Creating clear career paths

When I was 12 years old and running down a dirt path on a cliff on the banks of the Hudson River, I turned around and exclaimed to my trailing brothers with childish glee, "Ha, ha, you're on the wrong trail!" Immediately upon finishing the sentence, and before I was able to look forward again, I was airborne and fell off the cliff. The path had ended, and I fell more than 8 feet. I wasn't seriously injured and we all had a good laugh. To this day, I hate it when a path ends.

Top-notch employees also hate it when they feel their career path has ended. Perhaps they don't see the equipment rental business as a career. Perhaps employees haven't been made aware of the possibilities at your company. We need to do a much better job of convincing employees and potential employees that the equipment rental business can be a terrific career.

If it isn't getting any easier to keep and develop good help, this is a good time to explore the reasons. You might have one or more excellent employees who are actively planning their departure. Without making promises, employees should be told about the possibilities of advancement at your business. How much compensation might they be making in advanced job titles? What other benefits and perks can they reasonably attain?

Some rental business operators feel that since the rental business is a relatively small business, perhaps career paths are not possible. Even if there are few rungs on the career ladder, it doesn't mean the rewards and satisfaction need to be limited.

Are you a true believer that someone can have a rewarding and satisfying career with you? Hopefully, you don't feel (as some do) that the size or nature of the business is such that employees are never going to see it as a true career and that your efforts to make it more rewarding for employees would not be worth the time and expense.

Develop career paths for your employees. Career-oriented employees will not stay around long in a business that does not have a clear path leading to more responsibility, satisfaction, compensation and benefits. Think of as many ways as you can to demonstrate to employees that working for you and in your industry can be much more than "just a job."

Here are a just a few points to consider:

  • Don't be resigned to having an employee revolving door. Have an objective industry consultant evaluate and make recommendations.
  • Take an objective look at your entire pay and benefit package. How does what you are offering compare to what is available locally and regionally?
  • Compensate fairly. Are you adamantly sticking to a pay and benefit package that doesn't make sense?
  • Take a fresh look at the issue of vacation time. For many educated, motivated and trainable employees, a week or two of vacation time per year is just not enough - and they aren't going to work for a decade to earn another week.
  • Consider developing and using an employee handbook. It can help employees see that there is structure and that the company "has its act together." Whether you would be starting from scratch or if you have started to put an employee handbook together and just haven't completed it, contact a consultant to assist.

Finally, remember the importance of positive words of encouragement and praise. This is so important to an employee. How can a good, solid performer believe they have a future in a company when their supervisor is overly critical and rarely offers praise? We all yearn to be, in fact, on the right trail.

Dick Detmer is a nationally recognized consultant, lecturer and writer and has 35 years of experience in the equipment rental industry. He is the author of "The Guide to Great Customer Service" as well as "A Practical Guide to Working in an Equipment Rental Business." For consulting, on-site employee training or to order books, visit Dick can be contacted at or (309) 781-3451.