At Centratel, my call center business, we have little staff turnover in our operations and administration departments. Only occasionally will an employee call in sick or arrive late. Everyone makes it to staff meetings. These are exceptionally positive, solid, good people — and they were that way before they showed up to work for me. Our first success is in being able to find people like this and then convince them to work for us.  In our small businesses of forty people, there are several who have worked for me for over twenty years.

How are we able to engender this level of staff enthusiasm?

In a nutshell: Rather than attempting to cultivate the attitudes and work ethic we seek, we carefully pick good people and then we don’t alienate them. We’re ruthlessly systemized in our hiring process, constantly perfecting the series of questions we ask an applicant. We don’t shoot from the hip, and are careful to not confuse a personality connection between interviewer and applicant with the facts of the matter. Yes, being a “nice person” and getting along with fellow staff is critical, but what about the necessary fundamentals such as literacy and appearance, as well as a history of stability? A great personality is just one factor in the equation.

In addition to giving employees what they need for compensation and treating them like the adults they are, we work hard to give them a stability that, occasionally, is in contrast to their lives at home. It may be just a job, but our office is a place that is safe, calm, and predictable. This stability is rooted in our rigorous documentation: in exact detail, we have written down what we expect them to do.

The key connecting element in the equation is documentation. Everything that is required of the interviewer, and of the applicant, is written down. Documentation adds consistency, and consistency is mandatory…

As a sidebar: in the history of my own business, the ground-shaking paradigm shifts came at the blackest of times. It was usually something like this: “do something dramatic right this minute, or file for bankruptcy tomorrow morning.” In these on-the-edge times, a huge and immediate change in philosophy and operating policy was exactly what was needed, and our present staff philosophy arrived in exactly that way.

Be thankful, I say, for the hard times we survive.

Note: Centratel CEO and international business consultant Sam Carpenter has written extensively on the concepts of system improvement and the systems mindset. Centratel’s HVAC Answering Service assists hundreds of heating, ventilation and air conditioning businesses during and after-hours, throughout the United States and is, by a variety of statistics, the highest quality answering service available among the approximately 1,500 services nationwide.

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