I recently received a question on Facebook about how to prevent or handle employees quitting without notice. As a cleaning service business owner, keeping employee turnover rates low is one of the key components to a smooth running operation. It’s also one of the single biggest things you can do to dramatically improve your cleaning company’s performance.

While regular readers of this blog know I’m not an employment attorney, I going to re-state it here, and suggest that you consult with legal counsel and or labor law professionals in your area for more detailed guidance.

That being said, I’ve found a couple or ways to try to limit the frequency of this happening and to reduce its impact when it does happen by taking the following steps:

1. We do a VERY in depth interviewing process before we make job offers. We look for people with stable job histories and prefer applicants who have been referred as they have been less likely (in the past) to quit without notice. However, sometimes emergencies occur and the person you least expect to do something like this can surprise you.

2. Try to be the “employer of choice” in the labor market for your industry. While my company isn’t the highest paying in the area, we have a few other user friendly policies and practices that make it difficult to easily replace the type of job situation we provide. That way, people try a little harder to work out whatever problems they are facing without having to resort to this least attractive option. We will re-hire employees who had to resign but left on good terms, and this seems to make a difference.

3. Keep the lines of communication open. If you haven’t read “The Dream Manager” by Matthew Kelly, I highly recommend it. The book gives some great examples of ways to find out what your employees need and provide it in a win-win scenario that benefits the employee, client and company. As much as is possible, we engage with our janitors on an on-going basis so we are able to work around problems before they become insurmountable

4. Dock their pay. Ouch! This may seem like a punitive step, and in some ways it is, but I’ve found that if I can shift the cost of having to replace a worker who quit without notice from my pocket book to theirs it will sometimes make a difference in preventing (or limiting the damage caused by) this type of resignation.

Here’s where you have to be very careful and I cannot advise you about what’s allowed in your particular state or jurisdiction, but here’s what we do: There is a certain amount of the employee’s pay (over & above minimum wage) that is calculated and paid as a bonus. This is all clearly disclosed when we initially make the job offer. We discuss at that time our desire to prevent employees from quitting without notice and talk about why this is so damaging to the client and the company.

Certain infractions (like quitting without notice) cause the employee to lose the bonus for the final pay period. So, in effect when an employee decides to resign, they have the choice of earning the bonus on their final paycheck or not based on whether or not they give advance notice. That way, if they opt not to give any notice, the money we save by not paying the final bonus goes to paying the overtime, supervisory involvement, rescheduling expenses, etc. that are incurred as a result of their decision.

This option took me a long time to come up with and sometimes I’ll waive it if I’d rather not have a departing employee stay for another 2 weeks. If they are disgruntled it may be better to let them leave as soon as possible so as not to affect your clients or other employees.

In other cases, employees are leaving on good terms and this enables both sides to part in a professional manner. There have even been a few occasions where I gave a departing employee an additional goodbye bonus because they had been so outstanding and I want to encourage them to consider returning if later circumstances permit.

Limiting the incidence of employees quitting without notice is an important way in which you can improve your cleaning company’s margins and performance over time. Also, conducting exit interviews is best done by someone outside of your company who can provide you with useful information on preventing this damaging occurrence.

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