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How To Get Employees to Care

3 Key Points in this Article:

  1. It all starts with who we hire and how we hire.
  2. You must demonstrate that you care before any of your employees will care.
  3. The amount your employees care is a direct reflection of the culture and environment the leader has created in the business.

One of the most common problems business leaders tell me about is related to finding and keeping employees that will help them make their business successful.

Here is one comment a business leader sent me:

“Jamie, my biggest challenge in business is undoubtedly employees. So many are not punctual, they seem to be unmotivated, lazy even, they lack a desire to build and grow with the business, and honestly, the list could go on and on. It’s so frustrating!” 

Sadly, I hear these sentiments repeatedly.

I don’t think we are willing to talk openly enough about some of the reasons why some employees are struggling.

Three Barriers We Don’t Talk Enough About

Barrier # 1 – Mental Illness

According to the World Health Organization (WHO):

“One in four people will be affected by mental illness or neurological disorders at some point in their lives. Around 450 million people currently suffer from such conditions, placing mental health disorders the leading causes of ill-health and disability worldwide.”

Think about that for a minute. On average, 25% of your employees will be suffering from mental health related illness at any given time. Mental health illness doesn’t present itself as other illness does. It’s not like when they get a cold and miss a day or two or when they get cancer and must take six months off to get treatment.

People suffering from mental illness keep coming to work, they try to muddle through, and they often fail. They show up late or they take what seems to be random days off for no apparent reason. This is extremely frustrating and naturally, we assume “they are not punctual, unmotivated and lazy.”

Often the people suffering from mental health illness are desperate to get well and want to succeed for you and for themselves. They are ashamed and hide the real problem because they believe they can and will solve the problem on their own.

They can’t, and they need help. You can be part of the solution. If you suspect that depression or some other form of mental health is at the root of the problem with one of your employees, I recommend that you address it by offering support and that you encourage the person to get help.

To learn more about helping people with depression, listen to the four-part mini-series entitled, Depression in the Workplace, found on episodes 101, 102, 103, and 104 of the Build a Better Business Podcast.

Is it worth it to try and help?

Let me ask you this question.

Would you like to have me as an employee of your business?

Well if you hired me you would be hiring one of the people who have mental health illness. I have depression and anxiety and I require treatment to manage it. When I was young, I was wild and out of control and this vexed my employers, but they supported me and in time I figured out the problem and now with treatment, I am a high performing, award-winning, driven person who adds value in any work I do.

So, don’t write off anyone to quickly because you could have a rocket on your team that just needs some help to achieve liftoff.

Barrier # 2 – Substance Abuse

The World Health Organization estimates that 5.4% of people in the world abuse substances. 20 million Americans and 6.5 million Canadians are abusing alcohol and/or drugs right now. The economic impact in Canada has topped $30 Billion annually for several years.

This means that one in twenty people you are employing has a substance abuse problem.

Sadly, mental health illness and substance abuse go hand in hand and compound the problems for those individuals.

I was one of those people when I was young. Again, with help, I was able to conquer the problems I had, and I became a high performing employee, manager, leader, and eventually entrepreneur.

Again, don’t write off anyone to quickly. But I will say this, “people have to want help, they have to be willing to put in the work and choose mental-health and sobriety otherwise your efforts will be for nothing.”

So, if you suspect the underlying causes of the employee’s poor performance is connected to either mental health illness or substance abuse you are going to need to put on your leadership hat and have a frank discussion with the employee to try and uncover what is really going on.

Sometimes having someone to talk to, someone who cares enough to notice, and someone who will listen is all it takes to start the person down the road to recovery.

I also want to mention that managers and leaders are not immune to mental health illness and substance abuse. So, before you try to help someone else make sure you have helped yourself first.

Barrier # 3 – Parental Strategies, Technology, and Societal Influences

Young people these days seem to be wired differently.

They care about different things and at times it can be frustrating because they seem to be so “unmotivated, lazy, and entitled” as one business leader put it.

Well, that may be true for some, but I don’t think its true for most.

