Wednesday, March 21, 2012

Why Derek is more conservative now - trying to hire for a cleaning service

OK fair warning.  This is going to be a bit of a rant.  My spelling and grammar gets worse when I rant so I apologize in advance.  Also I am going to touch a little on politics and hopefully I won’t upset too many of my readers but I am having one of those days.  There is a quote that is normally attributed to Winston Churchill “If  you're not a liberal at twenty you have no heart, if you're not a conservative at forty you have no brain”.   I have come to like this quote because it feels a little like it sums up my life.  I was very liberal when I was younger.  I wanted to save the world and help everyone and fix everything for everyone.  Then I bought a residential cleaning service.  Now I realize many of these attempts to help people just back fire and create a system of perverse incentives.

We have been desperate for people for over 2 months.  We are running advertisements on Craig’s list, Snag a Job,, we ran ads in the paper, we offered incentives to current employees.  We even ran a job fair at the local unemployment office which they promoted to all the unemployed people in Warren county.  6 people came.  5 were immigrants.  We have to call 20 applicants to schedule 5 interviews.  On average only 2 out of 5 people show up for their interview.  Of those, one 1 of 3 will not show up for their first day of work.  Now do not get me wrong.  I love my staff.  I have 40 rock stars that work for me.  However the amount of BS we have to deal with to find the few people that really want a job and really want to improve themselves is incredible.

Now I know cleaning people’s homes is not a lot of fun but I like to think we offer a pretty good job.  We are growing so I guarantee my people full time work.  We are growing quickly so we have places to move up.  In the last year I have promoted 3 cleaners to General Managers running a branch office of their own.  We offer medical insurance, 5 days vacation, 9-5 work with no weekends, monthly bonuses, no micro-managing bosses, a no drama policy, and we try to have some fun.  We had our Christmas party at an indoor water park this year and bought tickets for everyone and their families, and we are having a fancy all you can eat Candy and Cake Pop bar the Friday before Easter.  We also don’t pay so bad.  Most of my cleaners make $450 - $500 a week but I have several cleaners that make over $600 a week.  Before tips.  Lets be clear that is a $25,000 - $30,000 a year entry level job with no degree required.  This week one cleaner make over $800.00.  Ok I am ranting but I think you get my point, not that terrible of a place to work.  I have many one 11 year employee and many employees with us over 2 years.

I swear 95% of the people that “Apply” have no interest in being hired.  For those of you that do not know the system, to keep your unemployment benefits you have to be actively looking for a job.  They ask for proof of where you applied.   Now imagine this, you are applying for a job with me.  These are actual answers from the questions “Why did you leave you place of previous employment?”

1.  Baby fell off balcony.  (Worked as a housekeeper at a hotel.  This has to be my all time favorite)
2.  I asked for 1 week off.  They said they no, they were too busy that week to spare me so I quit to show them.
3.  My boyfriend kept stalking me and terrorizing everyone at my office.  But we worked things out.  We are ok now.
4.  The work was too hard.

I had one woman no show for her interview.  Then she called me the next week.  “I am just calling to check on my application.”  Derek “You did not show up for your interview.”  Her “Yeah something came up, can I schedule another one.”  Derek “No, please don’t call again.”   I had another woman no show for her interview but she had the guts to call and ask if she could fax me her unemployment form to fill out confirming she had an interview scheduled.  Heck no, the point is you are supposed to go to the interview, not waste my time by scheduling it and then not showing up.

So I find myself yelling at my radio a lot.  I am an avid listener to NPR.  I think they do great in depth news stories.  But every time they run one of the pieces how terrible the economy is and no one is hiring I start yelling back.  I really get worked up when I hear the pieces about how we need to stop immigrants from coming over because plenty of Americans would do those jobs.  No they won’t.  Now lets be clear, I have exactly one non American citizen on my payroll and she is from Canada so I am not saying this out of pure self interest.  My people work in air conditioning all day and I have a terrible time finding people. I cannot imagine the poor employers trying to find people to work outside all day.

Now lets move to the other side of the unemployment system.  What most people do not seem to understand until they own a business, including me, is unemployment insurance is not like social security with a set rate.  It is basically directly billed back to your previous boss.  So if I lay a bunch of people off they rate I have to pay for unemployment goes way up.  So when someone files a claim, it comes right out of my pocket.  The other thing most people do not seem to realize is it is not really unemployment insurance, it is lay off insurance,  If you are fired for cause or you quit, you are not entitled to it.  You also have to earn a certain amount and work for a certain time to qualify.  There are people that game this system.  They know the rules and the appeals inside and out.  These people target smaller businesses because they know they are less likely to know the rules, have an HR department, have the time to do the paperwork and appeals, and may not realize it will even cost them when they get a claim.  It is like vultures who circle unsuspecting small business owners.

