I went through 26 employees. 26 employees hired and fired over the course of five years. In that time I was approached by the Job Corps people with candidates for work, by who knows how many walk-ins, and by people responding to ads in the newspaper.
Some lacked the talent to be trained for even low-lever jobs. All of them lacked diligence.
One of the seven heavenly virtues*, diligence is usually defined as
“A zealous and careful nature in one’s actions and work; decisive work ethic, steadfastness in belief, fortitude, and the capability of not giving up. Budgeting one’s time; monitoring one’s own activities to guard against laziness. Upholding one’s convictions at all times, especially when no one else is watching (integrity).”*
We most often call it a work ethic. You would think it would be part and parcel to human nature but it is not. The culture from which I had to draw employees was quite casual about work. It was not unusual for workers to simply fail to show up for work for a few days then reappear ready to plug back in.
When I hired everyone and anyone I told them the same thing. “If you don’t show up, and if you don’t call in, don’t come back. I have zero tolerance for no shows.”
Many of them tested my resolve.
They all lost.
You cannot build a business on the backs of weakness when your employees are riddled with a casual work ethic.
I almost put this trait at the top of the list, but I have stated that the traits are not sequential. They are all number one. A work ethic might just be a little more number one than the others.
It has it all:
Motivation, ambition, carefulness, self-starting, energy, effort, awareness, concern about the expenditure of time, all of those wonderful characteristics that make an employee worth far more than they get paid.
I actually thought I would just have to close up the shop when I had to go through so many workers. But I finally found four men who exemplified diligence. They turned my business around because with diligent workers:
- I could get work out on time,
- I could get more work out,
- I could produce a higher quality of work,
- I could schedule more work because I knew I would have workers to do it,
- I could predict cash flow more accurately,
- I could cut down on waste in both effort and product,
- I could concentrate on my side of the business (sales, marketing, customer care) because I knew the employees would actually show up and do their job.
They will do these things for you to.
Up next, trait #8 – Prudence.
*The seven heavenly virtues were derived from the Psychomachia (“Contest of the Soul”), an epic poem written by Aurelius Clemens Prudentius (c. AD 410) entailing the battle of good virtues and evil vices. The intense popularity of this work in the Middle Ages helped to spread the concept of holy virtue throughout Europe. Practicing these virtues is considered to protect one against temptation from the seven deadly sins, with each one having its counterpart. Due to this they are sometimes referred to as the contrary virtues. Each of the seven heavenly virtues matches a corresponding deadly sin.