Hiring and training workers for coin-operated game companies can come with a variety of challenges, from finding the right employees for the job to keeping them content long term. For this article, company owners and managers offered their tips on how to hire, train and retain the best workers.
At Pride Vending NW in Eugene, Ore., Owner Jeff Whiteley noted that he’s a small operator who has only hired two workers in the past two years. “What I look for when I do hire is motivation first of all. If someone is not self-motivated, you can’t teach them anything. If they have mechanical skills, it still won’t do anything for you if they’re not motivated.” Whiteley said he usually finds people to hire while he’s out on his route. “In general, I look for people who have perhaps some sort of basic electrical skill. But the guy who really sparks my interest is someone between jobs or working in the service industry, someone who has to work well with customers.” According to Whitely, “Someone who has customer service skills and is motivated, that’s the guy or girl I’m after,” he attested. “I haven’t had to run a blind ad because I haven’t gone through that many staff members. Instead, I meet people, talk to them, and ask them some questions.”
When it comes to training, Whiteley said customer service skills are the number one training area that he addresses. “Making sure they know how to interact with people is absolutely important. As a street operator, our customers are a little different than most other businesses. Our customers are essentially the middlemen between us and the public, who are their customers. So when I train new staff, I want to make sure they know how to handle that type of situation.” The skills Whiteley tries to impart are “listening and understanding what your customers need, and then finding a way to fix that problem and make them happy. Sometimes it takes a phone call, or sometimes it requires that you show up at a location with the proper tools, and not give customers an excuse about fixing a machine.” For Whiteley, one-on-one training works best, so he can make certain that his staff can handle these interactions professionally.
In Kenai, Alaska, Mike Metteer is manager at Tyler Distributing Co. Inc., which operates jukeboxes, video and redemption games, foosball air hockey, ATMs and more. Metteer said the “biggest thing I look for in a worker is trustworthiness. I want someone who is ambitious and wants to learn.” Metteer runs ads on Facebook, and uses the local job center to post his needs.
“The area that I am in is not very big, so it is hard to find good people to work,” he said. “Sometimes I will bring people in from outside the area, but honestly it’s difficult for someone to justify making a move here.” When it comes to training strategy, Metteer works similarly to Whiteley, riding around with his new hires and teaching them. “I teach them how to do the things that I know, both in regards to mechanical skills and customer service, too. Having that hands-on training works really well for us, because I can correct any missteps right on the spot.”
At Beyond Amusement LLC in Phoenix, Ariz., Owner Phil Morici hires by running ads in the Republican Gazette newspaper, and through word of mouth. “You kind of get to know all the techs in the area,” he said. As to what he is looking for specifically in a worker, he says “someone technically skilled with good common sense is what I’m after.” Morici added, “Of course what I’m looking for also really depends on what position we are hiring for. For a general technician, we’re looking for skill and common sense. For a collector position, it’s honesty and common sense.”
Morici, too, relies on one-on-one training to get his new hires up to speed on the job. “We go out with the technicians and we work with them,” he said. “We make sure they are qualified, and know how to work with the equipment. With a collector, I’ll go out and make sure they know what they are doing. Unless we have someone with a lot of experience, who has been doing this type of work for years before we hire them, it’s important to offer training.” Morici said that his new hires learn on the job. “They learn from our skill and experience. That’s the best way to get them qualified.”
Michael Martinez, owner of N2 Industries, Inc. in Anaheim, Calif., finds his workers through referrals. “We simply deal with too much cash to just hire off the street. We deal with people who are referred to us through friends and family members. As to what characteristics we’re looking for, we look for people who can actually use tools, people who have rudimentary skills with tools. That’s what counts. We train for more technical skills.” And when it comes to that training, Martinez takes new hires out on his company’s route one-on-one. “We train them on location and in our shop. They have to be trained across the board, on collections, service, and in one case even on sales, and to a lesser extent they are trained on technical aspects. Our people have to know how to do everything.” According to Martinez, because of the wide breadth of skills his staff must learn, individual training in the field works well. He said that is the best way for him to impart a variety of knowledge quickly and personally and be there to answer any questions that come up.
In San Diego, Calif., Steve Krongard, owner of Nickle Cit, said he isn’t looking so much for technical skills as he is “personable people skills. That’s our main thing.” Like Martinez, he primarily relies on referrals to find the workers he needs. “Typically, we only hire from referrals from a previous employee.” A challenge that Krongard faces is minimum wage requirements. “In San Diego, it’s now $11.50 an hour. I want to retain my people as long as possible, but because of that rate, everyone has to get minimum wage. I can’t pay someone who has been with me a long time any more than that. Unfortunately, that means that people may leave, and they’re difficult to replace.”
Along with good people skills, Krongard seeks employees who exhibit a “good work ethic. That isn’t something you can interview for. There’s a lot of turnover in our industry, and a lot of training required,” he noted. “I don’t have just a game technician or just someone who does customer service or counts coins. The person I want to hire is able to do the basics of customer service and learn how to do other things. I used to try the silo approach, with one specific job per person, but it just doesn’t work. I can’t just hire someone to collect nickles out of games and have that person be different than the one who is interacting with customers. I need one or two people who can essentially do everything,” he explained. Krongard said that he really needs an employee who can be a “jack of all trades.”
To train his workers once he finds them, Krongard, too, relies on one-on-one training, usually with him. “Sometimes I’ll have someone else who has been with me a long time doing the training, but the problem with that is that the training gets watered down. I don’t want something even as simple as cleaning a machine or fixing a coin jam to get lost in a game of telephone.”
Krongard also tries to have a monthly meeting to go over what he terms “the intricacy of every game” as well.
Nationwide, game operators look for staff members with integrity – who are quick to learn and capable of multi-tasking. Training is personally conducted, and owners and managers seek to retain the employees they train as long as possible.