The key to getting (and keeping) the best employees.

The success of a surveying company depends on accurate, quality work. This is not possible without highly skilled, trained people. The best equipment in the world will not guarantee an accurate job, but conscientious employees will. The key to getting and keeping quality people is the key to success for any business. Employers need to feel confident that they have the best possible employees for the money, and employees must feel that they have an important part in the success of the company. A sense of "Esprit de corps" is as important in the surveying company as it is in the military.

Esprit de corps is defined by Webster's as "group spirit; sense of pride, honor, etc. shared by those in the same group or undertaking." Esprit de corps is to a large extent the glue that holds a company together and helps it to prosper. Esprit de corps helps maintain a healthy work environment full of challenges, excitement and a can-do attitude. An exciting work environment will do more to maintain a good staff then extra vacation days. Working together to meet challenges puts excitement in their jobs. It becomes exciting to go to work.

And like any good military unit, a company needs a strong leader to help maintain a sense of pride and excitement. As team leader, you will need to promote the following in dealing with employees.

Respect your employees. To foster respect, the manager must be a strong leader and demand quality work, quality attitude and a quality staff. Identify the people with an attitude or those who are just there to get their paycheck and have no interest at all in the advancement of the company. Give them the option to shape up or ship out.

Communicate your actions with your employees. Make them part of a team to help the company expand business and reduce costs. If employees understand the problems and costs of being in business, they are more likely to be supportive and able to suggest solutions. Make sure employees are aware of the costs of benefits and other overhead involved in the maintenance of a business. Above all, explain what is expected of them.

Reward outstanding performance and ideas. Limit bonuses to performance only. Eliminate pay raises and bonuses for non-productive employees.

Train each employee well. Training programs are necessary in every firm and must be maintained in spite of the temptation to eliminate them to cut costs. Supplement training with a detailed jobs procedures manual. Require 100 percent compliance to the procedures manual, but be receptive to suggestions for improvement and continue to make revisions to the manual.

Cross-train employees to handle multiple jobs. Use "show & tell," one-on-one techniques to make sure everyone knows the company procedures.

Evaluate employees periodically to provide feedback and suggestions for improvement. This helps develop employees to their full potential. It is also a good way to discover the lack of potential of an employee. Move productive employees up the ladder and non-productive employees out the door.

Eliminate the time thief. This employee is the one with no sense of urgency in completing a project swiftly and is only there because he or she is in the habit of coming to work. This type of employee usually arrives a few minutes late, takes 10 or 15 minutes for personal business and delays settling into the work routine. This employee extends coffee breaks, bathroom breaks and adds a few extra minutes to both ends of lunch, but is very prompt in getting out the door at quitting time. This does not go unnoticed by other motivated employees and will spread unless eliminated.

Discourage the abuse of paid sick days by adopting a plan that encourages employees to remain healthy. Many companies include vacation and sick days as one package of days off (leave) to be used as desired. These are some of the ways a strong leader can help improve business. A strong leader can get extraordinary results. When people work together in a well-trained, motivated effort, there seems to be more pride in getting the job done right.

Good Hiring Practices

There are times when there is a need to replace someone or hire additional staff. When turnovers occur, carefully evaluate the vacated position to determine if the former employee's duties and responsibilities can be covered by other existing employees, by an upgrade in procedures or equipment, or by a part-timer. Whenever possible, try to get by with a smaller group of more dedicated employees. Investigate the possibility of increased production with major upgrades of computers, plotters, field equipment and possibly furniture to improve performance and production. Upgrades are a one-time expense and if able to replace a salary, can be a long-term savings.

The search for employees has failed in many instances to keep pace with technology. A large percentage of firms still attempt to hire off the street and train. Although the initial cost of the untrained and unskilled employee is low, the loss of production during the training process is high. The booming economy has left few skilled employees available, and many firms try to hire from competitors.

Before hiring new employees, an in-depth analysis is needed, perhaps by an outside consultant as the management may be too close to the trees to see the makeup of the forest.

Consultants are free or available at a reduced cost through most Chamber of Commerce organizations. After the need for the specific type of employee is determined, the hiring procedure should begin with an open mind. Some of the best places to search are:

Within your organization. There may be an under-utilized employee who can be upgraded with a brief training period. This would allow the hiring of a less skilled employee to fill the gap vacated by the promoted employee. Being able to work your way up the ladder is very good for morale.

Colleges and universities. Recent graduates in surveying technology, forestry or civil engineering fields may require a larger starting salary but will have some of the skills needed, thus requiring a shorter training period.

Community colleges or technical institutes. These institutions provide highly trained individuals, but have a narrower focus and may not provide as broad an education as the larger universities. However, many times the training period will be extremely short for those trained at community colleges and technical schools. This can sometimes be an excellent location to find long-time, loyal employees.

High school career and technology centers. This is a good location for a semi-skilled person, but the learning curve can be long. Care must be taken to screen the employee well. These employees often lack the maturity necessary for a demanding profession like surveying.

Armed forces. Recent discharged personnel with a military surveying background are almost fully trained. There is virtually no learning curve, and the individual is usually a stable, reliable and mature employee.

Off the street (newspaper ads). In today's booming economy, who isn't working that wants to work? However, the possibility exists that a highly trained worker may not be happy with his or her current place of employment and would like to come to your company but doesn't know positions are available. Many firms run periodic ads to see what is available and to collect resumes. This can be time-consuming and upset current staff who fear being replaced.

Temporary employees are usually overlooked. College intern programs can provide good part-time employees during the year and full-time help during the peak season in the summer.

Employment agencies. Temp-to-hire is an excellent way to hire quality employees. There is usually a contract period in which a portion of your weekly employment fees can be credited towards the full-time employment of the temp. This is a good way to find skilled personnel and usually includes people moving into the area or recent college graduates looking for the right place to work.

People are the key to success. Don't forget, neglect or mistreat your most important business assets. The art of hiring, motivating and keeping good employees is difficult to learn and may never be mastered, but trying to hire and keep the best employees possible is in the best interest of your firm.