Developing Star Employees Is Critical to Growing Your Company

In today’s world, your workers require more than a paycheck to feel valued and perform at the top of their game

Developing Star Employees Is Critical to Growing Your Company

Jim Kneiszel

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Remember the employee who came on, quickly learned how to service restrooms, did such a good job … and then left to take another job? Remember how you felt when that star employee gave a two-week notice? Betrayed, unappreciated, maybe frustrated at the prospect of looking for a replacement?

Oleg Vishnepolsky would like to share another perspective on your situation.

He would say you should revel in the success of workers who wanted to better themselves. He would ask you to consider how you treated the hardworking employee, and that maybe will explain at least part of why he or she left. Perhaps the worker felt much like you do now: betrayed, unappreciated and frustrated at the prospect of looking for a new job.

Vishnepolsky, as the global chief technology officer for Daily Mail Online, works in an industry much different from portable sanitation. But his advice about hiring and retaining employees crosses all corporate boundaries and rings true even for the mom and pop restroom companies hiring a newbie route driver.


In a recent LinkedIn post, Vishnepolsky shared some insights about being a manager that had me reflecting on a common complaint I’ve heard from portable sanitation company owners over the years. It starts with hiring an employee and spending several months teaching them to be proficient on the job. It ends with the employee moving on to another position — maybe with a competing company — for a few dollars more per hour. Or, worse yet, that employee bought a vacuum truck and a few dozen restrooms and started a competing business.

I understand why business owners wouldn’t feel good about this scenario. You lose a good employee; maybe you gain new competition. You face the prospect of starting all over training a new worker who may or may not work out for your company and who may eventually leave, forcing you to start the process all over again. It’s the revolving door that many small-business owners have to cope with.

But Vishnepolsky puts a different spin on hiring and employee retention. And maybe he could help PROs write a happier ending to the story of the good employee that got away. 

Here are a few quotes from Vishnepolsky and how I think they may apply to PROs:

“Leadership is not measured by what you received from your people, but by what you have given them.”

You expect a full shift of hard work from your crew members. At the end of the day, they should have completed that 50-unit service route on time and without incident. In exchange for their loyal service, have you equipped them with the right tools to succeed in the field? Do they leave the shop with a clean, well-functioning truck they can be proud to drive on their rounds? Do they have the necessary safety equipment, including gloves, goggles or glasses, and proper work boots? Are they wearing a company uniform so they look their professional best? Respect is a two-way street, and if you take care of your drivers’ basic needs, they are more likely to follow your leadership example.

“Training people is part of treating them well.”

How much time did you or one of your top technicians spend with that new hire before sending them out in the truck alone? Do you have written procedures for breaking in new employees that introduces Portable Sanitation Association International training and includes a book of company policies? An hourly wage and employee benefits is only the start of taking care of employees. Getting them off on the right foot shows you care about them and aren’t simply trading a day’s wage for a day’s work. Before your next hire, make sure you have updated your training program and assembled an employee handbook. The “rules of the road” don’t have to take the form of a lengthy novel; a few pages of frequently asked questions and answers might do the trick.

“Training is not just sending them to a class or a conference. It is trusting them to do something that they have not done before.”

There’s always a little apprehension when you let a new worker tackle a tough job. After all, your name is on the side of the vacuum tank and your reputation is riding on the service the new person provides. But if you’re confident in your training and your workers, trust them to take over and perform to your expectations. A true leader will learn to be comfortable delegating authority and encouraging employees to do their best. After all, how can you expect to build new leaders to help grow your business if you’re not able to relinquish some control?

“Train people so well that they can leave. Treat them so well that they stay.”

If you’ve had a lot of turnover of good workers, you may have mastered the first sentence, but fall short on the second. Is your pay and benefits package as good or better than all the other PROs in the region? How does it compare to other similar service trades in your area? Do you offer other perks valued by today’s workers, such as flextime, personal days off, retirement accounts, smartphone allowance and reimbursement for education? If you feel like you’re doing all that you can to retain employees and they still move on, wish them well in their growing career and don’t burn any bridges. Who knows? They might find the grass isn’t greener elsewhere and would welcome the opportunity to return to your company some day. And if they’re quality workers and well trained for your job, you might take them back.

“Many managers keep assigning tasks to the person who can do them the fastest, overloading that person with the same-old, same-old routine and not allowing anyone else to rise to the occasion.”

Good employees want to feel like they are always learning, never stagnating, and that means assuming more responsibility and adding skills that make them more valuable to your company … and sometimes to another employer. Losing these workers is a risk you have to take if you want to develop them into your future leaders. In portable sanitation, maybe this means adding another site services division and involving your best employees in the planning and execution. It could mean elevating an enthusiastic driver into a sales and marketing role to learn another part of the business. Make it clear to your star employees that you want them to seize more opportunities and suggest ways to build the company and improve customer service. Workers who feel like an integral part of the operation will be more challenged and happier in their roles.

“The only investment with guaranteed high returns and no risk are your people.”

Buying a new piece of equipment can seem like an all-consuming task. For example, I’ve seen PROs with a laser-focus when it comes to choosing the best restroom trailer or vacuum truck on the WWETT Show exhibit floor. Do you feel the same fervor for the training and developing of your best team players? You should. Yes, in the long run, the right fit in a service truck or restroom inventory can make a big difference to your success and failure. But what good is all that shiny new equipment if you don’t have the right people in place to handle it? A well-prepared and satisfied employee will give you a major return on investment.


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