You need to get your head around a few statistics and facts:

Since the 1960’s single-parent homes (a home with only one parent) and blended homes (a home with a step-parent) have become the norm and children raised by both their biological parents is far less common.

The strategies parents are using to raise their children and the values that parents have instilled in their children have radically changed in the last 30 years as well.

Technology has deeply impacted the parental strategies utilized by parents and the way children perceive the world.

Societal influences and educational focus have also changed the way children perceive the world.

We are not going back to the way things were unless we experience a global catastrophe that puts us back to a pre-industrial age so be careful what you wish for.

We can only go forward, and we have the young people we have who were raised the way they were raised and influenced by a society that has dramatically changed from the one Baby Boomers and Gen X was raised in.

But I want you to think about something.

When you were young you probably played outside, built forts in the woods, rode your bikes with other neighborhood children and kept your self occupied for hours with games and other activities.

That gave you a specific set of skills and a worldview that gave you strengths in some areas. But be honest, it also created some weaknesses and let’s face it every aspect of our childhood was not amazing.

Okay, well young people today grew up differently, they played video games, binge-watched YouTube videos and spent their time on social media sites.

They have interacted with other children all over the world, not just their local neighborhood and they have acquired skills that make them really good in some areas and weaker in others and let’s face it not every aspect of their childhood sucked, perhaps it could be argued that some aspects of their childhood are superior to the Baby Boomers and Gen X childhoods.

If you are a Baby Boomer or Gen X, when you entered the workforce did the senior people love you and say, “this young generation is amazing, they work so hard, they don’t need any training, and they do things exactly the way we want them done and the way things have always been done.”

Of course not.

We lacked experience and we screwed up, we didn’t know what the heck we were doing, and we were even late sometimes because we were out driving our cars around and drinking with our buddies. But you know what, Baby Boomers and Gen X went on to change the world and do amazing things. In fact, the generations before us wouldn’t even recognize the world we live in today.

Well, guess what?

Millennials and Gen Z are no different. They lack experience and they screw up, they don’t know what the heck they are doing, and they arrive late for work at times because they were up too late connected with their buddies from the far corners of the earth doing something digital.

These people are going to change the world, it has already begun, and we will not recognize the world when they are done. So, accept reality and if what you have been trying isn’t working, change your approach and try something new.

What other factors may be causing us difficulty in finding employees that care?

You Aren’t Testing Pre-Hire Properly

Every position has a profile.

What I mean by that is there is a perfect blend of personality characteristics, education, and experience level that matches each position. When you identify what those things are you can create a profile for that position.

Then when you hire someone you can test them, pre-hire to see how closely they match your profile. The person that has the closest match is the person that will do the best job out of the pool of candidates you are considering at that time.

If you have not been using the profile-first approach you are not going to get optimal results. You are going to consistently hire for unknown biases that are clouding your judgment.

Remember that we all make decisions emotionally and try to rationalize our decisions after the fact. Well with hiring it is no different.

I believe that you must use the profile-first approach to create biases on purpose. I don’t mean biases toward race, gender, or religion, I mean biases toward personality profile, education, and experience.

You need to know if you are purposefully hiring someone with a certain level of assertiveness, sociability, pace, detail-orientation, behavioral adaptability, emotiveness, and creativity. If you would like to educate yourself about these characteristics, please go to jamieirvine.ca/profile.

If you do not understand what you are looking for you won’t find it and even if you do stumble upon it, you won’t understand why it worked once and why you can’t repeat it.

What you interpret as “bad employee behavior” could actually be what we call “avoidance behavior” which is a situation where you have an employee who is misaligned from a personality profile perspective and therefore exhibits behavior that is counter-productive.

This is not the employees’ fault, it’s yours for not understanding the profile, not hiring for it correctly, and not establishing a management system that is designed to maximize those profiles.

The Ugly Truth We Don’t Want to Admit

Have you ever heard these expressions?

“If you think it is everyone else’s fault it’s not them it’s you.”

“Doing the same thing repeatedly and expecting different results is the definition of insanity.”

