The office boy is at last coming into his own. He will hereafter receive that attention which is his due, in view of the fact that he is to be the manager of tomorrow. The writer gives his readers some tips as to how to get hold of the best office boys and how to keep them.
THE office boy is the “general manager of to-morrow" — that was the remark of the general manager of one of the largest furniture manufacturing houses in the world, in whose office I was sitting one afternoon.
A small boy had come in, he had waited until the manager turned toward him.
“Mr. Atkins sent this to you, sir.” he said, and laid a pamphlet down on the manager’s desk — then stood wait-
The manager took the paper, looked the boy over with one glance, and nodded.
“All right,” he said.
The boy walked out.
“That’s our newest office boy,” he said to me when the door had closed. “In fact he has just been hired. Every new boy hired is sent in to me with this same package, the same remark. to undergo my moment’s scrutiny. I want to see the boys we have to-day, for they are the general managers of to-morrow.”
A little thing—yes, but this is the age of attention to the litle things in business. Matters formerly deemed too trivial for attention or considered evils impossible to avoid are now the object of careful study with a view to turning them to profit or decreasing the loss they cause. So small do the mills of business grind that the refuse which once cost money to throw away now helps swell the dividends.
‘1 Confound the little rascal ! ’ ’ That expressed the business world’s opinion of the office boy a few years ago. He was looked upon as a necessary evil, important only for the material he furnished the funny papers, and on Saturday night his three or four dollars was grudgingly paid..
But now they realize that the office boy fills an important niche in the business world—even, as the general manager said, that he is a manager in embryo.
How to find the right sort of boy— that’s the question. All American cities are long on boys who want w7ork; but they are mighty short on the right kind —the bright, cleanly kind who are too honest to steal even a postage stamp.
Unless one enjoys the experience of hiring and breaking in a new boy every two or three months it’s best not to take one on in June. In that month the employment market is flooded with the good sort of boys just out of school and the avera *e employer is sorely tempted to hire one or two more than he needs to prepare for future emergencies.
Hut, bew7are! Ninety-nine per cent, of the youngsters who come to you in June saying they have left school for good will quit you on five minutes’ notice wheu the school bell rings in September.
Advertising is the most troublesome method of getting a boy. Not that it fails to bring “Boys!” A two line ad. in any good w7ant medium
will often block traffic in front of your office for half a day with a howling mob of applicants. But a majority of these you would not have in your place if they paid for the privilege, and it takes too much time to sift the meagre wheat from the abundant chaff.
Through schools and hoys’ institutions, through parents and friends, through ads in selected papers, reaching only the better classes—these are the best means of findings the boys you want and ought to have in your office.
A millionaire manufacturer who has built up a great industry in a small town and who has been for a score of years a Sunday school superintendent was once asked what direct results he ever received from his religious devotion.
“I get my office boys through my religion,” he said, half joking, half serious: “I hire all my boys from the membership of my Sunday school —and that means most of my employees, for many of my clerks, bookkeepers and executives have come up from office boys.
The boy who makes good in business comes from the middle class families and lives in a home where he has been taught the importance of truth and obedience and where he will be given encouragement to succeed.
“Show me a boy’s mother,” an old English manufacturer used to say, 1 1 and I will tell you if I will have him in my employ.”
The need of proper home influenne is shown by the experience of a Chicago employer who was impressed with the quick wits and nervous energy of the city newsboys. He picked up a particularly promising lad who was selling papers near the
City Hall and installed him in his office.
“Newsie” lasted just two weeks. He was bright, honest and did his work well enough; but he could not shake off the habits of the streets. Winning the earnings of the other boys at craps, turning the electric fans into roulette wheels and making a hand book on the races for the clerks demoralized the whole office and sent him back to his extras.
Judging from the boys you see in many otherwise up-to-date offices, the manager believes a “boy’s a boy,” no matter how dirty and unkempt he is. The good effect produced by an expensive suite of finely furnished offices is often sadly marred by disreputable looking boys. The general appearance of your place of business — its personality—is a big factor in your success or failure. It gives an impression to your customer or client before he sees you, and by that impression you yourself will often be judged. Is it, then, not worth while to make clean hands, a clean face and all-round neatness the first requisites for a boy in your employ ?
But the selection is by no means the whole thing: it is at best a big lottery, for nc matter how carefully you look over the applicants it is only after a few weeks’ trial that you can separate the prizes from the blanks.
And when you do get a boy who proves to be of the right stuff the degree of his value to you depends largely on your ability to develop him properly.
“How do we get such satisfactory boys?” says the head of the New York branch of one of the country's ]pr°v«st manufa-cturinc companies. “Well, it’s not so much a matter of selection as of training them properly
after we get them. Of course, I don’t mean that we are not careful to pick out the best material. In this we are governed by certain fairly well fixed standards.
“We give preference to native Americans, although one of the best boys in our service to-day has been in America only two years. Other things being equal, we prefer boys who have worked little if any before. About 14 seems to be the best age. Boys older than that are likely to be above their work and want their salaries raised too soon. Those whose earnings go toward the family support are most satisfactory.
