My good friend Mike DeCarolis who owns and runs The Battlegrounds in Vernon, CT yesterday chatted with me on Facebook for a bit about employees playing while on shift. This is something that I have gone back-and-forth with over the years but after many problems just finally made it black and white and said no gaming while on the clock at eBash.
Mike told me that he lets his guys play while they are working because honestly on slower nights the employees can get some fun LAN events started that regular customers won’t do on their own. There are obviously some great arguments for letting them play but recently he arrived at The Battlegrounds to find the store completely full of customers and his description was that the store was in “chaos”. Both employees who were “working” were in League of Legends matches and no one was really running the store.
I have found that when employees are less than stellar at their jobs first I have to do a self-evaluation on my management tasks (This has nothing to do with Mike BTW but just for me personally). Have I given each of the employees defined lists of the tasks they need to perform and trained them on how to execute those tasks correctly? Am I doing a good job of following up on task lists and praising the employees who are doing the jobs correctly in our bi-weekly meetings instead of thrashing the ones who are under performing. I am sure over the years I have lost many employees that I poorly managed for the wrong reasons.
However, let’s also be realistic. The guys and gals I am employing (and most other LAN centers are in the same boat) are between 17 and 24 years old. Many of them this is their first job or have only worked at fast food or other retail. They are not exactly the most motivated and driven bunch of workers like a small business owner. If there is a chance to get their checklist done and then hang out in AOL chat for a few hours or surf Facebook then they won’t go looking for more work to do. I have had really good workers over the years who have to be reminded numerous times of a task they should perform before they actually get it done.
My biggest beef with allowing the employees to play is that the customer has to INTERRUPT the employee to get service. “Hey would you mind selling me a Mt. Dew?” I would literally blow my top anytime I heard a customer complaint that someone was too busy playing their game to help them with a technical problem or sell them some snacks. As corny as it seems the employee should be looking for people to help, almost like they are being paid a commission to help them. As new people come into the store and wonder around looking confused a simple, “Welcome to eBash, can I help you guys find anything?” will give customers the green light to ask questions if they are shy.
So what should you do if your store is slow and the employee isn’t busy at the front counter? My theory is always have them do something that might help with the reason that they are not busy. What can they do to try and get more customers in the store? I give my employees the liberty of throwing a special out on our twitter or facebook accounts. I want them to go through our facebook wall, website forums and any other forums looking for people to connect with to invite to events at the store.
Of course there are also tons of jobs around the store that need done besides “if you can lean then you can clean” tasks. A big problem for small business owners is taking the tasks that we think are super-duper important and delegating them to those working for us. For example I don’t do our accounting tasks because I have Tucker do it, who has worked for eBash almost 5 years now. He is studying to be a CPA and honestly he is way better at it than I am because I am not detail oriented. (the electric bill? bah… that can wait a few months I need to run a few sweet tournaments instead!)
The problem Mike had at his store is that leaving the employees the ability to CHOOSE when it is appropriate to play leaves a ton of GRAY area in the rules. Most individuals will always find a reason that they should be playing instead of thinking of a reason why they shouldn’t be playing. In my opinion it just leaves the situation too open for interpretation that will lead to a conflict down the road. And while our employees almost always love their jobs they might not be mature or experienced enough to recognize the benefits of working hard.
What does everyone else think? Is there actually a way to pinpoint a good time for employees to play while they are working?