An Auditor Cares About the Color of the Office Walls?
April, 2008I have noticed in my travels that the attitude of parking facility staff changes from location to location. I have tried to get a sense of why the same people in one location have “up” attitudes and at other location affect an “attitude.” After literally years of sniffing around garages across our fair land, I have a theory.
Working conditions make all the difference.
In one garage in a Midwestern city, I suggested to the owner that we rebuild the garage office. The staff had been working out of the exit booth, which was larger than normal, but certainly not big enough for the manager, accountant staff, and cashier/customer relations personnel.
We doubled the size of the office, bought new furniture, installed central heating and air conditioning, re-did the restrooms, and provided a bit of coffee and bottled water.
The change in attitude was immediate. The staff thought that the owners cared about them, and therefore they would care more about their jobs. I know this seems obvious, but let’s face it: The garage is often an afterthought. The operator may or may not ask for better surroundings, but in most cases the asset manager sees this as an expense they would rather not fund.
“Lower end” employees need all the support and benefits they can get. Better working conditions, better uniforms, top-of-the-line rain gear, first-level equipment – they all mean better and more caring employees.
There is another ancillary benefit. I think they also make the employees more honest.
Garage employees don’t start out as dishonest employees. However, every day they are exposed to more money than they make in two months. It’s in cash. Each day they begin to understand that if some of that cash accidentally slipped into their pockets, no one would ever know.
Then they come in to count their till in an office with broken desks and chairs, dirty tables covered with boxes of half-eaten pizza and sugar from donuts (yes, I have been in your garage). The desks were last used by Eisenhower and MacArthur when they were captains. They are in a cold, cramped, crowded office where the paint is peeling off the walls, the ceiling is chipped and the place is a mess.
Their attitude: “No one seems to care about the place, why should I care about the money?” Or: “Treat me like dirt and I’ll return the favor.” Frankly, it’s hard to disagree with them.
Spending a few thousand on new furniture, a clean, secure environment, and some paint can return more than just goodwill with your employees; it can return cold hard cash.
Look at the most successful organizations with low-paid employees (Wal-Mart is a good example). The folks there are caring, happy and enjoy their jobs. But their working environment is top of the line. It doesn’t stop with the parking office or booth. What about uniforms – do they fit and are they new or hand-me-downs? The rain gear – does it really keep off the rain and snow, or is it the cheapest some purchasing agent could find? Does the staff have good shoes or boots if they are required to work in the snow and wet? Why not supply boots to those who need them?
Here’s another idea: In some locations, I suggest that rather than five 8-hour shifts, the employees work four 10-hour shifts. It’s often easier to schedule, and the employees love it. They get three days a week off, and if we do it right, they get them in a row. I’ve seen staff fight for these shifts.
Oh, and when you do redecorate, let the employees have a say in colors, selection of furniture, window treatments and the like. It will become “their” office, not “your” office where they work. You will see a lot more care and attention being given to the property if you involve them in the process.
Let’s not forget the surface lots. Does the staff have access to restroom facilities? I know many places where they are forced to use dumpsters for this purpose. Often the staff are forced to make “deals” with local businesses to use their restrooms. That’s all well and good, except when the business now comes over and wants priority and lower-priced parking for its employees and customers.
Have you thought about this issue, and do you really know what your staff do to survive out there?
I know that if I had no facilities available to me, I might look to other ways to supplement my income.
That portable restroom suddenly doesn’t look so expensive. And who knows, your patrons might appreciate it, too.
I like to use the term “mitigate employee dissatisfaction.” Any time you can spend a bit of money and provide a better workplace, you have helped to make a better employee, a better organization and a better business.