016 – Typical Staffing Needs & Rounding Out the Team

Welcome to the Autism Advantage podcast! I’m your host, Tom D’Eri, and my co-host for this season is Tom Sena. Throughout season 2, we’ll be chronicling the process of opening a second location of Rising Tide Car Wash, where we employ people with autism.

In the first half of this season, we’ve already covered a lot of ground! We’ve discussed planning the new location, interviewing dozens of people in one day, the pre-training process for our new employees, the live training process, and the successful opening of Rising Tide’s second location. Now, moving into the second half of the season, we’re ready to talk about the other 20% of our staff — the employees who don’t have autism.

These employees are incredibly important to the overall structure of the organization. They help coach and train the rest of the employees, and are generally the frontline for customer experience. They navigate the communication, explain the service, and set expectations. While they’re vital to our organization, it can be challenging to find typical people who want to work at a car wash and see the work as an opportunity to grow and have impact.

When we’re looking for our typical employees, we want two main traits: someone who has both grit (as defined by Angela Duckworth) and assertiveness, or the ability to advocate for their own and others’ rights. We always have two interviewers present so that we can have different perspectives on the interview. Once it’s over, we score the interview on a scale of up to 40 points. We typically hire people at 28 points or better; our all-time record so far is a 36.

We’ve had a lot of good luck with two social archetypes. The first is opportunity youth. These people might have just graduated high school, or be a year or two out from it. They’re typically people who have found that college isn’t for them at this point, for one reason or another, and who often need a job to help support their families. The other social archetype that tends to work well for us is high school students looking for their first job.

Listen to this episode to hear the details on all of these subjects! We also chat about the overall structure of our organization, how we scale culture with a framework called “disciplined compassion,” and why it generally doesn’t work well for us to hire college students or recent college grads.


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In This Episode:

[00:31] – Tom S. talks about how the employees without autism are, in many ways, the backbone of the company who support its structure.

[01:58] – Right now, all but two employees on the management team are typical.

[02:38] – Tom D. points out that they don’t have any job coaches on their staff for a very specific reason.

[03:42] – We learn about some of the ways that they go about finding typical employees. Tom D. talks about the interview process and how they decide whether to hire a particular applicant based on a scoring system.

[05:23] – Tom D. discusses the role of talent in their roles for both typical people and people with autism. He then reveals that there are two typical archetypes that typically work well for them: opportunity youth and high school students.

[07:53] – Tom S. talks about where the company is right now in terms of their overall organizational structure.

[10:13] – It was right as they were about to open the second location that they started to see some issues with some of their typical employees. We lost two of our supervisors in the weeks leading up to the opening of the second location, and had to let go of a third right after the first week of the second location.

[12:24] – How do you ensure that you have the right culture fit when hiring typical people, and what are you looking for in the interview to make sure they’ll be successful? As he addresses these questions, Tom D. talks about how they scale culture.

[13:39] – Tom D. lists the six different pillars of disciplined compassion.

[16:12] – We hear more about exactly what prioritizing purpose really means. Tom D. then points out that another of the pillars is grit, which they mentioned earlier in the conversation.

[17:29] – The bonuses that they give their management are tied into these pillars. This incentivizes the employee to be aligned with these principles.

[18:30] – Tom D. shares a story of a young man who is just getting his promotion to assistant manager.

[20:17] – Tom S. explains that it would have been a disservice to this man to give him the assistant manager role before he was ready for it.

[20:59] – Another thing that Tom S. wants to talk about are the employees who are a slower, long-term play.

[22:54] – It’s so important to be disciplined in withholding judgment for the first six weeks (or even six months), Tom D. points out.

[25:36] – One thing they’ve found in their successful employees is that they have sustained engagement in what they’re doing, regardless of what the task is. Tom S. then talks about some of their recruiting sources.

[27:45] – Tom D. offers a note to anyone operating (or thinking about operating) a social enterprise.


Links and Resources:

Tom D’Eri

Tom Sena

Rising Tide Car Wash

Rising Tide U

University of Miami-Nova Southeastern University Center for Autism & Related Disabilities

Hurricane Irma

Angela Duckworth

Extraordinary Ventures

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