“We insist that they have a fair knowledge of reading, writing, spelling and arithmetic. More important than the education they have already received is their ability and ambition for further development. We encourage attendance at night schools, and in this way some of our most valuable bookkeepers, stenographers and draftsmen fitted themselves for their present work.
“We hire only those who come with the idea of. remaining permanently provided they make good. They are closely watched the first weeks: those who fail utterly and those who learn too slowly are promptly weeded out, for one incompetent can demoralize the entire force.
“Every boy who enters our employ is given to understand that we consider him of importance, that we want him to fit himself for something better and that he will be advanced as fast as he shows his ability. From the very start he is given encouragement and help.
“It is less difficult for us to impress boys with these facts because
of our long established policy of pro-
moting from the ranks when we can find the right material there. We prefer to train up our own men, and many of the most important desks in this office are filled by men who began their careers here running errands. I’m one of them myself.
“The boy who just brought that card to my desk is studying stenography and is already pretty good at it. I discovered the fact by chance and to encourage him allowed him to take two or three of my letters. I was surprised and pleased to find he ciould take my dictation and transscribe his notes as well as many $75a-month men. He’s due to go higher soon.
“Perhaps we may be giving too much attention to our boys, but I don’t think so. The boys of to-day will have to run this business ten or fifteen years from now and we shall be repaid then for having taken them fresh from school and trained them into exactly the sort of employees we want. ’ ’
The difficulty with the office boy problem is in many cases not always with the boy; it is often due to failure to start him on the right track.
The new boy should be told carefully and clearly what is expected of him and what he has a right to expect from his employers. He is bound to make some mistakes at first, but if given a little time and attention he can be taught to avoid! them inj the future.
If part of the boy’s work is to be meeting your clients or customers and taking their cards to the proper desks too much emphasis cannot be laid upon the importance of training him carefully. Some boys seem born for this work. They have a marvellous memory for faces; they can spot a
book agent before he is hardly inside the door; they handle the nervous, irritable visitors with the greatest tact; they offer a man a seat as if waiting were a privilege; and they never allow anyone of importance to go away angry at the delay in getting attention.
Such boys are, of course, rare, but there are few who cannot be trained to do the work better than it is done in 99 out of 100 offices.
This work is so important that many employers think it can be handled better by girls. Girls have some advantages, it must be admitted. They don’t chew tobacco or smoke cigarettes.
The right sort of young woman that does work of this kind is worth a good deal. I have in mind one who has charge of the waiting room of a large publishing company, besides answering the telephone. She is a model and one in a thousand. She is of charming appearance, with a soft. . pleasant voice, and when she tells you that Mr. Jones will see you in a minute she innocently gives the idea that Jones has been waiting all day for you to put in appearance and will .be overwhelmed with joy to see you.
When the one minute has dragged into ten and you begin to get a trifle hot under the collar, she brings you a magazine or a newspaper and offers it to you with such an air of solicitude for your welfare that you] cannot help feeling good natured in spite of the delay. She has tact enough to be a
It is to be regretted that, as 1 said, she is only one in a thousand. In the same building another pretty girl has a similar job and she devotes most of her time to chewing gum and entertaining her young men friends
from the neighboring department store.
It is quite the thing nowadays to have this work of meeting callers done by some man who is past the Osier age, but is still ambitious to be doing something. If you can find $ man of this type who will not be above his work and who possibly has a little income of his own so that he can afford to take a small salary, he will prove a good investment.
It seems strange and sort of pitiful somehow to see a man 55 or 60 years old bringing the cards of your callers to your desk and taking your messages back to them, but it is being done satisfactorily in lots and lots of offices.
No healthy boy can make ^ success of anything unless he has his heart in it. The failures of many are due to the neglect of their employers to inspire them with the proper degree of interest.
Get acquainted with vom h'\\ s; malie them feel you are interested in them. It pays.
The manager of one of the largest and finest department stores in the country can call every one of the hundreds of employees by their first names. On his daily trips of inspection through the store every cash and bundle boy comes in for a kindly word. “Good morning, George!” “How’s that sick mother of yours, James'!” or “They tell me you’re doing good work, John; keep it upî”
This man believes the enthusiasm and loyalty even of his boys worthy the effort. The result is that the boys in his employ are his friends for life and would work their very heads off to please him.
When a boy enters your employ why not tell him a little something
about your business? It will enable him to serve your interests more intelligently.
Give him some of your advertising matter to look over and to take home to “show to the folks.” Every boy has a pride and likes to tell his friends about his new job, and it is embarrassing for him not to know surely whether he is working for a distilling company or for the AntiSaloon League.
A little encouragement from time to time will do him a world of good. It should not be so much as to make him swell-headed, but enough to show
him there is some inducement to do well. The minute his interest lags his value lessens.
Aside from its importance the office boy problem is - intensely interesting to anyone who has any appreciation of the humors of life. While wrestling with its knotty features the employer at least gets an occasional chance to smile, and lie may get some satisfaction from realizing that it is the only problem on earth which is in any way comparable with the one his wife faces in the servant girl. But it is not so difficult when you give it the attention it deserves.
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