Did You Hire Them or Create Them?

Mark D Napier

I have had the opportunity during my career to teach courses on management and leadership. Without exception, every time I teach a course, there will be one or more students who lament about the poor quality of his/her subordinates. The subordinates are generally long-term employees but occasionally are recent hires. The student wants to know how to “fix” the subordinates. Will training work? What about progressive discipline? Should I reassign him/her?

It is clear that when we find an employee who is not performing acceptably, we need to act to correct performance. After all, that is what some of us were hired to do. When I dig a little deeper, I find this is not an isolated incident of a few rogue employees, but an almost circular occurrence of one employee after another. This takes significant time from the supervisor and drains positive energy from a significant segment of the workforce. The supervisor may tell me success stories in which he/she was able to terminate or retrain a substandard employee. Affirmative action to correct performance is a good thing.

Unfortunately, we do not examine the most important issue: Did you hire a substandard employee or did you create one? Let me be clear, those are absolutely the only two possibilities. Failing to examine this reality is dooming the organization to perpetually revisiting the address of underperforming employees. We all want to believe that our hiring processes are sufficiently discriminating. If that is true (big if), we hired a person capable of acceptable performance. How then did we end up with this poor performing employee?

We must examine the culture of the organization, the effectiveness of supervision, and the merit of our evaluative processes to determine where they failed. If we did not create this substandard employee, then we hired him/her. We must examine the hiring processes and the pool of potential employees we draw from to determine how it failed to yield an acceptable employee.

When the fire department responds to a fire, they promptly put it out. Next, they try to determine what caused the fire so future events might be avoided. Your underperforming employee is analogous to the fire and you have to respond to it. Now, determine what caused the fire!

Warrior or Ambassador?

Dave Feehan

With the nation’s attention recently focused on Ferguson, N.Y., and other police shootings, it might be a good time to revisit how parking systems provide security in their facilities and offices.

Some parking systems hire and deploy their own employees as security officers. Some contract with private security firms. Others may hire off-duty police officers. Some parking facilities are patrolled by Business Improvement District (BID) personnel.

Law enforcement has changed dramatically in the past 50 years. Today, by some estimates, there are as many private security officers as publicly employed sworn police officers. Foley, Minn., recently disbanded its police force and hired a private security team to patrol its streets.

Discussions of security are generally not the hottest topic at parking conferences. Yet security is sometimes a life-and-death issue, and parking systems that handle security poorly may be putting customers and employees at risk, to say nothing of liability concerns.

Several years ago, when I was the president of the downtown organization in a midwestern city, we provided additional security through our BID. We patrolled downtown sidewalks and the skywalk system as well as augmenting parking garage security. The first important question we had to address was, should we employ our own security workers or contract with an outside firm? We elected to hire our own, because we wanted more control over who was hired and what kind of training was provided.  Fundamentally, we had to decide: Do we want to employ warriors or ambassadors?

There is an old saying in human resources that I often find extremely helpful: Hire attitude and teach skills. In our case, we wanted security patrol personnel who were ambassadors first and warriors only when absolutely necessary. If I were putting together a SWAT or SEAL team, I might think differently about whom to hire.

So what advice might I give a local parking operator or manager? If your facilities are not frequent crime locations, having security officers who are friendly, outgoing, and knowledgeable about their surroundings, who carry maps and event schedules, but who know what to do in an emergency might be the right choice. Your officer is more often going to be helping someone with a dead battery or chasing away a skateboarder than apprehending a murderer or bank robber.

Of course, there are many other considerations when evaluating parking security—cost, internal capacity, availability of good contractors—but if parking is the first and last experience for many downtown users and if your security personnel are the first people they encounter, what message do you want to send? Does your garage feel like a war zone or a hotel lobby?

Demand Exceeding Supply: Parking Professionals Wanted!

L. Dennis Burns

Normally when I contemplate parking supply vs. demand, it is for a client trying to document the adequacy of their existing parking resources compared to current or projected needs. This is a fundamental type of parking analysis. Lately however, a new dimension of parking supply/demand has had me scratching my head.

