Traditional interviewing and hiring methods are only about 57 percent effective — in other words, not much more effective than flipping a coin, according to Lou Adler in his book Hire With Your Head.

That’s why Patton Building Services (PBS), a medium-sized, West Virginia, contract cleaning company, always has had a policy to promote from within if at all possible. And to do so, its management recently realized they would have to do more to foster an internal growth path. The answer was to develop a supervisor training course to change the quality of supervision within the company, raise morale, and lower both employee and customer turnover.

Hiring within
The company’s principles believe that hiring internally shows rank and file employees that working for PBS is not just another job; it quite possibly can be a career where advancement is possible to anyone who wishes to achieve it.

In addition to the morale factor, an internal promotion is more preferable to an outside hire because the company already knows quite a bit about the candidate.

Conversely, hiring internally is like picking an apple off a tree in your backyard. Everything about the apple is known — its freshness, its quality, the amount of insecticides on the fruit. By promoting from within, the hiring manager has a much more complete knowledge of both the good and bad qualities of the prospective hire.

The problem PBS faced in this policy was the fact that there were no internal candidates which the company felt comfortable promoting. So the solution was to develop an internal program to train exemplary employees for possible promotion to the supervisory ranks or, in essence, grow their our own apples.

Candidates for the program were selected and approached based upon past performance and length of service with the company. PBS wanted only those employees who had already proven themselves as valuable assets to the company and had been promoted at least once.

As such, supervisor candidates come from employees who were already in positions such account crew leader, floor crew, floor crew leader and assistant supervisor. These positions, while lower in the company hierarchy than supervisor, were still positions that allowed management to assess the leadership potential of candidates in question.

To avoid any implications that an employment contract had been made with the candidates, and to avoid destroying the advances in morale from the program, it was clearly communicated to each employee precisely what they could and could not expect from the program. Each candidate could expect, upon successful completion of the course, to be considered for any supervisor position that came open within the company. However, it was also clearly communicated that by merely completing the course, that candidate could not expect an automatic promotion to the position of supervisor (or any other promotion), or be given a pay raise upon completion.

This did not seem to deter the employees, as we had no trouble filling the course to its 10-candidate capacity.

Designing the course
Management customized the training program to meet the specific needs of the company and to prepare candidates to meet the unique customer service needs of clients. Interviews with company managers and current supervisors, analysis of past supervisory issues, and current theory and practices in the discipline of organizational development all provided input for the course’s structure. Topics chosen ranged from a review of company policies to lessons in fair employment practices to assertiveness training and mentoring techniques And while some sessions were taught classroom style, others involved current supervisors coming in to offer their views regarding what it takes to manage cleaning employees and work with customers in that capacity.

The course itself consisted of twelve monthly sessions lasting approximately two hours each. While several of these sessions could easily be seminars lasting an entire day or longer, PBS decided to keep each session to two hours to match the length of time allotted to regular supervisory meetings. That way, each session in the course also could be presented to current supervisors, allowing them to upgrade their skills.

Employee evaluations were done based upon two factors: How well they perform in the course as determined by the instructor; and monthly performance reviews by the manager of the division in which they work.

The results
The first year of courses exceeded expectations. Of the ten original supervisory candidates, eight completed all sessions presented, and four of the candidates were promoted to supervisor status.

The remaining candidates continued to work for the company for some time. Returning to their roles which already required some leadership ability, they excelled at those jobs and became key members of the company.

Due to the efforts of all the employees who completed the program, both the quality and customer service levels were raised wherever students worked. This in turn improved Patton Building Services competitive position and allowed the company to better achieve its main corporate goal — providing a clean environment to clients, their employees and their customers.

SUPERVISION 101: Course Outline
The subject matter of Patton Building Services’ twelve sessions is as follows:

Session 1: Orientation and A Look at the Supervisor Position

Session 2: Company Policies and Delivering Criticism or Discipline

Session 3: Principle Based Leadership

Session 4: Motivating and Praising

Session 5: LEVEL 1 INFLUENCE TRAINING: Nurturing Employees
& Training New Employees

Session 6: LEVEL 2 INFLUENCE TRAINING: Mentoring

Session 7: LEVEL 3 INFLUENCE TRAINING: People Skills

Session 8: Sexual Harassment Training

Session 9: Fair Employment Practice Training

Session 10: Assertiveness Training

Session 11: A Day in the Life: Current Supervisors speak

Session 12: The People You Will Work For: Current Managers Speak