Saturday, December 1, 2018

What If Households Had To Recruit Like Fortune-100 Companies?

Curiously absent in all of these ads, however, is why anyone would actually want to wake up every morning and go to work there. 

It struck me as I was online recently, how almost every posting for domestic jobs I've seen over the past few years looks just about the same. Not only do I mean that many are simply copy-and-paste versions of ads stolen from other ads; yet the harsh tone, the dominating cadence... the dictatorial approach.

Here's what I see in most online job postings, and it doesn't really matter if it's an Estate Manager for 12 large properties spread worldwide along with three jets and two yachts, or for just one part-time Nanny for a 3 year old and his little chihuahua:
  • Must have 3-5 years experience
  • Must be willing to sign a confidentiality agreement
  • Must have excellent references
  • Must be able to multi-task
  • Must be pet friendly
  • Must be available nights and weekends
  • Must be able to pass a thorough background check
  • Must (X-infinity number of more must-type items...) 
  • Top candidates only!
  • No phone calls!
Curiously absent in all of these ads, however, is why anyone would actually want to wake up every morning and go to work there. 

Except, perhaps, for the implied notion of picking up a paycheck every two weeks. But is that what the domestic staff industry's "top candidates" being sought by these ads actually gravitate toward? And is that how actual, real-world successful workplaces locate - compete for - and hire - so they can have... "top candidates"? 

Here's what I see successful non-domestic workplaces doing differently than the typical domestic recruitment approach: These workplaces realize that "top candidates" come into the selection process already pre-qualified with baseline criteria - they don't need more reminders of the basics for virtually any job in their field - nor do they need to be shouted at even before getting to the first interview.
Didn't you hear me?!

So, assuming your estate is truly in need of "top candidates only," and further assuming your estate honestly has the helpful support personnel both in the front and in the back of the house to attract them, instead of wording the online ad as if they will be picked up by a prison bus driven by armed guards and taken to Rikers Island for round-one interviews, how difficult would it really be to exemplify the positive, success-affirming characteristics of the estate for which a domestic "top candidate" would desire to work?

Instead of shouting a list of demands, what if households and their agencies advertised and promoted the attractive qualities of working there? Just like the most successful companies in the country do.

Employers at successful workplaces know this: they will find attractive candidates by selling the attractive qualities of their workplaces - to offer those same 12 attractive elements in a workplace that authors Rodd Wagner and James K. Harter detailed and which Gallup found that the best workers, across all industries, are looking for - with each one relevant to our domestic service industry, listed below.

We highly encourage you to read Wagner and Harter's entire book: 12: The Elements of Great Managing and discover for yourself more details about how their workplace qualities listed below are so important to the best workers - and the best candidates.  

We've added our own comments below each of their twelve amazing elements - as deemed relevant to our own domestic service workdays!

1) Do I know what is expected of me at work?  

Do you have detailed job descriptions developed for each staff position in your household - and has each team member become intimate with - and agreed to - each of their responsibilities? Clearly understanding duties are the lifeblood of best workers and they cannot perform to your high standards without this information. Yet, the other workers will often avoid job descriptions, because they set a precedent for accountability... which then becomes a slippery slope into hard work and high performance.

2) Do I have the materials and equipment I need to do my work right?  

What tools does each domestic worker on your estate require, to perform their jobs to a high level of competence, whether those tools be hardware, software, or a well-developed organizational mission and performance system?  

Best workers inherently need to perform well - and are often observed at loose ends if they cannot locate the right tools. A great interview question is to directly ask your candidate what they need from you ~ to meet the performance requirements of the position which you've just outlined for them. Other workers will simply concentrate on which tools meet their personal standards, not yours. Yet, as the ad for Premier assured us, "The best is always worth waiting for."  And, fishing for!

3) At work, do I have the opportunity to do what I do best every day?  

Do you know the strengths of each staff member, and are you allowing them the opportunities to perform to these strengths, every day? Gallup found that high-performing staff need to be on stage, so to speak, and to be excellent in some way - every day.The other type of worker will never pressure you into letting them excel at something every day, it's just not a concern. Are you willing to set up a stage for the good ones? You're the director - it's your choice which type will pass the audition!

