A Cultural Shift

restoration managementLisa Lavender, M.T.R., M.F.S.R., M.W.R.

A quick internet search yielded millions of results on: Proper Handshake. Years of practicing and talking about how to give a proper handshake down the drain? I recall giggling with others when someone is a bad hand shaker…too limp…squeezed to hard…well for now, it’s one less thing for everyone to worry about.

The history of the handshake is very interesting. Many of us have likely been doing this for years when meeting new associates, customers, networking, and more. History tells us the handshake has represented a gesture of peace, a sign of good faith, a commitment to a promise, and even has represented an eternal bond. Now what?

We don’t know if the worldwide pandemic will permanently change our behaviors and culture, but we do know that it is changing it now. A few short months ago, in many circumstances, it was considered a social faux pas to not greet someone in what has become our cultural norm. Today, it is socially unacceptable to shake a hand.

How do we adjust our culture, our ways of expressing ourselves, our ways of bonding, and our ways of building and developing relationships? This is a challenge for many businesses and for restorers who take pride in delivering empathetic and compassionate services. To those who have experienced damage to their homes, belongings, and businesses, this is an important element in our service to them.

  1. Individual Self Awareness: As individuals, we need to have extreme self-awareness and be open to working as a team to adjust. We all have our own ways of expressing ourselves and connecting to others and as we shift, we can help each other. We have huggers, we have close talkersand more. Be open and positive in helping each other make the shift. I have a coworker, a hugger, who has extreme empathy for customers and creates bonds in her approach. We have open discussions about figuring out ways for her to express herself and establish bonds. “We can make her signs to hold up?” I myself can be a close talker (not too close…LOL). It is a way for me to express my focus and attention to a person, subject, or conversation. I am extremely self-aware, am now extra cautious to keep my distance, and open myself to others helping me; I will adjust.
  2. Documents/Plans/Procedures: As many of us must develop our systems, processes, and procedures to accommodate the presence of COVID-19 in our day to day, consider the process of integrating these new initiatives into our culture. In Restoring Success It’s All a Matter of Culturewe discuss how to integrate these types of developments into our actual culture. The following are a couple of concepts to serve as a backbone to the cultural shift.
    1. Precautionary Measures: Have a documented and thorough precautionary measure program that can be integrated into your day to day and make them part of the new culture.
    2. Operational Adjustments: There are many general changes from meetings to means of communicating. Phillip Rosebrook’s Creating a Coronavirus Business Action Plan is a great place to start.
  3. Technology and Digital: It is likely that you have all experienced virtual meetings and maybe even a happy hour or two. We have an abundance of technology to enjoy that helps and supports our cultural shift. In this context, challenge yourself and the team to stay up on all the latest; not just in tools but in the use of these tools. We must look beyond the technology and challenge ourselves to consider the importance of engagement, collaboration, and bonding which may or may not be fully replaced with technology. As an industry, we are tactile. If we employ technology without the appropriate attention to this, our relationships, our training programs, and more could suffer.
  4. Training: We should consider training for ourselves and team to help us best adjust.
    1. Soft Skills: I have a few co-workers who are amazing at expressing their care to a customer on the phone. This is just one example of a very important skill at this time. We must be on the top of our game at listening and all means of communicating. Our voice and writing are going to be front and center.

(I mean no offense as some of my favorite people use these terms, but I will use this opportunity and platform to share two words that are my pet peeves, 1) “Hey” – I don’t think it is a good greeting in writing…”hay is for horses” 2) “Yup or Yep” – it could seem flip and insincere in a response to something very important. No “hey or yup” …LOL!)

  1. Other: From technology to body language, keep it top of mind that as we adjust, there could be needs for training to do it best. As an example, at Restoration Technical Institute, we have begun the process of training and developing ourselves to learn how to best engage and train in an online environment. It is more complicated than just buying a webinar platform and we want to be excellent and so we must learn and train.
  1. Be Creative: There is a great opportunity to engage the team to be creative and at the same time keep the need to shift our culture to top of mind. Get the team started and let the ideas flow. Some examples may be:
    1. Pictures: We can do quite a bit with a picture of a smiling face. We can text them to customers, put on social media, and they can even wear them. Not only are we socially distanced, but some of us may look a bit intimidating with a face mask or full PPE.
    2. Proactive Communications: There are all kinds of proactive communications that will let people know how you feel and what to expect. Let people know the masked team they must stay far away from still cares. One idea: send a thank you text with a picture after an emergency.
  1. Company General Environment: There are many general things that could be considered in your organization that could help the shift.
    1. Huddle (far apart or from a distance): Talk about it frequently. Keep the lines of communications open. Keep it all top of mind in a positive environment and it will serve you well.
    2. Openness: Transparency and collaboration are key. There is no place for defensive attitudes and an unwillingness to change or adapt.
    3. Lead by Example: This universal truth is more important than ever. Leadership must exemplify what is expected and necessary during this challenging time.
  1. Eating: Some may call foul on this item being on the list! I am half Italian and breaking bread, eating together, feeding others; food is a big part of my world. I am stumped.
    1. I often recommend taking candidates to lunch because people let their guard down and are more relaxed when eating. It’s a great way to get to know each other.
    2. In our training center, we have food rules! No pizza and sandwiches and we have an ice cream machine because ice cream makes people happy. Now what!?!
    3. On someone’s first day, it is a rule to take them to lunch.
    4. We celebrate, bond, reward with food. I love feeding people. I love eating with others.
    5. I want your advice! The eating situation has me thrown for a loop. A GoToMeeting does not replace this for me. I would love to hear your tips for this big change.