More than ever, I have been actively engaged in helping communities either developing or updating strategic plans for their programs. Another trend has been to help communities that have never developed a formal parking program begin that process from scratch. It is great testament to the growth and maturity of our industry that more and more communities are realizing the importance of having a strong parking program to support nearly all other aspects of healthy urban or campus environments. The message that Parking Matters® has definitely made it to primetime!

It is rewarding and exciting to see this level of appreciation and understanding of the complexity and value of parking and the larger realm of access management, but it is also leading to new challenges and opportunities. Along with this growing understanding of the importance of having strong and well-managed parking systems comes the need for strong and experienced parking professionals to run these programs. There is clearly a growing need for more parking professionals to meet the demand that is emerging. I know of at least 10 communities that are actively searching for top level candidates and know of another half-dozen will be doing so in the coming year.

Exacerbating this issue is a growing tide of existing parking professionals who are considering retirement! Several of my closest friends and colleagues are beginning to map out their plans to leave their parking executive positions. And while there are many talented younger professionals in the pipeline, the demand for this level of top-level talent, at least from my perspective, is far exceeding the demand.

This may be an interesting challenge for IPI to consider in coming years. In the meantime, if anyone is looking for new opportunities, please drop me a line!

Employee Retention: Task or Duty?

Casey Jones 4x5 (2)

A close friend of mine quit his job yesterday after three years of frustration, unhappiness, and anxiety. This was brought on by a culture of poor leadership and supervision, where his boss and others often took credit for his hard work. When he gave his notice, his boss could only say, “I feel like I failed you.” This was certainly true but his boss had also failed the organization by not beginning the retention effort of this highly capable employee on day one.

You see, my friend has the strongest work ethic of any person I know, he is a team player to the core, and he never really cared about his official job duties—he just did whatever needed to be done. The organization clearly recognized that it had under-appreciated and under-valued my friend but it was too late by the time he’d had enough. Indispensable is not a term you should use to refer to any employee but he was close. Contrast this to my own experience.

A few weeks ago, I got an e-mail invite from the person to whom I report. It was titled “Task Update,” which could have meant several things. I hadn’t dropped any balls or missed any assignments so I wasn’t altogether sure what we’d be talking about. Would my job be changing, was his changing, or could it be something else?

The time for the call came and after he asked about my family (which he always does) and if I was traveling too much (again, a standard question from him), he got down to the main purpose of the call. He asked me if there was anything I needed from him. This seemingly simple question speaks volumes about how he views his duty to our organization. His primary function is to make certain his reports have the tools they need to succeed and if there are barriers to accomplishing our mission. Despite the title of his calendar invite, taking care of his people isn’t a task to be put off—it’s central to our success.

My friend will start a new job in a few weeks and his new organization already appears to be the kind like mine, where employees feel appreciated and supported. Good employees will get away if they aren’t valued and appreciated, but caring and supportive supervision and leadership will ensure that quality employees remain a part of your organization’s success. Consider this before your best talent moves on.

Greatness Hiding in Plain Sight

Isaiah Mouw

On a Friday morning in January 2007, commuters passing through the L’Enfant Plaza Metro station in Washington, D.C., were treated to one of the finest musical performances many would ever experience. Unfortunately, none of the commuters recognized it as being great.

Dressed as a common street performer, world-renowned violinist Joshua Bell played in the Metro station as part of a Washington Post experiment. One of the world’s finest classical musicians played some of the most elegant music ever written on one of the most valuable violins ever made–a $3.5 million dollar Stradivarius. What happened? Out of the nearly 2,000 people who passed Bell in a span of 43 minutes, only one man stopped to listen for a few minutes, one woman recognized him, and several children stopped to stare.

Just two days before this experiment, Bell sold out a Boston theater with an average ticket price of $100. But dressed in jeans and a baseball cap playing in an ordinary subway station, there were no rounds of applause, no cameras flashing, and no stopping to enjoy the beautiful music. The study raised several questions, including whether we recognize talent in an unexpected context, and the Washington Post story won a Pulitzer Prize.

