Employer Related Documents

Guidelines For Hiring Private Service Staff For Your Home Or Estate

Article Courtesy of Karen Ryan, Owner of Heartland Caregivers http://www.heartlandcaregivers.com

Finding and retaining trustworthy, loyal and efficient individuals to staff your private home, ranch, resort or estate can be a real challenge. Private service positions demand extreme flexibility, excellent interpersonal skills and a working knowledge of any and all aspects of caring for a fine residence, ranch or resort property. There will be many long hours filled with tasks that range from the mundane to the Herculean. A domestic professional might be required to be, “All things to all people” in the household; planning a formal dinner, doing housekeeping tasks and driving the children to school one day, taking the family pets to the groomer and purchasing a gift for a business client the next. Understanding the operation of a state-of-the-art high-tech home is essential in most placements. Anticipating you and your family’s needs and the on-going care requirements of a beautiful property is, of course, the goal.

Because you want to find and maintain the highest caliber employee(s) possible to staff your home and because you only want to go through this hiring process once, we offer the following suggestions, developed from information household and estate employees have shared with us over the years:

  1. Overzealous micro-management by an employer is the number one reason household staff members cite for quitting their positions. This is closely followed by excessive over-time work hours (on a continual basis) and/or an attitude of distain communicated from the employer. You must be satisfied w/ the work of your employees, but it is sometimes a fine line between checking on them and chiding them. Trust your judgment- as a manager, your goal is to be fair and reasonable while expecting and encouraging a high level of performance. Remember your employee(s) have chosen to enter the service profession and they do want to deliver for you. You can make sure this is possible by, a) Having a fairly accurate understanding of the time it takes to accomplish the tasks you require them to complete and, b) Being open to hiring extra local help or outside service people for special occasions, if needed. Additional part or full-time help might also be required if the day-to- day needs of your household exceed the capacity of your current staff.
  2. If you are providing quarters (and it is customary to do so in this profession), ensure that they are clean and in good repair prior to your new employee(s) arrival and move-in. If you are employing a couple, they are unlikely to remain happy long-term in undersized or inadequate accommodations, such as a single small bedroom. While we screen our domestic, estate, ranch and resort couples for a high-level of compatibility and the ability to work well together, any couple needs adequate space and privacy to work at their best. Consider long-term contentment when arranging staff amenities such as housing, and you will definitely improve your long-term staff retention.
  3. Clarify. Issue written instructions and/or spend the time with your new employee(s) and communicate your specific needs, preferences (i.e., culinary likes and dislikes, wardrobe care, preferred order of tasks) and routines prior to their assumption of duties. Be very clear about your strongest likes or dislikes. In areas not as critical to your peace of mind, allowing your employee to employ their judgment and individual talents in the completion of their tasks, can help keep them engaged and dedicated to their work long-term. If your home or estate does not have a manual of operation and procedures, consider allowing your new employee(s) a reasonable amount of time (5 to 8months) in which to create one for you. Such a guide can be an invaluable tool in the care of your residence and providing high-quality service to you and your family. It should include information regarding your personal needs and preferences as well as those of other family members and regular guests. It should also outline routine care and functional operation of each and every component of your residence and grounds.
  4. While domestic professionals pride themselves on their adaptability and flexible, service-oriented attitude, it is still important to notify your staff of changes in schedules, (both yours and theirs) routines or special needs as soon as possible. This is not only a courtesy that your staff members will appreciate, it while also help insure that any changes can be incorporated smoothly while maintaining a high-level of comfort and ease for you and your family.
  5. Insure that the proper equipment is in place for your employee to efficiently do the work you require. Items such as a top-of-the-line vacuum cleaner (ideally, one for each living level) can make a big difference in both results and time effectiveness when caring for your home. Some tasks, such as cleaning high or oversized windows are better hired out to a vendor who has the appropriate ladders, scaffolds and other special equipment required to do the job correctly and safely.
  6. Household and estate managers are salaried professionals and it can be very tempting to load on the hours during busy periods without giving additional pay and very easy to forget to provide compensatory time-off later, when things slow down. In a word: Don’t. Anything over 50 hours per week should be acknowledged and compensated with either a bonus or extra time off, when events permit. Salary should reflect compensation for a 40 plus hour week to be in compliance w/ U.S. labor law. End of the year bonuses, 401Ks and insurance coverage can really encourage a lasting employer/employee relationship. Yearly paid vacations (at an agreed upon time convenient to both of you) should allow for two weeks of rest and regeneration for your employees-these can usually be split if you cannot afford their absence for more than 7 days. Remember Estate Staffing by Heartland maintains a roster of qualified and screened applicants to fill-in on a temporary basis, if needed.
  7. Maintain a productive working relationship with your domestic employees through regularly scheduled staff meetings. While you may think you are communicating sufficiently by providing them with regular instructions and feedback, remember that they also need a time to share their concerns, ideas, and suggestions with YOU. It is important you schedule times to listen to them. Spending a little of your time in this way can pay big dividends through increased efficiency, employee loyalty and long-term job satisfaction within your staff.
  8. Remember that domestic service is a REAL CAREER and it must be respected as such. Paying staff members ‘Under the table,’ is a thing of the past. Providing full benefits and incentives is as important in this profession as it is to any other. Household and estate employees are directly involved in helping you maintain a comfortable and gracious estate lifestyle. If personal loyalty, a willingness to go the ‘extra mile’ and long-term, career commitment are qualities you seek in your domestic staff, providing a competitive benefit package to the household and estate professionals you employ makes good sense, as it would in any field. We also urge you to use the quarterly evaluation form provided by Heartland, so that your employees will know where they succeed and where they need to improve.
  9. Remember too that no one is exempt from the occasional bad day. A good working relationship between household staff and employer, like any professional relationship, requires occasional sensitivity and tact on everyone’s part. Counting to ten, walking away or simply cutting an employee a bit of slack when they are having a difficult time, can do much toward maintaining a harmonious, productive and long-term employer/staff relationship. Occasionally, ask yourself if the work load, and the amount of time allowed to complete expected duties continue to be realistic, or have changes in your residence, family or lifestyle pushed the limits of your current staffing level? If so, it may be time to consider additional staffing. It is our sincere hope that you will turn to Heartland for all of your household, estate, ranch or resort staffing needs. http://www.heartlandcaregivers.com