There are people out there who don’t care, they are lazy, unmotivated, and entitled. There are people who have been crippled by mental illness and substance abuse issues.

But, if you keep hiring these people, is it really their fault?

Now assuming that you have a few employees who aren’t lazy, unmotivated, entitled, mentally-ill, or abusing substances, if you can’t get them to work for you in a profitable way (which is the minimum viable situation) don’t you think that maybe you need to look at your management systems and your leadership abilities before you categorically write off an entire generation of human beings?

This is an ugly truth that none of us want to admit.

The problem may not be with them, the problem may very well be with us.

If that is true then we must do something about it, we must develop our abilities as leaders and managers first, then we can address individual employees who are not fulfilling their obligations.

How to Get Employees to Care

Many business owners, leaders, and managers have expressed their frustration with employees that seem not to care.

I hear the same basic thing repeatedly:

“Jamie, it’s just a job to them and they don’t care, they’re not interested in a career, they seem to be totally disengaged.”

Well as we discussed above there may be underlying issues that are causing individual employees to underperform. Mental illness, substance abuse, and other societal influences can all play a part in producing an employee that doesn’t care.

But, if many of your employees don’t care I want you to ask yourself this question:

What kind of culture have I created in my business?

A Culture of Care

When you bring a group of people together, small or large, social structures are created. It is deeply ingrained in our biology, but what is not deeply ingrained is the health of that social structure.

In the wild, animals with social structures like chimpanzees, gorillas, and wolves always have an alpha. The group looks to the alpha for leadership and the alpha deeply influences what the group does and how the group acts.

Scientists studying this behavior have observed chimpanzees who are part of a group that is known for stealing, gorillas that are known for tough but fair discipline, and wolves that are vicious and other packs that compassionate.

My point is simple, your leadership will dictate the culture in your business. You are the alpha and what you say but more importantly what you do heavily influences the nature of the group.

“But I care deeply about my business and my employees just don’t”, you might be thinking.

I assume that is true, most business leaders, especially business owners, care deeply about their business and it is unrealistic for you to expect your employees to care more than you do.

Culture in a business is not primarily driven by how much people care about the business, it is primarily driven by how much the people in that group care about each other and what they are doing.

So, you can care about your business but if that doesn’t translate into caring for the employees the culture in the business will be reflected in the way your employees act. If they don’t care you don’t have a culture of caring.

Additionally, if the work you do sucks, meaning if it is physically demanding, if it involves cooking in a warehouse or poorly ventilated office or cooking in the summer and freezing in the winter outside, I don’t care who you are it’s going to be tough to really care about what you’re doing.

Unless of course, you have something more important to care about that makes working in those tough conditions worth it.

Guess what?

An average paycheck isn’t going to cut it.

If you have been listening to me for any length of time you will know where I am going with this. Leadership is the foundation, leaders must have a dream that resonates with customers and employees, managers must be leaders who operate a management system that you have created, and all of this leads to an environment that makes employees care.

So, if you want to create a culture of care within your business you are going to have to look yourself in the mirror and do an objective self-examination. You must build into the very fabric of your business a deep commitment to fulfilling a worthwhile dream that creates a significant impact in the lives of your customers.

A dream that your employees can believe in.

Your employees must see you care so much that you have painstakingly developed a worthwhile dream, you have rigorously developed systems that make it easier for them to contribute to the fulfillment of that dream, and you must regularly show personal interest in your employees individually and as a group.

If you do all of that I promise your employees will care.

But what does a better business that has developed an environment that supports a culture of care look like?

An Environment That Supports a Culture of Caring

Every business has a culture.

Let me introduce you to a better business that has a strong culture of caring by walking you through the experience of a person applying for a job at a business we will call; We Care Contracting.

We will call this person John. John had been very surprised by the entire experience of getting hired at this business called We Care Contracting. First, he didn’t think he stood a chance at getting this job, he really didn’t have very much experience in the trades, and he was new to the area, so he didn’t know anyone at the company, and they didn’t know him.

