I'm in the throes of flea warfare. These parasites have invaded my cats and my home. Temporarily living elsewhere, I had relied on my twenty-one year old son for cat care. Naturally, he hadn't noticed the problem until it became glaringly apparent and, unfortunately, full blown. The lessons from this ordeal are numerous. Some are flea specific but there is one, applicable to employers, that stands out for me (no, it's not that employees are annoying pests!) It is:

It serves employers well to provide new employees with the right tools and information they need and where to go for help. Since my son and I are new at dealing with fleas, there wasn't even a flea comb in the house initially. So I had to obtain an arsenal of targeted weapons, do research and quickly ramp up my knowledge of steps to take. I'm much more knowledgeable now and, hopefully, am being effective in my efforts.

Similarly, be sure your employees, especially when newly hired, have the right tools, equipment, materials and information to do their job or that they know where and how to obtain them. That may seem obvious but, all too often, new employees are hired without thought given to what they'll need, how to help them become competent and productive sooner. All too often, supervisors and co-workers are too busy to help and new employees are left to figure things out on their own.

Here's an example: Taylor is hired for his first job as a part-time merchandiser. He orders, shelves and displays coffee and tea to three grocery stores. He faxes a weekly order every Thursday afternoon but does not have a fax machine. His supervisor makes it clear that the job must be done in 15 hours per week and that he should use one of the grocery stores' fax machines for free. Taylor finds that often the fax machine is broken or in use or the door is locked. This simple task of faxing has become stressful and Taylor wonders if he should find another job. The employer, meanwhile, could have prevented Taylor's stress by: providing a fax machine, devising another mode of transmitting the information, or allowing him to be reimbursed for the extra time and expense of using a store that charges for faxing. Any of these would be less expensive than replacing Taylor.

Supervisors should always spend a little time upfront putting themselves in the shoes of the new employee and thinking about what he or she will need to do the job. The right materials make a huge difference and allow the employee to:

  • Do the job more efficiently
  • Perform better sooner
  • Feel more competent sooner
  • Feel part of the organization
  • Avoid the sense that the employer doesn't care
  • Avoid spinning their wheels
  • Avoid stress and boredom

The last bullet is worth expanding upon. As with Taylor in the example above, when employees feel bored or stressed they go into survival mode. Survival mode calls up the fight or flight response that engages the reptilian (or lower, instinctual) part of the brain. Higher cognition, needed for learning and creativity, is not accessible. The quality of the employee's work suffers and so does his perception of his experience at your organization. The employee feels disengaged from the job and from the employer. There are many factors that lead to employee disengagement but not having the right tools is a major contributor. Disengagement leads to mediocre work, less satisfied customers and, as with Taylor in the example, turnover.

Through this flea ordeal I've been both bored by the tedium of eradication activities and stressed by the tenacity of fleas but, unlike Taylor, don't have the option to quit. But I do have tools to get the job done and, if those fail, I know the exterminator to call for help.

You, as an employer, similarly need the right tools and tips to be as effective as possible. For all of your human resources and employment-related needs, for best practices, for online training and HR-related resources, HRSentry is at your fingertips 24/7.

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