A mid-size, Chicago-area operator also outsourced hiring with the help of a professional employer organization (PEO). PEOs provide human resource services to small business clients — paying wages and taxes and assuming responsibility and liability for compliance with myriad state and federal laws and regulations.
“All our employees technically work for them,” said Lee Hartnett, co-owner of Commercial Coffee Service/Food Systems Inc., Bridgeview, Ill. The company made the decision to use a PEO four years ago after being hit with 20 to 30 percent increases in health insurance costs. They’re happy with the switch.
“It controls costs on insurance, relieves us of dealing with workman’s compensation, and allows us access to an extensive HR department,” explained Hartnett. “Employees can even call for counseling,” he added, which is something his company can’t offer on its own.
Even with the help of the PEO, Commercial Coffee Service/Food Systems Inc. still hires most often by word of mouth. Hartnett tried using Career Builder, the online job Website, and after two days he stopped printing the resumes because he had 2,200. At that point, he took a stack and hoped it included the best candidate.
Now the company relies more on existing employee referrals for filling job openings, which has been successful.
Commercial Coffee Service/Food Systems Inc. offers bonuses to employees who recommend someone who is subsequently hired, and then pays a bonus every year the new hire is still with the company. “What you find is people won’t recommend someone for hire who will make them look bad,” said Hartnett. “And they take the extra effort to help the new person with training or whatnot.”
Hire at a moment’s notice?
According to Tom Siciliano, chief operating officer of Huntley, Ill.-based Integrity Associates LLC, most operators struggle to find the best employee because they are reactive instead of proactive. When someone quits or is terminated, there is rush to find a replacement, which leads to an abbreviated job hunt. To counter this, Siciliano suggests keeping a desk drawer full of potential employees.
“You’re always recruiting,” he said about employers who hire the best. “You’re always looking for talent.” Siciliano said operators should be aware of their competition’s best driver, and know when he or she quits. Operators should keep in contact with candidates that would make good employees, taking them out to lunch occasionally so the candidate knows the operator is still interested in hiring them in the future.
Another common misstep Siciliano sees is operators that don’t have a full, detailed job description when hiring. It’s about drilling beyond the basics of a good driving record, reasonable employment attendance, and even service experience, down to the intangibles.
“What we sometimes miss are: work ethic, team building, people skills, communication skills, and advancement potential,” he said. “(For example), will this individual be able to take it to the next level?”
Find the right fit
Tom Britten, president of Zephryhills, Fla.-based Britten Management Services, LLC, has seen operators hire the wrong person simply because they didn’t fully evaluate the job and candidate. He once talked to an operator struggling to keep employees. The most recent hire just stopped coming to work. He was a computer programmer who took the route driver job because he needed it, but didn’t really understand what it would be like to spend 10 hours a day working in a hot truck.
“A big mistake is not considering the rigors of the work compared to what the employee is used to,” said Britten. This needs to be brought up in the interview. “If (they) don’t like to carry three cases of soda up three flights of stairs, then this job isn’t for (them),” he added.
Britten advocates hiring based on the recommendations of current employees. The current employee understands the job and the requirements. “It’s always been a challenge to find a good fit,” said Britten about hiring route drivers.
The tough economy presents all sorts of challenges, but hiring using existing employees as references or outside companies to assist with screening is helping operators find the best employees. Compensating employees well has allowed many operators to keep good employees once they have found them. These are essential components of having a successful vending or OCS operation.