Adding Employee Accountability - Part III

August 9, 2008
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“Your conscience is your little interior voice that reminds you that someone is watching.”
- Winston Churchill

  Without a doubt, you are an honest, ethical and moral person. Your extended family is honest, your spouse is honest and your kids are honest (most of the time anyway!). Through the years you have molded and influenced your family’s ethics through a stable environment and moral upbringing.

But remember, your employees eventually become family and yes, at times, your children too. However, you have no idea how your employees have been raised or trained during their formative years, or how this system has influenced their sense of right and wrong. Remember, you are responsible both morally and financially for an employee’s actions as he or she works in a customer’s home. This often-overlooked fact should really get your attention.

Sadly, far too many people in the work force today are amoral, which means their conscience doesn’t work well. In other words, their daily actions are not motivated and/or controlled by a strong moral compass. The vast majority of workers today are not evil, rotten or despicable individuals. But if they have drifted into this amoral condition they may quickly slide into employee dishonesty if the situation makes it easy for them to do so.

Therefore, your mission as a proactive business employer is to make it harder to steal than not steal by adding employee accountability into your worker’s daily procedures. This accountability means that your people recognize they will suffer consequences if they fall into dishonest practices. Many child psychologists say the lack of consequences during childhood is the reason so many kids grow up without a strong moral center, which in turn means they become adults without a conscience.

The entire subject of employee dishonesty is distasteful at best. Just like with our children, we want to believe in our employees. But this problem of amoral individuals working in your customer’s home is not one that will go away. You can ignore it at your peril, or you can be proactive by adding employee accountability into your daily procedures. But how?

Apply your security procedures to everyone. Never rob any employee of their dignity or make them feel under suspicion. Instead, just explain these are normal, routine procedures that you are implementing for the protection of everyone and for greater company efficiency.

Shift the blame. Many security procedures can be blamed on “outside circumstances” or “rules” instead of any suspicions you might have about your employees. These might include the growing crime in your area, government regulations or new requirements from Worker’s Compensation and/or your insurance company. Even better, some of these new measures may actually earn you discounts from your insurance carrier!

Install video surveillance. The cost of this technology has dropped dramatically in the last few years. Web cams with input available over a fast Internet connection allow you to perform remote surveillance from anywhere. Once again, we all do better when we know “someone is watching.” This means that your cameras should not be hidden. The goal here is to keep honest employees honest, not catch them doing something wrong.

Add electronic access control. Employee accountability means all workers know their movements in and out of your building will be recorded. Electronic access card readers are inexpensive, efficient and can be easily re-programmed when (not “if”) you terminate an employee. Electronic access also means you can “zone” your facility so that your after-hours workers do not have access to the office or other sensitive areas. Typically your local burglar alarm company will be able to easily add electronic access to your existing alarm system. Once again, check with your insurance carrier for possible discounts.

Computer security. Most of us have firewalls and anti-virus protection to guard against outside computer contamination. However, do you have controls to prevent problems from inside your company? All employees requiring computer access should have their own access code. Install computer security systems, and post rules regarding Internet access and personal use and enforce them.

Physical locks work too. Even after securing after-hours access to your offices, some things should always be under lock and key. Two big areas are all employee records and keys to your regular commercial accounts. Employee records should be kept in a locked, fireproof filing cabinet – these cabinets are built extra strong for fire safety, but are more resistant to breaking and entering too. Access keys should be kept in a locked key safe and be tagged only with a business code number and never marked with the business name/ address. The key-code index should be kept in the fireproof filing cabinet or, even better, in a company safe.

Hold their feet to the fire. Up until now we have focused on in-the-office security. But your greatest exposure comes with your employees working unsupervised in your customer’s homes and/or running around town with absolutely no accountability. Add employee accountability in two ways:
  1. Insist on the paperwork. Each employee or crew should receive a “Day Sheet” every morning. Their route along with appointment times should be clearly written out. You (and any other manager) should also receive a copy of every Day Sheet. Now, as you run your errands and make sales visits during the day, drive by and make sure your truck is working at the correct time/place. If it isn’t, check the employee’s Day Sheet that evening and see what time they have filled in. What happens if their report doesn’t line up with what you have observed? Time for a chat and some well-deserved employee accountability!
  2. Consider GPS tracking. Technology can be a huge help with employee accountability. For an eye-opening experience, just Google “employee GPS tracking”. If you add GPS to your vehicles, your employees will then be accountable for their location as well as vehicle speed and machine time operation. Or you can enable GPS tracking on the employee’s company-supplied cell phone (a company cell phone with all calls blocked except to and from the office and with employees leaving their personal cell phones with the dispatcher is highly recommended.). A side benefit of GPS tracking (and one to sell to your employees) is that your company efficiency goes up greatly with no more calls bugging your people with, “Where are you now?”


Booties on? Check.

  However, while physical verification of Day Sheets and/or GPS tracking are important, they do not deal with what potentially may be your biggest problem: what is happening inside your customer’s home. You deal with this by regularly performing…

Random “just stopping by” checks. Never make your people feel like they are working under suspicion. Everyone deserves respect and dignity. However, this concern for your employees’ feelings must be balanced with the simple fact that without accountability, unsupervised employees tend to create their own “little kingdoms.” At best, this means they stop following your consistent company procedures. At worst, your employees will fall into performing side work for cash money in their pocket! Fight this tendency by just “stopping by” with routine surprise visits. Last month we examined how to set up routine Mystery Shoppers to check on employee consistency – check it out!

You (and your company managers) should always have a copy of each employee’s Day Sheet. Then “just stop by” without notice ahead of time. When you walk in on the job, check that company procedures are being followed. Are the doormat and/or booties being used? Is the employee’s uniform clean and his or her photo ID badge visible? Are company cleaning procedures being followed in the home? And, most importantly, are the areas being cleaned noted on the work order with the prices filled in? Stress at hiring that any and all areas the customer asks to be added to the job ticket be written on the work order before the employee starts cleaning the additional work. If not, it will be assumed they are doing ‘side work” and yes, they will be held accountable!

We all work better if we are accountable and these random, “just stopping by” checks should become a routine part of your business. However, the very best accountability does not come from any company procedure. This means at the end of the day your success with employees will depend on…

Hiring the very best. No matter how good your people are, you absolutely must still build all of these security procedures into the daily fabric of your company. But your true success (and joy) in business (and life) will be measured based on the quality of the people you choose to surround yourself with. Never stop looking for the very best, and don’t hesitate to move marginal people out of your organization. Life is too short not to look forward to coming to work each and every day. But even so, always focus on employee accountability. After all, we all do better when our feet are held to the fire!

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