Comments are closed. Previous Article Next Article Howcan companies recruit and retain staff for the sort of jobs no-one else wants?We look at some of the solutions that firms have come up withEverynow and then, a company or organisation needs to employ a very special person.They may not be highly qualified, have remarkable skills or a great deal ofexperience, but they have a certain approach and attitude which marks them outfrom the crowd. They are, in short, someone who will do the job that no-oneelse will.Insome areas of employment, however, this is an everyday requirement. The serviceindustry has a whole host of jobs with a less than attractive image ñ an imagewhich more often than not is completely justified by the reality. Cleaning pestinfestations, dealing with sewage or hygiene waste, even working with death ispart of the daily routine for many people. How can these people be employedeffectively in a way which means they will perform well and remain within theorganisation, contributing their skills over the long term?Inmany cases the answer is that people employed in this kind of work are notproperly managed ñ and in some cases they are not managed at all. They work insmall firms, or even one man bands, motivated by their own enterprise or simplybecause they are working alongside family and friends.Inlarger organisations the potential to implement strategic approaches to peoplemanagement does exist. Financial remuneration is only part of the equationhere, and it must be said not a significant one. Workers in these roles rarelyenjoy high levels of pay and competition within the sector keeps those levelsfirmly in check. Itcan be difficult to create meaningful incentive schemes or to illustratepossible career development for those at the very bottom of the ladder. Yetsome employers offer good HR practices which recruit, retain and motivate theiremployees in spite of the working environment. The jobs and methods follow:Funeraldirectors and embalmersThefuneral director’s work usually begins with a phone call notifying them of thedeceased and can extend past the cremation or burial service as they offercontinuing support to mourners. On call 24 hours a day, they are responsiblefor arranging all parts of the funeral service including transport, cremationand burial as well as aspects of the remembrance service. According to DelmaYorath, funeral services controller for United Northwest Co-operative, funeraldirectors frequently have to make suggestions for aspects of the service whichthe mourners themselves may not consider. “Thereis a slow move away from the traditional funeral towards something that is morepersonal ñ particularly in the choice of music,” explains Yorath. For thisa funeral director receives, on average, between £200 and £250 per week.Aspectsof the work do require some technical expertise. Legally, embalming does notrequire a qualification but United Northwest Co-operative offers full trainingñ which takes over two years. More general training is provided for employeesacross the business, in part to integrate the business aspect of theorganisation alongside day-to-day work.Butcertain events can never be covered by a training scheme. Children’s funeralscan be particularly distressing, more so if the funeral director has children.Since the directors are part of the local community they serve they can find itdifficult to maintain the distance required for dealing with these cases. Forthis reason, directors are given the option of passing responsibility fordistressing services to a colleague if they require.”Weare looking for people with a broad base of skills,” says Yorath,”They are clerical people but need to have an empathetic nature. They needto be very organised and disciplined to make sure all the deadlines connectedwith the service are met.” However, according to Yorath, finding theseemployees is not a great problem. “Many of our people regard working inthis area as a vocation rather than a job,” she explains. That said, theorganisation has done well at breaking down the traditional view of who can bea funeral director. It has successfully advertised opportunities to youngerpeople and currently between 30 to 35 per cent of its 600 staff are female. “Generallywe can gauge whether employees will stay with us after they have been workingfor us for a while,” says Yorath. “If they stay with us for 12 monthswe have usually got them for life.”RefusecollectionRobEdmondson is operations controller, south of England, for Service Team. Amongits contracts, the company is responsible for delivering refuse collection andstreet cleansing services in areas ranging from Camden in London toRedruth in Cornwall. According to Edmondson, refuse workers are employed in avariety of specific positions ñ as street cleaners, drivers, loaders and inspecialist areas such as sorting and recycling.Concentratingon the street cleansing and refuse collection services, he admits the work islimited in scope and is certainly not for everyone. “They are out in allweathers, working eight hours a day and it is not glamourous,” he says.With drivers receiving around £350 a week, loaders and street cleansers between£225 and £300 a week it is difficult to see how pay can provide a greatincentive.ButService Team has created an incentive structure by offering vocationalqualifications. Edmondsonsays while most employees are brought in at refuse collection level, they areencouraged to train in other aspects of service delivery such as driving lightand heavy goods vehicles ñ qualifications which increase their earningpotential. In Camden, the company has successfully put four employees throughNVQ at Levels 1 and 2 in refuse operations and waste management.Thecompany took responsibility for refuse services in Hackney at a time when thestandard of street cleaning in the area was very low. It has succeeded inturning around this operation while retaining the previous refuse staff.”One of the key things was to put in a strong and coordinated managementteam,” explains Edmondson. “It was able to change the way work wasallocated to people and to look at the methodology. It has produced a stepchange in the standard of cleaning.”ServiceTeam has seen turnover rise from £60m to £150m in the past year and it has beenacquired by Cleanaway Europe. Its success stems in part from its ability togive employees a sense of pride in their work. Individual street operatives,for example, are given specific and regular areas to clean, furthering theirsense of responsibility and impact they can have. InNorfolk the company has even taken on a team of female bin collectors who areclearly proud of their role within the community. Lastly, as part of being anIIP organisation, every Service Team employee has the chance to discuss theirrole in the company with their manager twice a year.Pestcontrol and hygienePestcontrol and hygiene services must be one of the least attractive of alloccupations. On the pest control side, operatives