This is a short list of things to consider in the wake of the necessity for a major cultural shift in our world. Although we can only speculate on the long-term impact on our behaviors, we can proactively and positively begin to adjust.

Restorer’s Perspective: Software Is A Tool

restoration management software, restoration managementIn the early 2000s, when I was just beginning my career as a restorer, I recall the buzz about the “cloud”. I am by no stretch a “computer geek” but it sounded like something exciting. Wanting to constantly employ the latest technology in all aspects of the business, I ran around the office declaring that we needed a cloud (totally clueless of what that meant). I came in one morning to a picture of a cloud on my door labeled, “Lisa’s Cloud”. Fast forward to 2018, I became co-owner and VP of Operations Design of iRestore, a cloud-based restoration management software company. It began when I was searching for the right cloud-based system for my company. I found iRestore and began working with Ryan Smith, who literally grew up in the industry and is a former owner/operator of a restoration company himself. From there, we began working closely on developing iRestore for my restoration company. We shared instant synergy as we worked together and quickly realized we made a perfect team. To my husband and business partner, Ted, I continually and enthusiastically chattered about the developments and ideas we had. One day, Ted simply stated, “Ask him if he wants to become partners.” The rest is history. Ryan and I officially joined forces in January 2018.

Joining the iRestore team is a true extension of the passion found in serving other restorers through our training center, the Restoration Technical Institute. We find joy in sharing missteps, successes, and anything else that could help an industry colleague succeed. I enjoy developing and improving systems and workflows and talking to other restorers about their operations. The software industry is where I can put my operations background, observations, and understanding of the intuition of restorers into the design of our software system. My objective is to contribute to the marriage of efficient systems that support the flow of restoration operations and the organization.

Software is a tool. It’s a tool not unlike many of the tools we use every day. It’s designed to be a part of your organization and help you serve others. There are many choices and they are not necessarily one size fits all. Each company must consider the features, price, and what is best for their organization. When acquiring any new tool or technology, consider the following short list:

  1. Cost vs. Benefits
    1. Benefits internally: Efficiency, information flows, improved outcomes, etc.
    2. Benefits to those we serve: Reports, information, communications, etc.
  2. Training and Implementation

Since becoming a part of the software industry, I have developed some thoughts and opinions about software’s place in operations. This may serve to help you choose, implement, and consider its place in your organization.

1.  It’s not a silver bullet. I am the first to tell fellow restorers, “software is not a silver bullet.” A basic customer service principle that I hold dear is to proactively manage expectations. I believe that within companies, the standards and best practices can remain a constant while the “how” may evolve with technology. The company’s operations and the team’s adherence to them is not dependent on software. Software is a tool that can help performance and help leadership manage the operation and team.

A prime example is documentation. Most restoration organizations understand the importance of job documentation and likely have clear requirements. The expectations may be in the forms of SOPs, best practices, or other company standards. In 2000, our company used mini-tape recorders and a person to transcribe the recordings into job records which included all relevant and meaningful job-related updates and communications. The standard remains the same; the means (using software and voice to text) is different. Team members who adhere to  will continue to do so with software. Those who do not follow guidelines will continue to not follow the guidelines with software. When I refer to the “silver bullet”, software does not make people document the job file. Software can make it more efficient and create benefits within the organization like real-time accessibility of information, but it does not make someone document. If the team is not engaged and held accountable to the standards set forth by the company, software will not change this.

2. Infrastructure Only. Software can provide a structure, order, and consistency. It can create efficiencies and offer a variety of features that helps the team and benefits customers. Our tag line is, “Powering your Vision, Values, and Leadership” and this speaks to the point that every company is special in its own way and is driven by something bigger, greater, and more powerful than software.