The ad was what gave him the courage to apply, this is what it said:

“Are you looking to change the lives of the fastest growing group of people in your community? Do you want to come home every day knowing you did something special? Are you willing to continuously learn and work hard in the trades with an amazing group of contractors? If you answered YES to all three questions please apply, no experience or resume necessary, please email or text Jessica today, all you have to do is let her know that you want to change the world.”

John texted Jessica at the number supplied with six words, “I want to change the world.”

Immediately, John received a text back that said, “John, thank you so much for applying for the job. If you would be so kind, would you please take a personality assessment test, it will take you less than 15-minutes. This is the first step on your journey to joining us in changing the world.”

John clicked the link and 15-minutes later he was done the profile. He honestly thought he would never hear from them again.

Then his phone buzzed.

It was a Saturday afternoon, and the call display said, We Care Contracting.

He answered, and a delightful woman said, “John, my name is Jessica, thank you for taking the profile. I really appreciate the fact that you were willing to take 15-minutes out of your weekend. Please text me your email address. We would like to send you a calendar link, so you can schedule an interview at a time that is convenient for you. You are going to interview for the position of supervisor. Also, we would like to send you an e-transfer for $15.00. Use the money for gas, to take an Uber or public transit to the interview. Have a great day John.”

John hung up the phone, texted Jessica his email address and 5-minutes later he had scheduled an interview on Monday evening. This time slot was great because it allowed him to pick up his kids after school and get them home and settled. He also had $15 in his bank account.

“Who are these people, and did she say I would be interviewing for the position of supervisor?” he thought.

John was bubbling with excitement and all he talked about to anyone who would listen for the rest of the weekend was how excited he was about his interview with this company called We Care Contracting.

Monday evening came, and John arrived at the address they had given him 10-minutes early. He went to the bathroom to make sure that he still looked good for the interview, he made sure that his resume was on the top of his folder and he looked in the mirror.

“John, you’re going to get this job no matter what!” he told himself.

John came out of the bathroom and walked towards the seating area he had been told about and a picture had been sent to him, so he knew exactly where to go.

A woman was sitting on the couch and she smiled and stood up when she saw him walking toward her.

“John, I presume, I’m Jessica.” Jessica shook John’s hand firmly.

“Thank you so much for taking time out of your schedule to meet with me.”

John thought to himself, “I should be thanking you Jessica” but he simply said, “my pleasure.”

The next hour seemed to go so fast as Jessica talked about why We Care Contracting was started, what they do for their ideal customers, and how they are growing and need people just like him to join them as they change the world for their customers. John was fascinated, he had never heard the owner of a company talk the way Jessica did.

Every time Jessica asked John a question, she listened so intently it almost made him uncomfortable. He had never had someone really listen to him like that before.

Jessica then explained exactly what the supervisor position would involve, she talked about the training, the systems, and how he didn’t need any previous experience as a supervisor because the system would empower him to not only do the job but would make him a manager that leads.

Jessica then went through the results of his personality profile assessment and they talked about how his profile was an incredibly close match to the profile of the position. Jessica patiently explained the 7 traits that were measured and how it related to the position that he was being considered for.

John’s head was spinning with excitement, but he tried to hold back for fear that his eagerness would somehow ruin the moment, the spell would be broken, the interview would come to an end, and he would not get the job.

Jessica asked several times if John had any questions as the interview came to an end and when all John’s questions had been answered Jessica did something that was very unexpected.

She stood up, smiled warmly, shook John’s hand and said, “John, when is it convenient for you to start?”

John mumbled, “how about tomorrow?”

Jessica smiled, shook his hand one more time and said, “wonderful, come to our office at 8:00 am and I’ll introduce you to the owner and the rest of the team.”

“Wait a minute Jessica, you’re not the owner?” John stammered.

“No John, I’ve been with We Care Contracting for 7-months and one of my jobs is to run the Hiring System” Jessica replied.

“Oh, I just assumed” John replied.