4) In the last seven days, have I received recognition or praise for doing good work?

"Their paycheck is their praise." Having once owned a domestic employment referral agency, I've heard this sad line from employers more times than I care to recall. Yes, indeed, there are some workers who consider their paycheck as the only recognition they'll ever need. Yes... you know the ones I'm talking about.

The best workers, however ~ the ones who arrive at work earlier than you asked, stay even after the event is over just to make sure all is still well, and consistently deliver 150% of service in-between those two times when all you've ever asked them for was 110% - are the ones who simply don't have the ability to recognize their wages as their praise. 

High performers have shown up consistently, time and time again, to require frequent and meaningful recognition. High maintenance employees?... yes, you bet they are! And, is anything else on the estate that's worth having around... not so? Would neglecting to wash and simonize the Maserati ever be tolerated?  

5) Does my supervisor, or someone at work, seem to care about me as a person?

"Friendly without being familiar." Oh, yes, it's that quip, the one that's made the rounds in domestic staff training seminars and easy to remember because it starts and ends the sentence with two words that sort of sound alike (a slant rhyme, for those who study linguistics) and so it must be true? Yet the problem with quips is they can turn quickly into lifestyles and when we promote not caring too much about anyone ~ in either direction.

I confess to using this very same line quite a bit myself, before I truly understood how ridiculous it is. The truth is that employers can demonstrate genuine, sincere care and concern with their staff, yet that doesn't mean they've become your new best friends ~  the line is not as thin as the quip implies.

The best domestic workers, the consistent, high performers described in #4 above, need to know that other people - downstairs, upstairs, anywhere at work, actually - understand that they're a living, breathing, human being. 

6) Is there someone at work who encourages my development?

Was anyone surprised that the best workers were the ones who craved support? That doesn't mean, necessarily, supporting time off for a Master's degree, although it may mean finding a way to help your domestic staff worker get better at what they do now, either through your coaching, their own opportunities to take on new responsibilities and get better through experience, or more formal avenues. Best staff want to work smarter... and to work harder... not just to always find the easy way out! Which kind of worker do you want inside of your home?

Try encouraging your staffs' development in their next performance review and check their reaction ~ you'll know instantly if you have those workers which Gallup found to be the best, among over one million surveyed.

7) At work, do my opinions seem to count?

"It's imperative to be invisible." Another soundbite that's been slightly over-marketed in the domestic industry. Yes, of course, while you're pouring the Merlot before dinner, Mister probably doesn't want to hear you chime in your opinion about Trump's nominee for the Supreme Court. But, aside from those rare moments, being invisible to your employer, 100% of the time, is a behavior rarely displayed by the best.

Best workers know they have helpful ideas. Despite educational level or place in organizational hierarchy, the best workers will always figure out better ways of doing things around the house than were done yesterday ~ and they need that ability respected. Other workers? They won't care if their opinion is heard or not.... they'll find ways to occupy themselves and stay away, all the while staying completely, and safely, invisible. You get to choose the type you hire to justify your annual household staff budget with. 

8) Does the mission/purpose of my company make me feel my job is important?

Mission statements... eek gads! We've all probably seen one somewhere, most likely in the big lobby of a large insurance company or some such place, on a little wooden plaque next to the guest sign-in sheet... something about everybody being good at something, or, well, something like that! Yes, mission statements can be vague, as they are, rather purposefully, written at the 30,000 ft. level, and for a very good reason. And... your estate needs one. Why? Because the best workers want to succeed with something other than only the latest emergency, crisis, or catastrophe happening right now on the dining room rug with the poodle, and they don't want to look back in five years and remember nothing remarkable about the service they provided. They want to connect their jobs to something bigger, something which they can hitch their pride to and feel important with ~ and to perform to the same heights as they were inspired to. And, that's what a mission statement does. Not-so-best workers? Yes, they're much less maintenance; they can always occupy their thoughts and activities with something unrelated your mission. It's your statement to write... which type of workers do you want reading it? Better yet, ask your next candidate to propose a mission statement for your estate after giving them a tour. Will their mission be to find the break room?  Or to find the sunrise?    

9) Are my co-workers committed to doing quality work?

