Successfully Staffing Your Home

Having enjoyed considerable success in your professional life and business ventures, you are now reaping the rewards of your efforts. You have a lovely home, or perhaps two, and possessions that require care and maintenance. In other words, you need help, and plenty of it.  As you may have already discovered, however, hiring, training and retaining staff is far from easy, with countless opportunities for missteps, annoyances and unintended liabilities. The key to avoiding these pitfalls is to replace haphazard household management practices with a more professional approach.

Start with a plan

According to Teresa Leigh, CEO of Teresa Leigh Household Risk Management LLC, the first step in running an orderly home is to determine how it will be managed. Do you want to be the hands-on manager who screens, hires, directs and provides the proper documentation for your staff? If not, you may want to hire a household advisor to help you assess your needs and put a plan in place. Leigh strongly suggests writing formal job descriptions for all household positions. This not only helps you identify the right people, but also gives your employees a clear set of expectations against which you can measure their performance.

The four-step hiring process

It typically takes at least a minimum of 120 days to adequately solicit skilled candidates, perform background investigations, assess skill level and determine a candidate’s compatibility with members of the household.1 If you don’t have the time, the patience and specialized knowledge to conduct a proper search, seek outside help.

Teresa Leigh reports that her firm typically screens over 1,000 resumes to find a single candidate to present to her clients. For high-demand specialties, or unique combinations of talents like Registered Nurse/Household Manager, she reports that the search can be even more involved. Regardless of the position, here’s the process she recommends for winnowing top-notch candidates from the raw applicant pool:

Step One: The Initial Cut
Review resumes to identify skilled candidates with records of sustained employment in a household environment. 

Step Two: The Personal Interview
Seek to verify information and gain a better understanding of whether a candidate is a good cultural fit for your household.

Step Three: Skills-Based Questioning 
Ask very specific questions about a candidate’s experience and skill sets, as many skills are not transferable from one job to the next.

Step Four: Verification
Contact a minimum of eight references before extending an offer to a candidate, including those supplied by the candidate, and confirm that they have the licenses and other formal credentials they claim to possess.

Train, retrain and train some more

It’s always a good idea to sit down with a new employee to review the written job description and make certain they understand their duties. Write down specific requirements, go over them carefully and encourage the new staff member to ask questions. Should more formal training be needed, a growing number of physical and online resources offer classes in everything from housekeeping to childcare to household management. Enrolling all employees in CPR classes is also never a bad idea.

Review performance early and often

Keep lines of communication open and conduct evaluations with all new hires after their first 30 and 90 days. Be clear about procedures that need to be corrected and new skills that need to be mastered, but also remember that positive reinforcement builds relationships. Performance reviews should be dialogues, not lectures. You are working together to help a valued employee perform at a higher level.

Once a new employee has settled in, performance appraisals, including written evaluations, should be conducted with each employee once a year. If your employee is responsible for children, try to hold these meetings in their absence or in a neutral location so your employee is able to fully participate.

A harmonious home and a productive workplace

Most of us want to think of our homes as safe and comfortable havens, where we raise our families, entertain our friends and enjoy our lives. Our household employees rightfully expect a workplace where their duties are clearly defined, their work is respected and they are fairly compensated. In hiring wisely, training well and treating your employees as the professionals they are, you can avoid the acrimony, churn and turbulence that beset too many homes. You can help attract and retain a first-rate staff, which can help you create and maintain a peaceful, stress-free home.

1 Teresa Leigh Household Risk Management. Internal data 5/1/2016.

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