3. Too Much of a Good Thing.

  1. Software can create accessibility to a wide variety of metrics and reports that serve the operation well in many ways. Much of this can be generated through the natural movements within the organization using software. There is a balance to be met as too much data collection (at a cost) and reporting can be distractive and counter-productive.
  2. Reminders, flags, and other features that help the team move according to specified protocols and best practices is important but must be balanced using good judgement. The team needs to be engaged in doing their jobs and accountable to their organization. Over-reminding can have the opposite affect where the team can begin to ignore everything.

4. Flexibility in the system. I learned a lot about this from my partner and our software users. It is good for a system to have the proper balance of structure and flexibility to accommodate the unique needs of each company, accommodate growth, and potentially support related lines of business.

5. Think Upside Down. This was almost our tag line because it is of the utmost importance to consider the role and/or the positions of the users in the organization. Whether you are the owner/operator who at any times wears many hats: technician, accounting, HR, marketing, etc. or you’re the Operations Manager of a large firm, the software will not serve the CEO well if it does not serve those in all positions well.

As being part of the software industry, I often joke that my goal in life is that no restorer anywhere will ever need a spreadsheet again. I have also learned that contributing to the development of software has been very rewarding for me and a job that will never end as you are never done developing.

Restoring Success: He’s Making a List (And Checking it TWICE!)

restoring success, restoration management

Why does Santa check his list twice? If we consider the practice of checking the list twice, we could speculate that there is a drive towards excellence and a desire to deliver legendary service. The list needs to be accurate and thorough; the list allows him to honor his commitments efficiently, and list is what is used to make sure that nobody is disappointed; so, he checks it twice.

Mistakes happen! Sometimes things go wrong and it’s not even human error, it just happens. When something goes wrong and we apply root cause problem solving which unveils that if we had checked our work, we could have avoided the issue, perhaps, there is a simple solution. Can problems be reduced with a little checking? Yes!

As a casual observation, when work habits include self-checking and processes that account for double checking things, the result is fewer errors, mistakes, and problems. As an ability, we may call it conscientiousness. Considering that errors, mistakes, and problems can have a ripple of disastrous consequences in our restoration organizations; it is deserving of some attention.

Have you ever wondered how someone gave you a message with the wrong phone number? It is likely because the number was not read back to the person who gave it to them. This is an example of a very basic self-check that everyone should be trained to do in the organization. When someone gives an email and/or phone number, you always read it back to them to make sure you recorded the very important contact information perfectly.  Being just one number off can make the difference between your ability to respond to a loss and/or honor the commitment to call a person back or not.  It’s a big deal and can be proactively managed by the work habit to double check.

True Story

As I walked into work one morning, I complimented a coworker on the speed and quality he executed in the reconstruction of a bathroom that experienced a water loss. He thanked me and qualified his response by explaining that he needed to go back that morning. He explained that the tank of the toilet leaked, and it needed a few parts. He had removed and reset the toilet. Since I had been pondering about an individual’s work habits and the ability to self-check work, as well as the supporting processes in the organization, I began to question him.

“How did you know the toilet was not working properly?”

“I flushed it to make sure it was working after I re-installed it.”, he responded.

“Why did you do that?”

As he looked at me with some dismay at my line of questioning, I answered for him, “Because you always check your work!?”

As I pondered, in over five years, I could not recall a defect or workmanship issue regarding the work of this individual.

I don’t know if he was specifically taught these work practices, if it is innate to him, or if he learned from mistakes; but I do know that I thought, what if everyone did that?

  • Equipment: Equipment would never be left behind. Even with the application of the software that tells you a piece of equipment is left on-site, if the person who installed it failed to scan it to the site, it can be left behind. A quick walk-through in the spirit of double-checking that all equipment is pulled can eliminate the call, “You left an air mover here.”
  • Repairs: Some trades lend themselves to easy checks. Install a faucet? Check that it works properly and is not leaking by turning it on.  Some trades require the detailed eye of a craftsman: is the drywall paint ready?
  • Instructions/work orders: Verify and review that all instructions were followed. We know that bad things happen When People Don’t Follow Instructions in their entirety and properly.

How do we improve by “checking”?

