Is your helper starting to lose heart? to drift away? Does it seem like she is not as committed to you and your family as she used to be? Are you thinking that maybe you should replace her before things go downhill even more? Replacing a helper is expensive, takes a large amount of energy and doesn't always improve things. Before you say "you're fired" try these 4 things first:
Ideally, you should have regular meetings with your helper. Sit down at the kitchen table, have a cup of coffee and take a few minutes to ask "How is it going?", "Are you getting enough food? rest?" "Do you have any concerns?" If you notice a downhill trend in her performance you could ask, "Lately you seem more absent-minded than before. What's going on? Is there anything you want to talk about?" Be patient and give her a chance to share. Filipinos are fearful about complaining so you need to be open, non-defensive, and ready to listen OR she will clam up.
Provide Extra Training
Most helpers have worked overseas in other countries before, but the standards for hygiene and cleanliness do not compare well with Hong Kong. Good training will involve the following steps:
- Demonstrate how you want something done.
- Let them do it while you observe and correct their technique until they do it up to a basic acceptable standard.
- Set a time goal for how long the work should take, e.g., cleaning the bathroom should normally take 30 minutes. Don't expect them to work fast in the beginning. Focus on doing the work right, then gradually doing the work quickly. NOTE: There is no point in having time related goals IF you constantly interrupt them and call them away to do another task.
- Regularly inspect to make sure quality control is maintained and the new standard becomes a habit.
- Show appreciation for new skills. Filipinos love to hear "well done!"
Hong Kong has many classes available for helpers on Chinese cooking, infant care, etc. You may want to consider investing in your helper and sending her to outside training. She'll appreciate it and you will enjoy the dividends of your investment. Arrow offers classes through I-Care Family on Child Safety, Infant Care, etc.
Improve the Work Environment
One lady recently contacted me asking if she can quit after one week. She is eating the leftovers from the evening dinner (after everyone else has finished), sleeps on the sofa, works long hours AND the employer nags and criticizes constantly. I asked her what one thing she'd like to change and she said "the nagging and criticism". Some Hong Kong employers create a hostile work environment and then wonder why they have such bad luck and cannot keep a helper.
- Does your helper has some breaks during her workday to catch her breath and relax for a few minutes?
- How many hours a day does she work? If she is up at 6 a.m. and off at 10 p.m. that is a 16 hour day. Does that seem reasonable or humane?
- Does she have time to herself and time to contact her family?
- Does she have adequate privacy?
- Does she enjoy a full day off every week?
Be flexible and allow change
If your approach to supervising workers is "my way or the highway" then don't be surprised if your helper doesn't finish her contract. Filipinos come to work in Hong Kong because they need money BUT they finish their contracts only if they are happy with their work situation. An unhappy helper will easily quit, money or no money. A little flexibility in the how the work is organized and carried out can help you retain a good helper. Do you insist that she do the ironing at night after washing the dishes? Your helper believes this will give her arthritis and that you have ill intent toward her. Allowing her to do the ironing at another time in the day will show that you are flexible and sensitive to her concerns. Helpers want to work for employers who take their concerns to heart.
Hiring a helper is the easy part, learning to manage a worker from another culture is a huge challenge. At Arrow we have a goal: Help our customers FIND and KEEP good helpers. If your struggling in your adjustment with your new helper, try these 4 suggestions before you terminate or she resigns.
God bless! Happy Chinese New Year!
NOTE: I stole the basic idea for this post from an article in The Economics Times entitled "Five ways to deal with a disengaged employee". You can read their article here.