are unable to predict how badthe working conditions will be. Whatever the infestation, cockroaches, rats,birds or fleas, workers are usually called upon to clean and remove the problemrather than taking on the more attractive task of preventing infestation in thefirst place.Inhygiene services, operatives are employed on tasks such as exchanging femininehygiene containers on site, or emptying these containers and dealing with thecontents. In general there is little chance of variety in this work withdrivers being dedicated only to collection and exchange and other techniciansdedicated to emptying the containers andprocessing the waste. An unattractive job can be made no better by staff finding themselves looked down upon or evenmistreated by clients on site.Accordingto one spokesman from the industry, the work is typified by low wages ñemployees receive around £9,000 to £11,000 per year ñ high staff turnover and,in the area of waste removal, little in the way of incentives or training.”There is an argument that if salaries were increased then people wouldput up with this type of work for longer, but the problem is really the culturethat goes with the industry,” says the spokesman.However,in the area of pest control, Rentokil-Initial has succeeded in bucking thistrend. According to Rentokil-Initial spokesman, Jeff Roberts, it has fewproblems in recruiting or retaining employees, “Staff morale andmotivation is high,” he says ñ a direct result of the company’s commitmentto providing high levels of training. He also cites the benefit of working fora global business. With its size ñ about 1,000 workers in the UK and 95,000working in more than 40 countries across the world ñ employees can always begiven new challenges and real career development.SewagetreatmentSewageworkers carry out a mix of technical and physical work on sewage treatmentsites. On the one hand they are responsible for the adjustment of chemicaldosing equipment as well as checking the monitoring equipment which governs thewater treatment process. At the same time, maintenance work can involve lesssavoury hands-on work such as un-blocking liquid sewage filters. Alison Harker,HR professional in performance and resources at Anglian Water, explains thatwhile most outside applicants are appointed as process workers at around £13,000,the company does offer flexibility in starting salaries to reflect anindividual’s skill and experience.”Weoffer a pay range according to what they bring to us, so they can earn anythingfrom £13,828 to £18,217,” she explains. While she admits it is difficultto attract employees through print advertising, an important element of thisfirst move is to highlight the full benefits of the employment package such asa pension plan, private health care and relocation expenses. Harker says thecompany is not currently experiencing problems in resourcing staff although,like many other sectors of industry, it is suffering from a shortage inqualified electrical technicians.Duringinterview Anglian Water gives applicants a tour of the working environment whichensures they know exactly what the work entails and what they can expect.”You don’t want someone arriving on day one and realising they can’t standit,” says Harker, “and they’re usually pleasantly surprised by whatit is really like. It’s a matter of managing their expectations at everystage.”Annualpay is linked to analysis of performance as assessed by the employee’s manager.With a broad-band approach, a pay score is created depending on overallperformance, the competencies demonstrated by the employee throughout the year,their skills and results.Asbestossampling TheCasella Signs & Environment consultancy has between 80 and 90 consultantsnationwide who monitor levels of asbestos and advise on its safe removal. Whileit may not deal directly with extraction, the job can lead to work in hazardousenvironments, not simply through possible exposure to asbestos, but also inconnection with the sites where it is found ñ confined spaces, rooftops anddemolition sites. Pressure can come from other areas of the work such asdealing with construction industry contractors responsible for dealing with thematerial.Casellais one of the biggest providers of training connected with asbestos in thecountry. Its business director for training, Bill Sanderson, says recruitingconsultants can be difficult. “We look for people with a fairly goodacademic background in environment or science, but this kind of work isperceived as unpleasant and dangerous,” he explains. At the same time,staff must have great integrity, be practical and robust, and able to pursuethe right action no matter what the circumstances. With entry level salaries atabout £10,000, the position is often treated as a stepping stone to otherenvironmental work, perhaps in the area of contaminated land ñ and is thus partof a clear career path which can result in management salaries of£25,000-30,000.Whileemployees have opted into the profession, and no doubt feel a sense of vocationin their work, Sanderson admits motivating staff can be a problem, especiallyas some consultants may feel they have “done” asbestos after a fewyears of working in this area. To that extent, Casella is fortunate in that itssize means it can offer employees the chance to move around different areas ofenvironmental work according to their preferences.DebtcollectorsDebtcollectors work in organisations that range from a company’s finance controlsystem to a local council’s council tax collection department. There are also anumber of independent, dedicated debt collection companies and even factoringorganisations which deal with bad debts on behalf of companies and individuals.SimonGordon runs the Central Detective Agency which offers a range of personal andcompany-based security services including debt collection. CDA employs ahandful of operatives who share responsibility for general detection work aswell as serving demands and providing on-site attendance in order to collectdebts.Gordondescribes recruits as normally being “people with a legal background,agreeable disposition, with common sense and very good communicationskills.” While the legal knowledge side of the work is provided throughin-house training the practical aspect of serving and attending debtors canonly be learned through experience, usually beginning by working closely with atrained operative in the early stages of the job.Recruitmentis usually via personal knowledge or recommendation and with salaries atusually between £25,000 and £30,000 ñ for someone working across a variety ofprojects within an agency ñ the rewards can be attractive for the right person.At the same time, Gordon notes a few other factors crucial to recruiting andretaining employees into what may be considered unattractive posts, “Makesure the working place is as safe as possible,” he says, “and offerbonuses and incentives.” It’s dirty work but…On 6 Feb 2001 in Personnel Today Related posts:No related photos.