July’s annual SSI Best of the Best Issue includes 2014 Installer of the Year (Large Company) Protection 1. A leading reason P1 was recognized for excellence was due to its people, the result of strong recruiting and retention efforts. Here, CEO Tim Whall, an SSI Industry Hall of Famer, lends much more insight into how the company attracts and trains the top talent that enables its outstanding success. Be sure to check out my other P1 blog in which Chief Marketing & Customer Experience Officer Jamie Haenggi addresses how P1 walks the talk when it comes to customer care and service.
How does your company evaluate and recruit new employees? What qualities are important?
Tim Whall: One of the best approaches to hiring is to take the approach of having our best employees recommend friends and family. Our employees understand our culture, the expectations, the accountability, the work load and they know whether this is an environment for a friend or family member. When one of us brings in a friend or family, we also have a personal stake in seeing that person succeed, so there is an immediate support network for the new employee. ‘Ambassadors of yourself’ is a phrase often used when asking employees for referrals.
In terms of skills and experience, it really depends on the position we are hiring for, but we feel that if a candidate is hard-working, believes in the company and wants to deliver outstanding customer service, Protection 1 is the place to be. Our recruitment style, again, depends on the position; however, we like to look at markets that are typically untouched by the competition. Specifically, we are targeting college students, both those in school currently and recent graduates. Between our management trainee program, residential sales program and our call centers – which are a gateway to the rest of the company – we have plenty of opportunities available. In terms of recruiting for other positions, the P1 Story sells itself. We’ve found that people want to be a part of Protection 1 because of our approach at being “brilliant with the basics” while delivering a top-notch experience for both the customer and employee.
In terms of evaluating new employees, we do that through a number of onboarding and coaching practices. Since we are very data-driven, we are able to see a new employee’s activity, success rate and performance on a daily, weekly and monthly basis. This data is available to each employee daily and coaching sessions are held with their immediate supervisor on a daily, weekly or monthly basis, depending on the tenure of the company. With new employees, it is important not to expect them to be experts on day 1. We ramp up expectations accordingly and look at activity metrics, not just “success” metrics such as a sales number.
How does your company make sure its personnel are properly trained?
Whall: Our organizational development department is outstanding. Led by Betsy Scott, vice president of organizational development, the unit is always looking at new ways to use technology to effectively and efficiently train our staff in all areas of the company. We’ve incorporated online trainings, Web conferences, external trainings from experts and standard in-person sessions into our training program. There are three keys to our trainings. First, we make sure that everyone is in alignment on the expectations of the trainings. This includes the people leading and receiving the training. This ensures that appropriate topics are taught at the appropriate times and everyone is on the same page. Second, we hold people accountable to those expectations. We do this through recurring evaluations as well as the coaching sessions discussed earlier. This keeps the organizational development team up to speed on the progress of each individual and can look at trends to determine if changes are needed in content, timing or training venue. Finally, we have created an environment where it’s OK to stand up and say, “I’m not sure how to do this.” We encourage feedback from all employees and try to alleviate the stress of the unknown. If someone is unsure of how to do something, we provide resources on the intranet and internet, reasons for discussions with subject matter experts and avenues to use to contact anyone in the company for clarification. We want employees to be comfortable in their roles here at Protection 1 and if they are unsure of something, we want to remedy that quickly. The biggest way we do this is through our coaching sessions between employees and their direct supervisor. Not only are the employees being coached, but the supervisors are being coached on how to effectively hold these sessions so they are viewed positively and productively.
What does your company do to keep its employees motivated and fulfilled?
Whall: Our “secret sauce” really isn’t that big of a mystery: we recruit and retain great people that take pride in their work, measure everything, react with speed and flexibility when anything threatens our high level of customer satisfaction and create a culture that creates happy employees. We pride ourselves on being able to create careers for our employees. We don’t view this as “just a job.” We want people to have careers here at Protection 1 and we offer plenty of opportunities for personal growth and company advancement. I think our management trainee programs highlight that best, but even in our call centers, we have some great stories of our upper management working through the ranks. Jon Marvin, our vice president of customer experience has been with Protection 1 for 14 years and has worked nearly every job in our call center. Our new 1 to 1 team is all about the career path. Every one of those managers started out working on the doors and, through proven success, has moved their way up.
We also believe in employee recognition for a job well done. Our employees work hard every day for our customers and we find ways to recognize them. We’ve got our “Above and Beyond” program which allows any employee to nominate anyone else they witness going above and beyond. We’ve got our Club 1 trip that rewards our top sales folks with a weekend trip. We’ve also got a very unique reward in our President’s Circle trip that rewards our top 50 employees that represent each department – customer service, monitoring, sales, corporate, etc. – with a trip to a five star international destination.
And even though we are part of a serious life-safety business, we want people to enjoy working at Protection 1. We encourage employee teambuilding and engagement around the company and we want all of our 2,500+ employees to feel like one big family. We have a number of employee communication channels that are companywide that allow our employees to learn about and interact with our other locations.