When I first bought the business I had one woman who did not like the changes I was making, like uniforms and mandatory arrival times.  She stood in my office screaming at the top of her lungs in front of 4 witnesses how stupid we all were and throwing things ending with “Fire me I dare you!”  So we did.  She filed unemployment and said we did not fire her for cause.  I filled out the paperwork and said she quit.  I lost as they said I fired her, she did not quit.  Foolish me, I thought when you scream to fire me and throw things at us, your quitting colorfully.  I appealed and said fine I fired her and I described what happened.  I lost that appeal because I could not answer the question as to what policy she broke.  I appealed again and had to some clause in my employee manual about “treating co-workers with respect” that she broke.  Finally I won.  I mean how stupid is this.  She stood screaming in my office throwing things but the only reason I finally won is because I was lucky enough that the employee manual I used had a generic phrase about treating others with respect.  Is there no common sense anymore.

About half the people I hire do great for the 8 weeks it takes to qualify for unemployment.  Then they start calling off work, like every day.  Or they do a terrible job.  Basically what ever it takes to get fired quickly.  When employees are fired I have them sign a form that acknowledges that they were fired, lists the reasons why, and when they will get their final check.  They all file and they all check the box that says “No reason was given why I was fired.”   We then have to fill out a 4 page form on why they were terminated, we need to include copies of every incident report, the termination letter, and send it all in within 14 days (lets hope the owner is not trying to take a vacation).  If you fail to respond, they win.  Once I respond, I then get another 4 page form to fill out that basically says “We got your claim that your employee was fired for cause.  Please provide more details to this new department. “  We then have to submit the exact same book of information AGAIN because it goes to a different department and goodness knows they cannot forward it.  Once we win that the employee can appeal up to 4 times.  Once again if we fail to respond, they win. 

This all takes an INCREDIBLE amount of my time and the government’s time with all of these appeals.  This wastes my money and the money of every single tax payer.  Remember I have a signed form from this employee acknowledging why they were let go.  Why is there no penalty for filing a false claim?  You cannot just file a fake police report because it wastes valuable resources.  But these people can play unemployment lottery and file a claim they have no right to in the hope their previous employer makes a mistake.  And now that we have extended unemployment benefits out for over a year the prize is even bigger to encourage people to do play the lottery even more.

Ok now I know some people are reading this and thinking “Derek, there is no way anyone can survive just off unemployment.  Your just being harsh.   It is what 40% of their previous pay?  They cannot live off that.”  Well you are partially right, they do need more income but there are ways to play that game as well.  About one out of 3 people I screen over the phone ask me to pay them under the table because they are getting disability or unemployment benefits they do not want to lose.  Seriously.  1 out of 3.  If you don’t believe me, come spend a day in my office.  If that does not work, remember we just trained them to be pretty good cleaners and they did a decent job as long as they cared to.  They may or may not have bothered to returned all the equipment and supplies we bought.  Now all they have to do is hang up some flyers and get some clients and not record any of the income.  So now they get 40% of their pay from their last job AND they get all the other low income government benefits, AND they have a cleaning job that they are being paid 100% under the table.   Welcome to how to play the system 101.  And I get more conservative by the day.  This is also why you need to treat the good employees like gold.


Anne M. Aldridge-Baligian OceanState House Cleaning said...

Thank you so much for taking the time to write this. I could have written this myself as I have, and currently are, going through everything you have described! As a matter-a-fact I recieved a letter from the Dept. of Labor yesterday about how businesses need to partner with them to prevent this kind of abuse and yet they are the ones who are allowing it! We fired an employee for screaming and swearing at a manager when the manager tried to give her a written warning for her behavior. She of course applied for unemployement. The unemployement office called us to ask what happened and did not ask us to provide any sort of proof of what transpired and then had the nerve to side with the employeee. I had to appeal and now have to spend the time going to a hearing to provide the proof that they should have allowed us to provide from the get-go. This happens time and time again! The DOL states that they want to prevent people like this from collecting and yet case after case like this they side with the employee causing my company in the money and time it takes to appeal. I could go on and on but I don't think I need to. You already understand!

Becki C. said...

I hear you, Derek. It's amazing how many applicants I get for a job and how few actually read the application. And, like you said so very few even show up. It's really a shame when "unemployment rates are so high". I've been understaffed for a month now and see no relief in the near future!

Peggy Collin said...

Ditto to EVERYTHING! I experience the same exact stuff. In fact, I just interviewed many applicants, one of whom I hired (left a message as it was Memorial Day weekend) and one that was my second option (left a message as well. Come Tuesday, I again left a msg for applicant one - to this day she has not returned my call. Guess she wasn't as interested as she said (I'm so excited, I hope I get a call from you!). So, call #2 - he up and moved to Wisconsin over the weekend. What's up with that?? Ugh. Yeah, people really don't want to work when they can play the game.