How to recruit the right people… and retain them

The Ripples MD Paul Crow shares his secrets for recruiting the right staff and how to have great staff retention rates.

I once asked a colleague in the KBB industry for their views on recruitment, as they had a good team and seemed to get a lot right. They said: “Don’t recruit seagulls. They come in, make a lot of noise, crap all over the place and then fly off.” That has stuck in my brain.

At our quarterly franchise meetings, we are always talking about ways to improve and develop our team. It dominates 90% of discussions, because we know we have great products, a great brand, great buying prices and a lot of customer opportunities. However, we don’t take maximum advantage of these as often as we know we could, so we constantly look at how we can get better.

The Ripples showrooms with the best staff retention are producing the best results. Those with the best training plans also have the best growth, and many are still growing – and that’s no accident.

Finding the right staff is always talked about as an obvious place to start. However, before you recruit, you need to make sure you are developing the team you have, so that they don’t want to leave.

Recently, on one of my routine LinkedIn posts, I received a comment along the lines of “if only people could be recruited into the business without experience from another bathroom company”. The implication is that many recruits arrive with unbreakable bad habits. 

At Ripples, we like to take on people who haven’t worked in the bathroom industry before. I just think it’s easier to choose the best person for the role, rather than the one with the most experience from our sector. It does mean we need to invest heavily in training. After all, they are going to be serving our customers who may, with a more experienced individual, part with their money, so we are potentially diluting our chances of obtaining it.

We have five key values we try not to deviate from when we recruit. The first is that we must like them and want to work with them. Their personality, charisma and character have to fit in with our ‘way’, and while I can’t explain that any further, internally we all know our way and it’s immediately apparent when someone joins who upsets it. 

We need them to be passionate about the job we are asking them to do and that is helping our customers buy great bathrooms or great bathroom products from us. They have to love the challenge of developing solutions for individuals and get a buzz from seeing a happy customer at the end of it, not just a sale. 

If they can’t communicate, they are not going to get very far, so we have to make sure they can use their ears as well as their mouth. I ask myself – if any of our customers held a dinner party, would we be embarrassed to send them?

They also need to be able to put together an email that reads well – something that can be challenging, particularly if English isn’t their first language. We employ people from many different backgrounds and so it is imperative they allow us to help them with this.

Being ambitious and driven isn’t a minimum requirement, but we want them to be hungry to grow within the business and the role, so that they can earn more money for themselves and, of course, the company. If they can’t show signs of taking on responsibility or getting outside their comfort zone, we would think twice at the interview. And let’s be frank, we are asking them to take on an awful lot of knowledge, much of which is extremely technical. So we need proof they can cope with this.   

Our preference is not to line the pockets of recruitment companies, but instead focus on developing people with these skills. If anything, we are guilty of focusing too much time and money on training, but we really don’t want that to change. Because of the complex mix of skills required, we have put in place comprehensive training plans. 

Every year, we hold an annual design training day for our team of 25 designers. This year, we invited Gilly Craft, president of the British Institute of Interior Design. What a great day! We set our team the challenge of designing their dream bathroom and impressing Gilly with the results and they really did go the extra mile. Allowing everyone to interact, chat, share, review and compare is an essential part of this get-together. I only wish we could make it two days.

Product training is frankly the easy part, because our supply partners work very hard at this – none more so than Laufen, Hansgrohe and Dansani. Guess which three suppliers feature high on our turnover list? They are not alone at being good at training, but they are the best at it.

Nobody is ever going to turn up at our door as the finished product. Training and staff development are, therefore, the number one thing on the agenda. The result of all this is that there are plenty of Crows in Ripples – really good motivated and talented people – but absolutely no seagulls.

Home > Opinion > How to recruit the right people… and retain them