A Look Through My Crystal Ball

by Mel Kleiman, CSP

I recently came into possession of a special crystal ball. This ball has unique powers and abilities. It helps me to look into the future. While it won't tell me what stocks to buy or which horse to pick in the next Derby, it does tell me some quite fascinating facts about YOUR employees. Aren't we lucky that you are reading this article? (My crystal ball predicted that too.)

First, let me tell you that at least 90% of your employees are going to leave in the next five years. I am willing to bet that more than half will be gone in the next year. Now some are going to go college, some will take jobs elsewhere, and some will be unemployed while they try to figure out what they want to do with their lives.

But they all will be affected by the time they spent working for you. They may not show outward signs, but they will retain the lessons they learned, and I don't mean things like the proper procedure for making fries or cooking a hot dog.

Your employees' work values and ethics have been forever crafted by your teachings. How they look at future jobs and responsibilities is reflected in the way you looked at them and their responsibilities.

Now, my crystal ball says that nowhere in your job title or job description is the word "TEACHER" present. Nevertheless, that is what you are. Part manager, part comptroller, part recruiter, part clerk, part counselor, and part teacher. And we all know the value of teachers today.

Before you shun your academic responsibilities let me remind you that nearly 99% of all CEO's today, including Bill Gates and Warren Buffet, began their ascent to the top with an hourly job.

Ok, so what have you been teaching your employees? And more importantly, what should you be teaching them?


One of the most important things you can impart on your younger charges is the proper attitude in the workplace. Despite a bevy of discrimination and termination legal issues, it is still ultimately a privilege and not a right to work. An employee's attitude is reflected in the way they work and they carry themselves. Happy, alert, and responsive employees are also driven to excel and will succeed in this job and future endeavors. Disgruntled, disturbed and disappointed employees will mope around behind the counter, will make mistakes and will show little regard for customers or the business.

It is important that you hedge off potential problems as early as possible. Use recognition and encouragement to bolster the spirits of employees. Set rules for attitude and behavior and enforce these rules stringently. It is important that employees also understand that rules are made to be followed.

Over the past few years we have heard a lot about corporate ethics. Executives and directors for a number of Inc. 500 companies now face fines and potential jail time for acting in poor faith on behalf of their company and its shareholders.
Good ethics is learned at the onset of one's business and professional career.

Honesty, loyalty, and fairness, are not the natural inclinations you might suppose them to be. Rather, young workers have learned to be aggressive, take what they can and do anything to stay on top. Not only does this lead to questionable behavior, it also strikes at the core of a team environment.

Many of your employees may still be in school. They are acquiring knowledge and information at a rapid pace. What you should be doing is supplementing this book knowledge with appropriate real world experiences. Understanding the financial impact of employee theft or shrink and how to effectively suggestive selling are practical tools that will help in understanding business practices and communication skills years later.


The really good employees are the ones who are able to identify an opportunity and capitalize on it without comment or instruction from others. A table needs to be cleaned, a spill needs to be mopped, and more French fries need to be cooked. The employee that has learned that they are part of a team will also learn that they can undertake additional responsibilities simply by seizing opportunistic moments as they arise.

As an employer, you should be empowering your employees to make decisions. There is a degree of risk here as an employee may make the wrong choice, but by allowing small errors you allow employees to learn from their mistakes. Decision making abilities are critical and it is always a good time to start learning.


There are two parts to this understanding - you understanding the particular needs of your employees and your employees understanding the particular needs of everyone around them.

The first one is easy to say, more difficult to put into practice. Without the benefit of a needs assessment test for every employee, it becomes your responsibility to talk with every employee. Find out why they took the job. What do they hope to accomplish? What do they really want to do? And ask this not just of this job, but also of their life. In doing so, you will identify their life goals and can assist in providing additional training in areas that might benefit them specifically.

The understanding for employees is more psychological to be aware of one's surroundings. This is something that is acquired more by experience than by lessons or instruction. You can help employees gain varied experiences by varying their responsibilities periodically. Though it seems more practical to hire a person for a specific job and keep them there, it may also be beneficial to let employees experience different tasks. You never know, the cook in the back may also have a knack for interacting with customers that is great in a drive through window.

If you have done everything else right, in the end an employee will come out with a better understanding of who they are and where they want to be. This means you may lose an employee because they have decide that your company is not in their long-term plans. But you will always be a part of who they are and what they will become.

As I look back at my crystal ball I see a teacher emerging and with him or her comes a team of bright, capable employees who are eager to work and prepared to handle challenges as they arise.

Mel Kleiman, CSP, is an internationally recognized consultant, author, and speaker on strategies for hiring and retaining the best hourly employees. He is the President of Humetrics, a leading developer of systems, training, processes, and tools for recruiting, selecting, and retaining the best hourly workforce. Mel is also the author of four books, including the best selling "Hire Tough Manage Easy." You can reach Mel at (800) 218-0930 or (713)