Finding, training and mentoring hands-on job employees — jobs like construction, landscaping, janitorial and cleaning positions, moving service members, excavation and plumbing, can be difficult for two reasons in particular: not everyone likes hands-on work and not everyone is inherently handy.
As such, finding the right person — the person who fits into what it is you are trying to create or maintain with respect to your business interests — is the most difficult part.
Likewise, training and mentoring the employee you select is essential to your company’s success.
Finding the Right Person
It is a mistake to believe that finding the right hands for your hands-on job is not a difficult prospect.
The biggest plus a potential candidate can have is experience, but not so much because the job responsibilities are difficult to teach. A common idiom in the trades is, "we’re not doing rocket science here." No, experience in a potential employee is a bonus because experience means a person knows what they are getting into.
While it is possible that the best job candidate will have no experience, lack of experience means the candidate may not have a complete understanding of the physical nature of a hands-on job. For some people, working on their feet for an extended period of time can simply be more than they are willing to endure for the long term.
So, it is important to make sure your advertisement encourages the right type of person to apply. When advertising a hands-on job position, be sure to include the following:
Include Preferred Experience in Ad
In the ad, make certain to include the phrases "experience preferred" or "higher pay for experience." This accomplishes two things. It will let those people who have experience know you value their work history and it weeds out those people who don’t know what they are looking for.
Be certain, however, that people with no experience but who are ambitious will not be dissuaded.
Include Job Responsibilities
In the ad, including job responsibilities is as important as any other facet of the ad, if not more so. Do your best to explain the most difficult parts of the job you anticipate a candidate having to perform. For example, if you are hiring a janitor, make sure to include things like, "will run a vacuum for several hours a night," or, "must be able to clean two stories of building with a mop." If you are hiring for a construction position, you might include things like, "work in a dirty and dusty environment under all types of weather conditions."
The right candidate will think your comments are obvious, but those comments will dissuade a poor candidate who isn’t aware of what to expect.
Training Your People
If you are going to be on the job site or in the building with the person you hire, training your people is far less difficult. But, training people to perform a job when you will not be there to oversee their work every step of the way requires planning and preparation on your part.
In order to train your employees — whether you work on site with them or not — requires you have an understanding of their work experience and skill set.
You don’t want to waste training time going over what they already understand — which can also come across as very condescending — but neither can you expect a new employee to ask questions when they don’t know what to do. The last thing a new employee wants to do is cause you to lose faith in their abilities.
There are two steps to training hands-on employees
Tell, Then Ask
Tell new employees what you want. If it is complex, write it down for them. Equally important — if not more — ask them how they are going to do it.
For example, for concrete construction work in which you need someone to pour a foundation, when you ask them how they are going to do it, you would hope to hear something like, "I am going to make sure my forms are set to the outside of the required length and width, I am going to secure my braces every 18 inches, and I am going to make sure the forms are plumb, level at the right elevation, and square."
If you don’t get a simple answer that is the one you want, take the time to explain exactly what it is you want and how they can accomplish it.
Check Work Periodically
The worst mistake you can make when training an employee for a hands-on position is allowing them to work an entire shift without reviewing their progress. Check their work at least once in the middle of the shift the first few days. Make sure they have the right idea. Don’t let them compound mistakes by letting them go an entire shift without guidance.
Once you know they understand your expectations, you can concentrate on your other responsibilities.
As much as any other type of work, coaching for attitude is the most critical component of mentoring hands-on job employees. Again, hands-on work can be a grind. Maintaining a positive attitude is essential for long-term success.
Smiling and compliments for work well done are extremely motivating, as are positive words of encouragement following mistakes.
The key to mentoring hands-on employees is to keep expectations high without becoming an additional source of stress for your employees.
You want your employees to want you to be around because the more you are around, the better their work will turn out.
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