How to find a Good Domestic Helper

Happy Birthday
We celebrated Auntie Tina's birthday last month. Auntie Tina is our helper and she had been with us for almost 2 years replacing Auntie Jumi .

Celebrating birthday
Auntie Tina contract is up this month. However she had decided to renew her contract for another 2 years. I guess we are rather lucky with our helpers as they had been able to connect with us. There were hiccups here and there, but it is a matter of learning as you work.

We appreciate our helpers. It is indeed a blessing to have them around the house. Given how hyper active we can be, it is not an easy task managing both of us. For that , we are thankful to have good helpers giving a lending hand in that department. Our first helper was with us for 5 years and Auntie Tina would be with us for at least 4.

On that note , we list down the top 5 things we think is important for getting a good helper.

1) Look for someone with experience.
We were told it may be 'dangerous' to look for someone with too much experience and we agreed especially if the helper had been in Singapore for a while. However we do value experiences as it helps the helper to get accustomed to her work at a faster pace. In addition, they would know the basic housechores compared to another who had never work before. Our solution, look for helpers who had performed the same role in her hometown or other countries.Age is not really an issue for us. Our first helper was over 30 years old and the second one is in her mid twenties.

2) Get an English Speaking helper.
Both of our helpers were from Indoneisa. Thankfully both were well verse in English. From past experiences with Grandma helpers who do not converse in English, we feel this is a priority. In terms of understanding and training, it is more efficient for one if they are proficient in English. However do make sure for the first few times, make them repeat what you say. This is meant to make sure they understood instead of just saying yes all the time.

3) Patience
There will be issues or practices the helper may be unfamiliar with in the beginning. Take for example using the same cloth to wipe utensils and milk bottles. In the beginning, our parents help by giving them personalised training and a timetable as a guide. After time, when the helper is familiar , we would let them have a free rein how to proceed with work. We do not specific which days they need to clean this or that. We do not rush them to do any chores. The best form of training we reckon is patience. Once they are familiar with the task, they would naturally be more efficient.
It does take 2 hands to clap, so if there are mistakes made, we need to clarify and correct. We have heard stories of people who just scold and scold their helper without clarifying the reason. Ultimately we think this serve no purpose in the longer run.

4) Trust
The other factor we put high on our list is Trust. In order for trust to work, it should come in both directions. We should trust our helper on the work we assign. In addition , the helper should have a feeling that we trust them and not check on them all the time. If we do the latter, then it would be a constant issue of nit picking which we think would be detrimental in any relationship.
That being said, don't trust 100% as the saying goes 'being safe is better than sorry. ' A periodic check is good to ensure that the helper has accustomed to the surroundings.

5) Reward
We have heard of employers 'punishing' their helpers with fines when they do certain things wrong, e.g. Damage a household item, fine. Wake up late , fine. Forget the chores, fine. You get the drift.
We had helpers damaging some items before, but we guess it is part of the collateral damage that comes with on the job training.We like to think it is better to reward than punish.

A reward is handy to acknowledge a helper's good work. Daddy would occasionally give a token increment to monthly salary for a good job done. Our helper would also be treated to the occasional dinner and even vacations. We also celebrate birthdays with them to show our appreciation.

Do remember to give your helper rest. No matter what, she is still someone who works and it is not unreasonable to have days off during her course of work.
Happy Birthday!
These are 'tips' from our own experiences. However we would like to add we probably had a generous dose of luck in the process. The tips may not work in all circumstances but the underlying is clear. Our helper is our friend and 'family', not just someone who works for us. That is how we treated her and hopefully hope she felt about us.
It is thus not the process of finding a good domestic helper, but rather how you manage the helper that determines the relationship. Finding a helper is easy, making her good is in your hands. We advocate a carrot rather than a stick approach when dealing with our helpers. Motivation works better than punishment.
Last but not least, we would like to wish a Happy birthday to Auntie Tina!


Mamamie said...

Thanks for the tip! I am in the midst of looking for a reliable helper and cross my fingers that I am able to find one soon :)

TWD said...

Good luçk on the search!

Double Ls and Mommy said...

Step 1: Aligning Expectations
During the interview of the prospective helper, I give her a list of guideline (or house rules) that we go by, if she is agreeable to it, then I will hire her, and of course the prospect is always welcome to reject me as an employer, it just have to work both ways.

Step 2: Orientation
I provide a timetable she can have as a reference and also I will spend 4-5 days to show her the WHO, WHAT, WHERE, WHEN and HOW about the house. I also give her a quiz to check her competency level and then work on the areas where she is weaker.

Step 3: Providing Feedback
After a month of working, I sit her down and do her evaluation on a sheet of check-list and tell her specifically what I like and what I think she can improve on and ask her the type of help she needs and get her to set goals to improve her work. And from time to time, I give her feedback, praise her for a job well done, point out her mistakes and encourage her.

Step 4: Reward
We celebrate her birthday, X'mas and some festivities and give her gifts whenever it is appropriate. She gets to choose her weekly off days (Sat/Sun/P.H.). I also throw in 'end-of-contract' bonus if she stays and works for our family for 2 years.

Bottom-line is - I don't treat my helper as part of my family. I treat her the way I like my employer to treat me.

If anybody needs a sample of my guidelines, competency quiz, evaluation check-list, I am happy to send you a copy.

TWD said...

Hi Double Ls and mommy .
Great feedback. We did similar steps during the early phase of orientating the helper. We also include sign on bonus if the helper choose to renew her contract. As for treating her as family instead of employee, it comes from the perspective of my children. I would insist them to treat the helper as an auntie rather than someone who just works for them. So it means no ordering the helper around in the house. Given that the helper stays with us 24/7, we would treat her more than how a define employer-employee r/s.