Reading a mission statement is a very lonely business... if your best workers have no one to read it with. Ditto for thinking about how to fulfill the employers' vision and improving

how things are done around the house. 

I'll never forget a candidate who listed with my agency after finally having had enough of dumbing-down her efforts, in order to get along with the other, less-inspired staff members.  "Don't work too hard - you're making the rest of us look bad,"  they'd tell her. Fortunately, this energetic gem was soon able to find a group of co-workers who both appreciated and inspired her to give more than what was expected, because they, too, were part of the best workers of the industry who didn't tolerate slackers and who wanted co-workers with a strong, honest work ethic. 

You get to choose the type of service pond you create; if everyone already on the boat is the type to inspire others to doing quality work, the real bass will jump in, too!

10) Do I have a best friend at work?

Familiarity rears it's head, once again. Notice the findings of over eighty thousand managers didn't discover that their best-of-the-best workers just wanted a friendly work atmosphere; what these high-performers needed was an atmosphere conducive to people becoming friends.  "Keep it professional...?"  Yep, and Gallup found that means keeping it human, more than one may think. And, that means having a friend at work. The best workers will want one... just FYI !

11) In the last six months, has someone at work talked to me about my progress?

Just like #6 above, only different. Development is a plan for the future, progress is that same plan now unfolding. Some domestic staff will never ask you about their progress,

because, like job descriptions, it just seems too much like work. Best staff do more than simply read the mission statement and come up with some ideas to save you time, money, and problems in your home. Best domestic staff also want to know they can keep getting better in some way ~ and that you've noticed if it's truly progressing in the way which really matters for both of you. This is a performance review, and Gallup found that the best workers will expect them.

12) This last year, have I had opportunities at work to learn and grow?

Development and progress can be mostly internal constructs. Learn and grow? Those notions imply external opportunity, or are at least greatly helped by the condition. Does your estate provide them, directly or indirectly? Residential estates, usually small operations and unlike mid-to-large companies, may contain limited opportunity for some of your best staff to continue the growth they need to succeed. 

Here's one punch list item which, despite best efforts, estate management may fall short of, through no fault of their own. Although there may be some growth in any domestic position, learning and growing significantly new skills may be very limited outside of what's commonly become the cross-training of current positions. 

This means the best-of-your-best workers may, eventually, need to extend their fins and swim on to new waters which they've grown into ~ ones which may not be on your estate. Celebrate their growth with support and well wishes. By doing so, you'll pave the way for another best worker to step into their shoes and provide the type of very best service you've already come to know, enjoy, and deserve. 

(These amazing twelve elements were taken from the book: 12: The Elements of Great ManagingWe highly encourage you to read the book and incorporate all twelve elements into your daily management repertoire!)

Promoting the attractive aspects of a workplace...
It just may be nutty enough to work!

Citizen Editor gladly offers his example of what would attract a "top candidate" to a job, and domestic staff employers or their hired domestic referral agents are welcomed to copy and paste this sample, edited in whole or in part, into their next online job advertisement in which they are seeking a "top candidate only."

Household Manager

Hello there! We are greatly looking forward to the services of a Household Manager to accept responsibility for and truly manage the multitude of events, property systems and maintenance, along with managing the service staff of our world-class private estate.  We know the dedication and passion which comes from the top candidates in this career field - and we are very much looking forward to meeting you!

Here’s just a small sampling of the job for which your valued expertise will be sought, with a complete, formal job description to be provided during our first interview:

Property maintenance Everything from our high-tech security and lighting system, to the nuts and bolts of our advanced HVAC equipment room, your expertise in keeping all systems up and running will set you up for success as our “go to” professional!  We will provide you with two full-time maintenance Housepersons, both of whom are energetic, polite, and with a delightful can-do attitude, and both with a strong work ethic of working hard and honestly. They have both expressed sincere interest in having a hands-on daily manager who can provide directions and fully appreciate their daily list of maintenance activity for this amazing 25,000 sq. ft. estate! Adept at their positions, yet they both continue to learn more about the upkeep and maintenance of mechanical systems on the estate, and are both looking forward to your new ideas on how they can improve the estate property – and continue to grow talent in their own service abilities! 

