HR Hiring Strategies: Why Sweeping the Floor is a Cutting Edge HR Strategy.
Updated: Oct 27
Am I the only one that made some hiring mistakes along the way?
I mean, I tried to do the right things. I put a detailed job advertisement online and waited for the resumes and applications to start rolling in. Then I reviewed the resumes, narrowed them down to my top two or three choices and brought each candidate in for an interview. If the interview went well, I would call up their references. And if that went well with no surprises, I would hire that person.
I would be relieved that the hiring process was over and I could get on to dealing with other matters in my business that needed my attention.
On the first day I would be optimistic. I would introduce the new hire to the staff, complete the orientation and all necessary paperwork. That would normally take half a day or more. After day one or week one, everything seemed to be on track. But it didn't take long for my Spidey-sense to start tingling. Something was wrong.
This person isn't who or what I thought they were. I thought they were hard working? That's what their reference said. I thought they were a self-starter that needed minimal supervison? That's what their reference said.
Time after time, I went through this time-wasting and frustrating cycle. I'd spend a bunch of time with the hiring process and thought I had done my due diligence. But then, within a couple days or weeks, I would discover that the person that I hired wasn't the hard working, motivated, team player that I expected. What was I doing wrong?
If you're a business owner, or involved with recruiting and hiring, you know exactly what I'm talking about. I mean, we're not dumb people, but when the hiring process goes wrong time after time, a person starts to wonder if it's me, or is it them?
(Just as a quick aside, it's likely them.)
But it didn't matter whose fault it was. Time and money had been wasted on that person, only to have to repeat the hiring process over again. The mistake had been made. I had hired the wrong person again. And I wasn't happy.
So I did what most mature and experienced business owners do. I threw a pity party for myself, said some things out load that I shouldn't say and lay my head down on my desk.
That's when I had a revelation.
"I'm going to make every new hire sweep the entire shop floor!"
For anyone that applied to one of my tradesman or labourer positions, I am going to have them sweep the floor. I'll pay them as a causal labourer and have them come in for a morning and all I want them to do is to sweep the shop floor.
I thought, "I can learn a lot by how a man sweeps a shop floor."
And I was right.
First, I will learn if a man is punctual and reliable.
I would normally have them come in before anyone else so that usually meant arriving between 6:30 am and 7:00 am.
If that person was late, but had some excuse, I would still have them sweep the floor and pay them the day minimum. But I wouldn't bring them back for an interview. If an employee is late on their first day, they will be late many, many more times. Always armed with a reason why. Eventually I will have to fire them. I learned that lesson the hard way. Many times over.
Second, I would learn if the man is a hard worker.
There are two ways, and only two ways to sweep a shop floor:
First, you can sweep by putting your back into it and leaning on that broom to really drive those bristles into the shop floor. This method requires considerable effort and energy and normally causes a certain amount of what sophisticated folks refer to as, 'perspiration.'
The second method, and the somewhat less preferred method from my perspective, is to sweep the floor like you didn't get any sleep last night. And the broom is merely a prop to keep oneself up right and partly focused on a task to prevent falling over fast asleep.
If the person doing the sweeping utilized the second method, he was gone.
Third, I would learn if the man is humble and a team player.
Most of us would not choose to sweep the floor if we had a choice. We would rather complete a task that is more meaningful or important. This is especially true if the person asked to do the sweeping is a qualified or journeyman tradesman as many of them were. Guys that have been around the industry a while would expect a 'green horn' or labourer to do the sweeping.
So if Mr. Tradesman was reluctant to sweep the floor, or passed the broom over to one of the shop helpers after I had left the shop, he would be sent home. Paid, and sent home.
Why? Because in most small businesses, all employees, including the owner(s) have to wear different hats from time to time. Some hats are glorious, and some are menial. But the bottom line is that the work, no matter what the work may be, needs to get done. And there isn't room on a small team for someone not to be a team player.
At this point, you're likely thinking, "Chris, you are a genius!"
But after a few minutes you think, "Hey, wait a minute, I don't have a shop floor. How do I apply this strategy to my situation?"
This strategy can be adopted to fit most business environments.
If you hire a bookkeeper, what do most bookkeepers dislike? One thing that comes to mind is filing.
So have your new bookkeeper do a day of filing. If they don't want to do the filing, or complain about it to you or others, I wouldn't keep them. If they won't do filing on day one, they certainly won't do it after the three month probation period is over.
But you get the idea.
The next time that you need to hire someone, have them sweep the shop floor or do the filing. You may be surprised at what you discover.