or her health matters to you. When it comes to equipment unique to the hood cleaning industry, an employee should be trained thoroughly on how to operate and diagnose a problem correctly. Extra hoses, nozzles, unloaders, and other replacement parts should be a part of the truck inventory; it is frustrating and costly to have a machine constantly break down in the middle of the job without having the proper tools to correct the problem on the spot. If the employee can’t get it back up and running then the job is left undone; in turn you have to schedule costly return visits, you will have upset customers, and the employee will also be aggravated. Equipment maintenance should be a priority so the workers can do their job. Using antifreeze on pressure washers during the winter is one example of keeping the equipment properly maintained during a specific circumstance. You should always be on the lookout for new tools, chemicals, techniques, etc. that can make hood cleaning jobs simpler, faster, and safer for your workers to complete. Do not forget to maintain the trucks and vans; ensure that the stay running.

Add-On Services Mean Extra Money For All

Here is a way to find out who the real go-getters are. Make sure your employees know about NFPA 96 and other industry related codes, and why they are important. Suggest deficiencies they can look for while they are doing their job that will make the customer cleaner, safer, and code compliant. How do the sidewalks and walkways leading to the restaurant look? Are they dirty from foot traffic or covered with gum and spills? Offer your service to power wash that unsightly gunk away. How about the grease dumpster corral area? Some of those are disaster zones, environmental hazards, and major eyesores. You can offer to clean these messes as well. Hinge kits are required and that requirement is being enforced by AHJ’s much more stringently than in the past. Have your crew inspect all fans to be sure a compliant hinge has been installed. If there is no hinge (or a cheap, non-compliant one) instruct them to note that on the report. The same applies to access doors. They should be installed at regular intervals and at changes in duct direction. Grease containment systems are needed on many fans that don’t currently have one. Encourage your crews to always be on the lookout for these add-on opportunities and reward those that find them. You can use a bonus program, defined commission incentive, salary raises for consistently productive performers, or some other incentive. When you provide your diligent employees with additional ways to supplement their income you will profit yourself as well, while keeping your top performers happy, on their toes, and eager to stay with your company.

Have Some Fun!

Communication is a huge key to employer/employee relations. So is camaraderie, both on the job and after hours. Create competition at work; offer a gift card or tickets to a musical or sporting event for the employee who generates the most new business in a specific time frame. Take the gang to dinner if they go an entire year without an injury or safety related incident. Have a company Christmas party or a summer picnic. Take every opportunity to let the workers you can always count on know that they are valued. Promote them to positions of higher responsibility and compensation when they’ve earned it. Those people are difficult and costly to replace. Make sure they feel appreciated and rewarded when they do a great job and you won’t have to.

The Bottom Line on Employee Retention

Being in a business that traditionally has high turnover does not mean we have to always uphold that tradition. Companies across the United States are seeing average lengths of employment expand by implementing these few simple strategies. It all begins with communication, and preparing your potential employees to succeed from the very first interview through the training and management process. Using the consistent communication model to implement company safety and policy standards will help to make employees appreciate the work environment, even in less than optimal work conditions. Making sure the proper tools are provided, in great working condition, will not only show them that they and your customers are important, but it will also help to cut down on cost and increase the bottom line. With these employees, along with consistent communications and proper tools, you can implement added services or products that can increase their revenue per customer and provide incentive opportunities for them to make more; in turn your bottom line to grow.

Written by Skip Lewis and Brian Smith

SalesDirect: (224) 856-3318
Skip Lewis is a Sales Executive with Omni Containment Systems, the manufacturer of the Grease Gutter, SuperHinge, and Access Armor, as well as a number of other NFPA96 compliant products. Omni is an Associate Member of IKECA.
Business Operations
Business OperationsDirect: (224) 856-3324
Brian Smith is the Chief Operating Officer at Omni Containment Systems and an active member of IKECA, as well as the Senior Managing Partner at Individual Advantages, an international business consulting firm.