Staff management:  In addition to our two valued maintenance staff noted above, you will be given all the Human Resource Management tools to lead a staff of four full-time Housekeepers which provide coverage over seven days,one full-time weekday Chef and one part-time weekend Chef, two full-time Gardeners, two part-time Nannies, and one full-time weekday Butler, all accountable to the high standards which we have set. We have a legal-reviewed employee manual which clearly outlines the expectations for all of our employees, and also complete, legal-reviewed job descriptions for each of the team members.  

You will have the discretionary authority to interview, hire, promote, give raises, and discipline staff as needed, because your new staff members truly want to operate as a team instead of independent providers, and your background in hands-on performance management of teams is just what we’re looking for. 

Each of our current staff members was purposefully chosen as someone who is committed to hard work within a team environment, led by a real manager who is willing to hold them accountable and recognize their contributions. We do not sabatague our service, nor your team's success, by tolerating lazy employees, adversely affecting the morale of both yourself and your staff. We know that "top candidates" want co-workers who are committed to working honestly and doing quality work, and we want yourself, all team members, and service to us, to succeed 100%. Furthermore, your passion for open, frequent communication with staff and your passion for keeping them informed is a perfect fit for the zero-tolerance for gossip standard that we've established in our home. 

Most importantly, you'll find our staff to be a wonderfully diverse set of personalities and characters who have desires for very successful careers, yet each member knows that they have a role to play on our team - and that our team success always comes first.

And as skilled as each team member is in their respective positions, the one thing they have all agreed upon as missing is a mentor, a coach, someone with true on-the-job people management skills - to help keep them on the road to success. They welcome you!

Our estate will give you support to succeed!
The resources to do your job: In addition to your supportive house staff, you will also have an annual budget which reflects the reality of maintaining a fine estate, and we welcome your fresh ideas on how we can maintain high standards of service and maintenance, while at the same time being cost conscious for good values and sensible spending. Your knowledge of contractor and vendor contract negotiations will be respected, and we will provide you with a foundation for great relationships by always paying our invoices on time.  

Whether it be financial or human resources, you will have what is needed from us to succeed and create a good service experience for us. Furthermore, our back office of two full-time assistants, a part-time accountant, and retained legal help is looking forward to having you on board our team, and will always be there for you, to help answer any questions and guide you to having our staff and property running smoothly at all times.

Household eventsHere’s where your food and beverage background skills will really shine!  We treasure our large, extended family and our friends to visit for dinner every month, and we want them to feel special. We know that you have what it takes to help us do just that! 

Your own successWe know that you want to have clear objectives laid out for attaining our vision of what a successful estate operation looks and feels like, and along with that comes your own success. We know that yourself, being a top candidate, will not be satisfied with simply picking up a paycheck every two weeks, yet you want to know that you’ve made a difference, that others will really notice, and that you will grow from having given yourself new challenges to conquer. 

We’ll meet with you informally every Monday after breakfast, and also schedule quarterly more detailed evaluations of your success. You'll always know where you stand with having met the estate operational objectives, and we’ll know what we need to do to provide you with the resources and support that you need. Your input for how we can improve the estate service will be critical to everyone's ability here to perform well.

We recognize candidates as valuable to our success!
Please contact our Executive Assistant at your very earliest convenience!  You may email us if you like, but we prefer phone calls, because, just like yourself, we understand the value of connecting to others in as human a manner as possible

You are not an interruption in our day - and we are not too busy for you - because exemplifying great service and respect to others are the very reasons that our support staff is here. The Executive Assistant's cell number is 415-793-5314, and he looks forward to taking your call.

And most of all... thank you for considering us as your next employer!


What if YOUR household recruited like a Fortune-100 company?  And what type of candidates do you think you'd then find?


  1. This is a great article. Thanks for putting it together. The premise seems almost too obvious.

    1. Thank you for your support David. There's a real upside to providing candidates with actual, usable information about the factors which make their potential employer a good one, just like Fortune-100s have learned to do. This information about the estate is easily discovered - and confidentiality can still be maintained 100%. I'm hopeful this will one day become the standard in our industry, as well. Some of my best friends are domestic agents, yet I'm not shy about encouraging them to step up their game and create this win for everyone. Best to you. - Jim


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