Building a Better Employee

Building a Better Employee

“My employees don’t care. They’re only here for a paycheck. How can I build a successful business when no one cares?”

I can’t tell you how many times I have heard this statement from business owners and leaders, frustrated that they can’t find or keep good employees. It’s easy to buy into the consensus that today’s workers are lazy, self-absorbed and lack loyalty.

It takes the blame off us.

How many people do you know that emerged from the womb with extensive knowledge of your trade? Did you? No, you didn’t. You learned the basics and built that knowledge year after year. You, and everyone else, had to learn the skills of the trade.

Well, then why do we cling to the notion that good employees are just born that way? If we can train someone to be a good roofer or solar installer, why can’t we train people to be better employees?

The good news is we can. The bad news is that, like anything of value, it takes planning, determination and work.

There are two key parts to building a better employee – selection and retention.


When in need of a vehicle, we would not buy one haphazardly, drive it for a couple of weeks, realize it doesn’t meet our needs, park it and repeat the process until we found the “right” one. This would be crazy, time-consuming and expensive.

Instead, we would give substantial thought to what we needed and wanted from that vehicle. We would probably build a list of all the features and functions to make sure we addressed each accordingly. We would research and compare all of the many options to ensure we got what we needed with the best value we could possibly muster.

Why then, do most hiring practices resemble the first method? We throw an ad up with the job title and an hourly rate, cross our fingers with the hope we get lucky this time, that someone, anyone, will apply. We then often hire someone that can fog a mirror and give them a spin, knowing we can fire them in few weeks if they don’t work out. Then we repeat the whole process again, more secure in the belief that there just aren’t any good employees out there.

The key is to hire the same way we buy. Instead of features and functions, we focus on the skills and characteristics we want in our employees. This means giving thought to what we really need, making a detailed list of skills and characteristics, researching where we would find those types of people, and staying committed to only hiring those that have a 90% match.

By doing this, we find and bring on people that align with our culture and vision from the start. There is now a commonality between employer and employee that provides a foundation for the next step.


Retention begins on the employee’s very first day. It is where expectations are set for both parties. It is where the tone is set for the rest of that relationship.

Does the new hire show up on time and then wait for 30 minutes for someone to acknowledge them? Is there a plan to onboard them and quickly integrate them into the organization? If not, what message have you sent about their importance and your loyalty to them? Why should they care about your business when you have demonstrated from the start that you don’t care about them?

Remember, you have made an investment in this person already – tangible and intangible. If the dealer was dropping off your new vehicle, you would probably be in the parking lot waiting for the delivery. Why do we not take the same attitude for a new employee that is so much more important to our business’ success?

From here, retention continues with multiple investments. Investments in:
• Regular and accurate feedback on their performance and contributions
• Consistent communication and reinforcement of the important and critical role they play in the business
• The important role the business plays in the lives of its customers
• Hard and soft skill development
• Honesty and transparency

The reality is employees have a choice on where they will work, how committed they are to the organization, and the value they create for that organization. As employers, we, too, have choices. Choice in creating an environment that attracts the best people in our industry. A choice on demonstrating our loyalty to the employee through transparency, communication, and investments in them. And choice in showing the employee how important their actions are to the business – both in feedback and through incentives.

What would your business look like in 12 months if you choose to build better employees?


A common myth in business today portrays business owners and founders as rugged individualists, solely pulling their companies to success. While this makes for a great story, it is rarely true. The truth is the best (sustainable and profitable) businesses are led by people that value and take outside advice and perspectives. A great way to acquire that outside input is through a peer advisory board such as those with The Alternative Board. If you would like to experience what it is like to participate, simply email for an invitation.


Allan Lamar is a Facilitator and Coach with TAB Colorado Springs and the owner and founder of Simpro Strategies LLC. Prior, he successfully led 8 separate businesses that covered every facet from startups to full turnarounds by building highly engaged teams.

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