At the 2013 IPI Conference and Expo, Roamy Valera, CAPP, was honored with the James M. Hunnicutt, CAPP, Parking Professional of the Year award. Roamy has done more for the parking industry than many of us will do in our lifetime, but what is amazing is that he started as a parking enforcement officer. A supervisor–Daniel Rosemond–saw something in Roamy and gave him a chance with a promotion. The rest, as they say, is history.

The next time you are looking for the next big thing, the next all-star manager, or the next creative marketer for your organization, don’t forgot to look around you. Don’t be like the Metro commuters who didn’t see the beauty or the greatness around them. Try looking within your organization and imagine what one of your employees could do in a different environment. Hiring within isn’t always the answer, but if you automatically dismiss someone within your organization who’s looking for a chance…you may just be passing on the future Parking Professional of the Year (which will accept nominations soon–which of your colleagues might fit the bill?)

 

 

 

 

 

Johnny or Rudy: An Easy Coaching Decision

Casey Jones 4x5 (2)

My son plays on the lightweight football team for his junior high school. He’s light even for that team. He doesn’t have blazing speed, or Football Pic 2the surest hands, or a cannon for an arm, and he doesn’t yet deliver bone-crushing hits.  But he does have one thing that I’d take over all other attributes: he’s got the right attitude.

The other night was their first game of the season and I couldn’t have been more proud of him. Though he was on the sideline more than on the field, he focused his energy on pumping up his teammates. He handed out high-fives, cheered on the Hornets, and when he got in, he hustled to the ball and even managed to pick off the opposing quarterback.

There are many job openings at this very moment in our industry; many can be found on IPI’s website.  All of these postings include a long list of skills required for the particular job. This is to be expected, but I believe firmly in the old adage that says, “Hire for attitude, train for skill.” I’ve made good hiring decisions throughout my career by focusing on attitude and less on skill. Often, I have hired a candidate who has nominal parking experience compared to other applicants.

At the very least, hiring decisions should be made based on equal amounts of skill and attitude. This will ensure that you’ve got the best, most capable people on your team.

If my son keeps playing football, he’ll gain the necessary skills to contribute even more on the field. Until then I’m grateful he’s carrying himself like a true champion.

Parking Goes to Summer Camp

Jeff Petry

Many of us are starting to think about summer camps. While child care may be a prime motivator for parents seeking out camp programs, there are often other reasons they are are popular: they provide a new learning experience that promotes social awareness, fosters creativity, and nurtures independence, all under the heading of FUN!

These are also the skill sets we want in our parking teams. We go to trainings, read management books, and work with human resources professionals to encourage employee development and form stronger work groups. When these goals are met, coming to work becomes fun. So why don’t we send our parking staff to summer camp?

The City of Eugene’s parking staff is going to camp this year! In partnership with the city’s Recreation Division, each parking staff member will pick a camp for one week over the summer months, and attend it as a counselor. They will attend the necessary camp counselor training prior to their week away, and everyone will return with stories to share of what they learned through the experience.

Besides a great week at camp, what do we get out of this? Many of us will stretch our comfort zones by working with kids and in a different environment. We get to immerse ourselves in a creative space to help others learn and foster their learning experiences. And we get to laugh and smile.

What’s in it for the Recreation Division? They get employees who have completed all city-required trainings and understand our organization’s cultures and values. They know how to handle potential conflicts and what it is like work with the public. Recreation staff will get to work with our employees, who will bring their own values, influences, humor, and camp energy to create a unique camp experience for every child (Can you imagine a child receiving a ticket for parking at the bottom of the slide?). Plus, recreation staff are excellent at seeing the positive in all things, even parking officers at summer camp!

What both programs get is a unique opportunity to cross over the organizational chart and intersperse two unlikely work groups in a new way that builds networks and refreshes the work spirit.

I am thinking about choosing Magicians of Everyday Magic for my camp. What would you choose?