Good employees always find ways to make you money.

These slow times are a perfect time to upgrade your staff.

Years ago, I’d wait at my own company for a downturn in the economy to upgrade my staff with more willing people who I could turn into top performers. I could finally weed out the nonperformers, the prima donnas and the also-rans who did just enough to stay on board.

What I learned is the better my training got, the less I needed people with skills and the more I needed willing people to train with my skill sets and procedures. That was a whole lot better!

It’s a great feeling when you can:

1. Find the holes in your existing staff’s knowledge and performance and fix them fast.

2. Find the holes in your new hire of trained candidates and fix them fast.

3. Avoid the holes completely by taking willing people and giving them all the training needed so you won’t have to undo all their bad habits and bad training.

It’s all about the repeatable-objective systems that empower those who want to succeed. This was the missing link I needed at my own company. I learned the value of an operations manual that put things in plain English, and established a clear and objective standard on how we did things at all positions at my company.

We built training modules for each set of trade skills we performed that recreated real-life situations so technicians could get comfortable at the tasks they’d encounter in the field. We did role-playing with the inside staff on how to improve call taking, accounts receivable, accounts payable, dispatching and more.

Can you do that today at your company?

Face it; you’ve probably been behaving like a hostage whenever employees, during good times, would come knocking on your door at the end of the day to say, “Do you have a minute?”

We know what comes next. It’s only a matter of how much money they want to stay or to let you know they’ve already decided to jump ship for more money.

Stay Proactive

It’s not that that it can’t happen today. But you can finally have the guts to be proactive about who stays and who goes. Even at the best of shops I’ve been lucky enough to train over the years, there are always underperformers who management is dying to get rid of but are just afraid to do so.

Here’s what I recommend in good times or bad, but especially in trying times like these: Always be recruiting, hiring, orienting, training and retaining. What we want are the willing ones.

Just because you’re in the process doesn’t mean you have to hire anyone. But suppose a more qualified or, better yet, a more willing person came in. Wouldn’t your company benefit by having the right people on the team and the wrong people gone? You bet it would.

The trick is to be and stay proactive no matter what type of economy you’re operating in, even if you don’t have all the formalized step-by-step processes and tools I created. You can still learn when, where and how to recruit the right way; create a rock-solid hiring process; create a simple, written orientation process that gets new employees up to speed and fills their holes fast; and training that’s ongoing to keep them great at performing their tasks according to their written job descriptions.

If you do this, you’ll be offering candidates a unique proposition that only your company can deliver on: “We offer careers, not a job.” Do that well enough and you become the employer of choice; the best will want to come work for you.

Now Retain Them

The last step in the process, once we know we want them to stay, is to keep in touch with them constantly in order to sniff out whether they’re happy or shopping around. This is all about being good at retaining. And retaining is the part most employers miss in providing a “career, not just a job.” No one wants to be taken for granted.

What if you don’t want to build a career path?

Without a career path, your employees will feel stuck and you’ll either lose them or they’ll stay without bringing you their heart. You need an organizational chart that shows them where they are today and where they can go as the company grows.

All of this has a dramatic effect on your top-line sales and your bottom-line profits.

Note: If you’d like a copy of a basic organizational chart, e-mail me at and I’ll be happy to send it along.