“That’s okay John, I care about what we do at We Care Contracting as much as the owner, so I understand why you might have thought that. If you are surprised by this, I can’t wait to see your reaction when you go through the New Employees First Day System.” Jessica laughed and gave him a wink.

This story is fictional, but I want you to know that there are better businesses that operate this way. They are extremely rare but when it happens it is like magic, but it’s not magic, it’s simply a leader with a dream who goes to work on a business every day, who cares so much that they invest everything they have in creating a set of systems that are simple yet innovative. The result, of course, is that they attract people who want to be part of the dream and together those people build a better business.

Your Standards Lead to Caring

When you think about, We Care Contracting’s Hiring System, what comes to mind?

Perhaps like me, you’re struck by the simple little things that were done to make John feel comfortable.

Appreciation was shown for John taking up his time to consider working for them.

The systematic way that John was moved through the hiring process or how John never even gave Jessica his resume. He had it with him, but she never asked for it. Instead, they talked to each other and really listened to each other.

Maybe you picked up on the profile-first approach that was used and how the profile guided Jessica to select John who was an ideal match to the profile of the position.

I’ll let you in on a secret you might have guessed. I designed this hiring system. You see this is the kind of documented systems that are built on a foundation of standards.

Standards lead to caring.

The higher your standards are the more people will appreciate them because high standards take into consideration the people involved and ensure that they are well taken care of.

Nothing about John’s experience was left to chance. John was the most important person the hiring system was designed for and that system ensured that Jessica did everything possible to make sure that John felt great about the whole experience.

I’m sure that you agree that this hiring system would elevate most businesses hiring practices to a standard that would be considered far above industry norms.

This would become an experiential differentiation for any business that adopted it and would lead to consistently hiring employees that care.

If you’re wondering about what would have happened if John was not an ideal match to the profile of the position or if during the interview Jessica realized that John was not a good fit for the culture of the business I assure you that the system would have guided her through every step and although John may have been disappointed that he did not get the job he would have felt respected and appreciated.

Standards lead to caring, caring leads to caring, and it has been my experience that most employees would absolutely love to work for a business like We Care Contracting.

So, the question simply is this:

“Are you going to build a better business by becoming a leader that dreams and an employer of managers that lead employees that care?”

What other important factors must be considered to build a better business?

6 Important Factors in Building a Better Business

I have come up with 6 important factors that must be considered when building a better business which employees will care about.

#1 – Your business needs to solve bigger problems.

Incremental improvement is insufficient to be truly successful in this hyper-competitive global economy that we are all a part of. So, if your business is in the trades you can’t just be 10% more punctual, 10% safer, 10% more organized, installing 10% better quality products or 10% cheaper and expect to have the kind of impact we are talking about when we aim to build a better business.

You must solve a big problem in a very different way for a very different reason. Now I get it, this can be overwhelming, and it can be downright discouraging. I struggled to achieve this in my contracting business, I struggle every day to achieve this in my professional selling career, and I struggle to achieve this with my personal brand which includes this blog and my podcast.

The good news is that the way to solve bigger problems for your ideal customers is to systematically brainstorm new ways to look at the problem and then to implement the development of the solution over time.

Patience and persistence is the key. If you have read my blog or listened to my podcast from the beginning, you will see exactly what I am talking about as I have consistently reinvented my blog and my podcast to solve bigger business problems for my listeners and achieve the dream I have of helping all of you build a better business.

You can do the same thing with your business and your customers.

#2 – Develop a systematic method to deliver a consistent solution.

Patience is not the entire picture though. Once you identify a bigger problem you must be able to develop a solution for that problem. That is obvious but what is less understood is that your solution must be delivered in a consistent way otherwise you do more harm than good.

Look at it from the perspective of the customer.

They have been going along thinking that the way everyone does what you do is the only way it can be done. Therefore, they accept the status quo and are unaware of the better solution you are working on and the impact that solution will have on them.

In other words, they don’t know what they are missing.

Then you come along and show them this wonderful solution and they become excited at the prospect of receiving the benefits of your unique solution to one of their big problems.