The examples of problems that can be reduced by checking are endless as are the potential solutions. It applies to everything from field execution to office, administration, marketing, accounting, etc. Here is a brief list to get started on helping our organizations and teams to improve with a little checking:

  • Organizational processes can support and contribute to checking in the spirit of reducing errors. A simple example is a co-worker double checking, inspecting (and signing off as “inspected”) contents before they get packaged for storage and/or returned to the customer.
  • Reconciliation is a concept that is often associated with accounting functions. A bank reconciliation is a check and balance that everything that is recorded in the accounting system is in perfect alignment with the bank system. Any discrepancy is identified and corrected. Reconciliation as a process can be applied to many areas within your company. As a simple example:

10 water losses to be monitored
10 monitorings are scheduled
10 readings/maps get submitted at day end
0 Steps were missed

  • Culture and Training always have a global impact in our operations and outcomes. We can incorporate checks (self-regulation) into the training of skills and tasks within the organization. Culturally, we should celebrate and hold people accountable to their level of conscientiousness in the performance of their work and be prepared to coach and develop them on improvements.

A little time in double-checking can have exponential value in time wasted and service-related issues.

Happy Restoring Success!

Lisa

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Burnout in the Restoration Industry | Part 1

employee burnout, restoration management, restoration management software

Editor’s Note: 

This is the first article of a multi-part series on employee burnout in the restoration industry.  Part one introduces the nature of burnout and summarizes findings from a study on burnout in the restoration industry. Part two begins a discussion on things restoration companies can do to manage one of the most complicating factors for burnout among restoration professionals – workload. Part three advances the conversation and discusses what restoration professionals can do at the individual level to manage workloads more effectively.   


Since the 1990s, experts have been declaring burnout levels are reaching epidemic proportions among North American workers (Maslach & Leiter, 1997). Since that time, most people would probably agree that work-related stressors have only intensified with the proliferation of metrics, technology, and the need to be “on” all the time. A recent study by Gallup (Wigert & Agrawal, 2018) surveyed 7,500 full-time employees in the United States and reported that 67% of the respondents experienced feelings of burnout on the job. Another study by Deloitte (2018) surveyed 1,000 full-time professionals in the United States and reported that 77% of respondents said they had experienced burnout in their current job. In addition, the World Health Organization announced it would be revising its definition of burnout in the 11th Revision of the International Classification of Diseases, effective Jan. 1, 2022. One of the primary changes will be how burnout is classified—this revision will involve a change in classification from “a type of psychological stress” to a “syndrome.”

Disaster restoration professionals operate in a niche of the construction industry that is inherently stressful. Their work often demands being on call and working long hours under stressful and dangerous conditions following fires, floods, earthquakes, hurricanes, tornadoes, and a variety of other catastrophic events to structures. In addition, there are performance demands driven by metrics related to response times, project completion rates, customer service, and many other factors. Such conditions make restoration professionals more susceptible to burnout; therefore, it is important to understand the nature of burnout and how the effects may be mitigated.

“Burnout is defined as a crisis in a person’s relationship with their work, as well as a syndrome of three distinct feelings that comprise the dimensions of burnout: exhaustion, cynicism, and professional efficacy (Masiach & Leiter, 1997)”.

The reasons for burnout can be complex and are addressed at length in many studies and books that have been published on the topic over the past few decades. Many have debated the reasons for burnout, whether occasional feelings of burnout can be good for someone, the complexity of burnout and the degree to which non-work factors may contribute to feelings of burnout on the job (and vice-versa), and where future inquiries into the subject should focus—among other topics. While many of these factors are still being debated and explored, there are many things scholars and professionals have come to understand about burnout and agree upon. Specifically, it is important to understand that some industries have higher burnout rates than others and that contextual factors such as organizational culture and the capacity to cope with stress within individuals vary widely.

Regardless, there is much for an industry to gain by having a deeper understanding of employee burnout among professionals and to explore strategies for improving the health and lives of its members. The primary goal of this article is to discuss the nature of burnout, share findings from a recent study on burnout within the restoration industry, and begin a practical discussion related to how we, as an industry, can seek to thrive with the inherent challenges the industry faces. We hope many productive conversations develop from this article.

Restoration is a great industry that does great work for the great people of our society. It is inherently challenging and stressful, but rewarding for those who enjoy working hard and doing good work for good people in need. This article seeks to candidly discuss the challenges of burnout for restoration professionals and begin a productive conversation on how we, as an industry, can do our work in a rewarding, enjoyable, productive, and effective manner.

Burnout

Burnout is defined as a crisis in a person’s relationship with their work, as well as a syndrome of three distinct feelings that comprise the dimensions of burnout: exhaustion, cynicism, and professional efficacy (Maslach & Leiter, 1997).

