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Wash operators share 5 strategies to reduce staff turnover


Good hiring practices set the stage for employee retention

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Staff turnover is expensive. Operators who fail to hire and keep good employees can run heavy costs for recruitment, training and supports. According to Peoplekeep, a U.S.-based benefits provider, the cost of replacing an employee is about 16% of annual salary in high-turnover, low-paying jobs where employees earn less than $30,000 a year. For instance, the cost to replace a full-time worker earning $10/hour is more than $3,300. 

Here are five tips to help stay on the right side of employment challenges.


  1. Thoughtful recruitment

    Have a solid hiring plan and stick to it. This includes a formal interview and hiring process. Go beyond simple basics—‘Can you wipe a car window?’ or ‘Can you work the POS system?’—and look for soft skills that will make a difference in customer experience. Is the applicant energetic? Does the applicant have good social skills? 


At Valet Car Wash, an Ontario-based multi unit operator, compliance and training manager Karen Smith sees recruiting as an ongoing process. “Even if you don’t have a position available, be prepared to find something if a ‘perfect’ applicant comes along.” She recruits through organizations, such as Second Chance in Guelph, Ont. and the YMCA, while using federal government programs to assist with training. 

Valet Car Wash also relies on Indeed, Facebook and word of mouth. “Friends tell friends if the employment environment is good,” she says adding that the company looks for employees with similar core values. “When the fit is there, retention is high. During our interview I tell applicants about Valet’s values and ask them to give two examples of core values they possess.”

Valet also works with local universities and colleges to post job openings on online career pages and the company has had some success with local high school co-op programs, resulting in hiring after the co-op term finished. “This includes students with disabilities, who have developed into valuable employees,” says Smith.


  1. Show, don’t tell

    When workers see management creating positive interactions with customers this goes a long way toward connecting the dots in an operation. The same is true of simple tasks that need to be done well. As part of an effort to get everyone on the same service page, management must be prepared to clean floors to demonstrate standards and techniques.

At Tony Heembrock’s Dreams Eco XPress Car Wash in Okotoks, AB, new staff participate in three four-hour introductory shifts to shadow a co-worker. “Then, new workers do a full shift with a supervisor. You can’t just let new people take on a roll in the business without meaningful supports. There is too much at stake,” says Heembrock, adding his company’s HR process has earned respect from workers, many of whom have been with the company since the beginning. 


  1. Set high standards for training

    Don’t wing it, instead be prepared with a full training and intake program that includes manuals and expectations regarding the job itself, as well as how workers should behave with one another: Negative employee interaction stands out as a leading cause of staff turnover. 

As well, your training program should take applicants to higher levels of understanding. Create a culture of success and support, and then follow through with on-going training to keep staff up-to-date regarding industry innovations, such as new chemicals and systems.

Heembrock uses a substantial employee handbook to clearly outline the job, performance expectations and details about the company. Dreams Eco Wash relies on suppliers to provide added information on new products and technical data for items, such as waxes. All the information is shared with staff.


  1. Think benefits

    It’s a competitive world and businesses that offer more to employees experience lower turnover. A good wage is a starting place, but benefits, including monthly prizes and recognition, as well as health plans, go a long way toward keeping workers happy at work. 


  1. Communicate with workers

    If you don’t ask, you don’t know. Conduct exit interviews to gather valuable information and help management get on the right track. Take this one step further by talking to satisfied workers to find out why they stay. Take the information and fine tune it as part of your employee retention plan. 


While Valet doesn’t do exit interviews with general labourers, they do so for managers and supervisors. Smith says this offers tremendous insight and helps shape how the company operates: “The goal is continuous improvement in everything we do.”

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