In other words, they are now aware of what they have been missing and now that they know they will never be able to go back.

If you are unable to deliver that solution consistently, they are going to be very upset and that anger and frustration will be hurled at you with great force and rightly so. You can do a great deal of damage to your business and its reputation if you fail to consistently deliver your new solution. In fact, if you fail to be consistent you are better off to just try and incrementally improve your business over the status quo.

#3 – If there is no joy in your business you should quit.

Starting a business and keeping a business going is one of the most difficult things you can do. We all know the statistics of business failure. So, if you don’t love what you do and the process of building a business you will quit.

The fact is that if you don’t find joy in the work the worst thing that can happen to you is not a total business failure. The worst thing that can happen is having the business operate with moderate success for a long period of time.

You become a slave to the business, you hate it, and you can’t get out.

Life is precious, and it is short so please find joy in your work.

One word of caution: Don’t expect every moment to be joyful. That is totally unrealistic. You are going to have bad days, weeks, or even months but if you love the process of building a business you will find joy.

#4 – All your problems are your fault, thank goodness all the solutions you will ever need are within you.

We are all our own worst enemies and we create the worst bottlenecks for ourselves restricting our potential. It’s just the way we are built. Our greatest strengths are simultaneously our greatest weaknesses.

We can easily slip into the mindset that we are a victim.

We start to blame everyone else for our problems. But the reality is if you are blaming everyone else for your problems the problem is most definitely you.

The only way to move past this is to assume radical accountability.

You started a business or accepted the position of business leader. No one put a gun to your head and forced you to do it. You made a choice and now you are the one who is responsible come what may.

Assuming responsibility as the leader of your business and understanding that everything that happens inside your business reflects your leadership and is your responsibility is a very humbling and very brave thing to do. But, it’s also the right thing to do and it empowers you to take different actions that will lead to better results in the long run.

#5 – Love your employees and teach them to love your customers.

This is very simple.

Take care of your employees and they will take care of your customers and your customers will, in turn, take care of your business and ultimately your business will take care of you.

The way your employees treat your customers reflects your leadership. If you have an employee who is mistreating a customer and you haven’t dealt with the situation that is on you, not the employee.

Remember that caring leads to more caring.

Sometimes that expression of care comes in the form of doing something wonderful for a person, but it also sometimes comes in the form of appropriate correction and discipline.

#6 – The formula for systemization.

Michael E. Gerber who was a guest on the podcast in episode 64 has said for 40-years that “the solution is the system, the system is the solution.”

To build a better business and achieve a dream of solving a big problem for an ideal customer you must develop systems.

In my experience, there is a formula for creating systems and I want to share it with you now. It involves taking 6 steps in sequential order. If you try to change the order you will fail to create a system that works properly.

The 6 steps are as follows:

  1. Educate yourself about the outcome you want the system to produce. This involves clearly understanding the previous attempts to produce the outcome.
  2. Develop a system which is defined as a documented step-by-step description of the actions that must be taken to produce the desired outcome.
  3. Measure the results of the system.
  4. Compare the results to the previous ways of attempting to achieve the outcome.
  5. Adjust the system to improve the results. This is also known as innovating the system.
  6. Once you have consistently achieved the desired outcome delegate the system to the appropriate employees.

These six steps produce a framework that you can use to systemize your business and to achieve any outcome.

So, to conclude I will ask this question again:

“Are you going to build a better business by becoming a leader that dreams and an employer of managers that lead employees that care?”


The source material for this article was originally aired on the Build a Better Business Podcast.

You can listen to the 3-part mini-series on episodes 88, 90, and 92.

Please subscribe to the podcast today for great interviews and lectures that will give you the tools to be a leader that dreams and build a better business filled with managers that lead and employees that care.

You can subscribe to the podcast on any of the following podcast apps:

Apple Podcasts | Google Podcasts | Spotify | Stitcher

Author: Jamie Irvine

My name is Jamie Irvine and I have been a Sales Professional since 1997 and an Entrepreneur since 2009.

View all posts by Jamie Irvine »

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