Dimensions of Burnout

The three dimensions of burnout help us understand the primary characteristics of burnout and provide insight into the nature of the burnout experience.

employee burnout, restoration management, restoration management software
  • Exhaustion: The feeling of being overextended and physically and emotionally drained. “[It] is the first reaction to the stress of job demands or major change” (Maslach & Leiter, 1997). When someone is feeling exhausted, they lack energy and are unable to unwind and recover (Maslach & Leiter, 1997).
  • Cynicism: Leads to people developing a distant attitude toward work and the people surrounding them at work. In a sense, it is a defense mechanism that is deployed to protect oneself from exhaustion and disappointment (Maslach & Leiter, 1997).
  • Professional Efficacy: Relates to feelings of effectiveness and adequacy regarding a person’s work. Accomplishment is vital and it is important for professional development and self-confidence. As someone loses confidence in themselves others lose confidence in them (Maslach & Leiter, 1997).

Worklife Context

(Sources of Burnout)

Equally important to understanding the components of the burnout phenomenon it is essential to examine the primary sources that influence exhaustion.  There are six sources of burnout that mediate feelings of exhaustion:

Summary of Findings from a Recent Study

A recent study on burnout conducted by two of this article’s authors, Dr. Avila and Dr. Rapp, sought to explore the nature of burnout and worklife context (sources of burnout) among restoration industry professionals (Avila & Rapp, 2019). We distributed a survey that consisted of a demographic questionnaire, the Maslach Burnout Inventory, (MBI), the Areas of Worklife Survey (AWS), and a set of exit questions that gauged respondents’ turnover intentions. A total of 318 respondents completed the entire survey.

employee burnout, restoration management, restoration management software

The results on burnout revealed that, when compared to other industries, restoration professionals were experiencing higher levels of exhaustion, cynicism, and professional efficacy. The researchers had not anticipated this interesting finding. The model, as discussed in earlier in this article, suggests that as exhaustion increases, cynicism increases, and professional efficacy decreases. Why would restoration professionals have increased professional efficacy when the mediating factors suggest they should be experiencing the opposite? Is it their resilience? While years could be spent studying this to find an explanation we aren’t going to be doing that.  It is time for a practical discussion. We know restoration professionals experience burnout so it is imperative for us to discuss why we think this is the case and what we (professionals and employers) can do to mitigate the effects of burnout.

“Results of the six sources of burnout found that workload was the only source having a statistically significant effect on exhaustion for restoration professionals.”

Moving forward, an important part of the discussion on burnout should explore the reasons restoration professionals would experience burnout in a manner that is so unique and different from other industries. What factors do we think are contributing to this dynamic? Could findings on the sources of burnout help us understand how and/or why restoration professionals would experience burnout in the manner the study has revealed? Could the amount of hours restoration professionals work be contributing to them having a high sense of professional efficacy? Could factors related to the number of years they have worked in the industry influence their sense of professional efficacy?

employee burnout, restoration management, restoration management software

Results of the six sources of burnout found that workload was the only source having a statistically significant effect on exhaustion for restoration professionals. From this point, the researchers had to look to answers respondents provided in the demographic questionnaire at the beginning of the survey. There were two primary data points in the demographic questionnaire where the researchers discovered correlations to workload:

  • Number of hours worked: Respondents self-reported the number of hours worked and the average was 52 hours per week; however, some respondents reported working more than 80 hours per week. As the number of hours increased, the respondents were move likely to report a heavier workload.
  • Number of subordinates: Respondents self-reported the number of subordinates supervised and this finding was negatively correlated with perceptions of workload. As the number of subordinates supervised increased the respondents were more likely to report a heavier workload.

While workload, in itself, can involve many factors, we will explore ways in which it can be managed effectively at the company and individual levels. In the second part of this series, we will start to discuss how to manage the burnout.

Special Thanks

The authors wish to extend special thanks to the members of Business Networks who have graciously shared their experiences, NextGear Solutions who opened the door for public discussion on these topics among restoration professionals, and other industry professionals who have engaged us on the development of the study throughout the entire process. Thank you for the support, feedback, and valuable insight.

Lisa Lavender, Contributor and Co-Author

iRestore’s Referral Chart Reference Guide

To get the most out of your iRestore reporting system and features, it is critical to collect thorough and accurate information at the onset of the job. We have designed a Referral Chart Reference guide that can be adjusted to track based on your company’s needs. Check it out below:

restoration management, restoration management software

Tips on how to use your Referral Chart Reference Guide:
1. Train your team to collect the right information with the use of the chart.
a. Consistency is key.
b. Ask the right questions of your customer at the right time.

2. Utilize the reporting features to constantly evaluate the results and sources of your revenues.
a. Share reports with the appropriate team members.
b. Have a routine meeting schedule. For example, evaluate key reports once a week.