Recruiting and retaining that trustworthy, loyal, and efficient dream team to staff your household or estate can be truly challenging. Private service positions often demand extreme flexibility, excellent interpersonal skills, and a working knowledge of every aspect of caring for a household or balancing multiple estate properties. There will be many long hours filled with tasks that range from the mundane to the seemingly impossible. A private service professional might be required to be “all things to all people” in the household – planning a formal dinner, managing multiple schedules for multiple properties, dealing with contractors, scheduling repairs, interviewing designers, managing staff call-outs, etc. Understanding the seamless operation of a state-of-the-art high-tech home is essential for these placements. Anticipating your and your family’s needs and the ongoing care requirements of protecting and maintaining your valuable assets is, of course, the goal. Finding these multi-faceted, talented unicorn employees sounds like tough work, but we know exactly how to get your dream team for you and retain them. Managing that working relationship seems a bit more tricky, but with the right tools, it can absolutely be smooth sailing.
Once you have hired the exceptional people who will help you run your home, you’ll want to do what you can to make sure that expectations are clear, and that everyone involved is happy about the arrangement. Talented private service professionals are often coveted by other potential hiring families – this industry is highly competitive and those experienced + trustworthy individuals with excellent references often have multiple offers on the table at any given time.
With the contracts signed and everyone getting adjusted to the new person in the house, now it’s time to set this new staff member up for a seamless transition into their role. After years of working in private service, we’ve come up with some helpful guidelines to ensure that your fantastic domestic team feels truly valued, respected, appreciated, and interested in sticking around for the long run.
Managing Your Staff
Overzealous micro-management by the principal is the number one reason household staff members cite for leaving their positions. This is closely followed by excessive overtime work hours (continually), and/or an attitude of disdain communicated from the principal. You must be satisfied with the work of your staff, but it is sometimes a fine line between checking on them and chiding them. Trust your judgment – as a manager, your goal is to be fair and reasonable while expecting and encouraging a high level of performance. Remember your staff has chosen to enter the service profession and they do want to deliver for you. You can make sure this is possible by having a fairly accurate understanding of the time it takes to accomplish the tasks you require them to complete. You can also do this by being open to hiring extra local help or outside service people for special occasions if needed. Additional part or full-time help might also be required if the day-to-day needs of your household exceed the capacity of your current staff.
Housing Your Staff
If you are providing living quarters, ensure that they are clean and in good repair before your new staff’s arrival and move-in. If you are employing a couple, they are unlikely to remain happy long-term in undersized or inadequate accommodations, such as a single small bedroom. While we screen our domestic + estate couples for a high level of compatibility and the ability to work well together, any couple needs adequate space and privacy to work at their best. Consider long-term job satisfaction when arranging staff amenities such as housing, scheduling, and benefits, and you will improve your long-term staff retention.
Communicate With Your Staff
Clarify everything. Issue written instructions and/or spend time with your new staff to communicate your specific needs, preferences (i.e., culinary likes and dislikes, wardrobe care, the preferred order of tasks), and routines before they assume duties. Be very clear about your strongest likes or dislikes. In areas not as critical to your peace of mind, allowing your staff to employ their judgment and individual talents in the completion of their tasks can help keep them engaged and dedicated to their work long-term. If your home or estate does not have a manual of operation and procedures, consider allowing your new staff a reasonable amount of time (5 to 8 months) to create one for you. Such a guide can be an invaluable tool in the care of your residence and can aid incoming staff in their ability to provide high-quality service to you and your family. Your household manual should include information regarding your personal needs and preferences as well as those of other family members and regular guests. It should also outline routine care and functional operation of every component of your residence and grounds.
Scheduling Your Staff
While domestic professionals pride themselves on their adaptability and flexible, service-oriented attitude, it is still important to notify your staff of changes in schedules (both yours and theirs), routines, or special needs as soon as possible. This is not only a courtesy that your staff members will appreciate, but it will also help ensure that any changes can be incorporated smoothly while maintaining a high level of comfort and ease for you and your family.
Set Your Staff Up For Success
Ensure that the proper equipment is in place for your employees to efficiently do the work you require. Items such as a top-of-the-line vacuum cleaner (ideally, one for each living level), can make a big difference in both results and time effectiveness when caring for your home. Some tasks, such as cleaning high or oversized windows are better hired out to a vendor who has the appropriate ladders, scaffolds, and other special equipment required to do the job correctly and safely.
Compensate Your Staff Generously
Household and estate managers are salaried professionals and it can be very tempting to load on the hours during busy periods without giving additional pay and very easy to forget to provide compensatory time-off later when things slow down. Anything over 50 hours per week should be acknowledged and compensated for with either a bonus or extra time off when events permit. Salary should reflect compensation for a 40-plus hour week to be in compliance with U.S. labor law. End-of-the-year bonuses, 401Ks, and insurance coverage can encourage a lasting principal/staff relationship. Yearly paid vacations (at an agreed-upon time convenient to both of you), should allow for two weeks of rest and regeneration for your staff – these can usually be split if you cannot afford their absence for more than 7 days. Remember we maintain a roster of qualified and screened applicants to fill in on a temporary basis, if needed. Keep in mind that domestic service is a real career and it must be respected as such. Paying staff members ‘under the table’ is a thing of the past. Providing full benefits and incentives is as important in this profession as it is to any other. Household and estate employees are directly involved in helping you maintain a comfortable and gracious estate lifestyle. If personal loyalty, a willingness to go the ‘extra mile’, and long-term, career commitment are qualities you seek in your domestic staff, providing a competitive benefits package to the household and estate professionals you employ makes good sense, as it would in any field. We also urge you to use the quarterly evaluation form provided by Adventure Nannies so that your staff will know where they succeed and where they need to improve.
Maintain Weekly Staff Meetings
Cultivate a productive working relationship with your domestic employees through regularly scheduled staff meetings. While you may think you are communicating sufficiently by providing them with regular instructions and feedback, remember that they also need time to share their concerns, ideas, and suggestions with you. It is important you schedule times to listen to them. Spending a little of your time in this way can pay big dividends through increased efficiency, staff loyalty, and long-term job satisfaction within your staff.
Respect Your Staff
Remember too that no one is exempt from the occasional bad day. A good working relationship between household staff and principal, like any professional relationship, requires occasional sensitivity and tact on everyone’s part. Counting to ten, walking away, or simply cutting a staff member a bit of slack when they are having a difficult time, can do much toward maintaining a harmonious, productive, and long-term principal/staff relationship. Occasionally, ask yourself if the workload and the amount of time allowed to complete expected duties continue to be realistic, or have changes in your residence, family or lifestyle pushed the limits of your current staffing level? If so, it may be time to consider additional staffing.
SOURCE: Adventure Nannies