Hiring fewer staff members to manage the property and lifestyles of today’s HNW and UHNW families has become trendy, which is only sometimes to the benefit of the Principal(s) or the Private Service Professional (PSP).
Ideally, each residence is staffed with specific individuals who serve specific needs and fulfill specific tasks. In some instances, it becomes necessary to assign a few non-traditional duties to a staff member’s job description. Such assignments should not be taken lightly and should be temporary (i.e., the Housekeeper is on vacation, so the Nanny takes over the cleaning of the children’s rooms in the house, the Chef cleans the kitchen, and the Estate Manager cleans the bathrooms and master suite.) These temporary assignments are less than ideal, as they take away time and focus from the PSP’s titled role but are manageable for a short time. However, should that Housekeeper fall ill while on vacation and may be out sick for several weeks, a temporary Housekeeper should be hired to fill the gap.
PSPs who avoid blended roles benefit by working within their unique personality, skills, and passions. They tend to be happier, more loyal, and stay with the same family longer than those in blended roles. The personality traits of a Nanny are very different than those of a Chef or Housekeeper. Many nannies are outgoing and bubbly, most Chefs are take-charge taskmasters, and most Housekeepers are quieter and prefer to work alone. Any of these PSPs can learn the basic skills needed to operate for a short time in additional roles. But with such different personality trends, it is understandable when they are uncomfortable working in roles outside the natural tendencies of their personality and passion.
Blending roles on a permanent basis must be planned very carefully. There should be an assigned primary title, such as Household Manager, with traditionally assigned primary duties that take priority over all other tasks. Secondary titles and duties, such as Nanny or Chef, should require less time and hold lower priority than the primary title. A good example is the Household Manager, who is also the Nanny, but only when both Principals are traveling. While the Principals are away, the PSP sets aside all HM duties to focus solely on the children’s needs. When the Principals return, the PSP relinquishes childcare duties back to their parents and resumes their primary role of Household Manager. In this example, one role is traded for another under specific circumstances, with delineated transitions and expectations.
Holding one role on an estate is a rewarding career; juggling multiple roles is challenging at best. A bad example of blended roles is when a Groundskeeper is promoted to Property Manager (generally an exterior role). When the new Property Manager is suddenly asked to manage interior contractors, they are stretched thin and working in a different (and likely unfamiliar) portion of the property. Eventually, the Property Manager may be asked to oversee an event, serve at a dinner party, run errands, or pick up the kids from soccer practice. None of these are exceptionally outrageous requests, but accumulatively, there will be consequences – for everyone. The worst part in this scenario is when that new Property Manager is still being compensated as a Groundskeeper.
Hiring one person for multiple roles requires clear job descriptions and a communication system outlining when a given task takes priority over another. Some PSPs thrive in these roles, but they are the exception, not the rule. A significant factor is compensation, which needs to be adjusted appropriately. When one full-time role commands $100k/year, and the other commands $180k, consider rounding up and offering a salary of $150 – even if the time allocated represents a 75/25 split. Such an offer acknowledges that the Principal respects their staff, the talent and loyalty they offer, and that shifting roles at a moment’s notice takes effort. In the long run, it keeps the PSP happy, challenged, and loyal. Such an outcome reduces turnover, the overall number of staff working daily on an estate, and payroll expenses.
When PSPs find themselves in blended roles (whether planned or by accident), they often begin to resent the Principals or other staff members, then burn out, and then quit. To prevent turnover attributed to blended roles, we recommend that the following be considered with every situation and request outside the traditional job description.
- If PSPs are asked to take on additional duties to cover for an absent peer for less than two weeks: consider adding temporary perks such as lunch for the team, extra time off, cash bonuses, or gift cards to show your appreciation. At the same time, reduce your requests to emergency-level only, and forgo time-intensive tasks (such as making beds or meals from scratch) to alleviate pressure on your staff.
- If a PSP is asked to take on an additional role for an extended period or permanently: consider assigning one role as primary and duties falling outside that role as secondary; reduce required tasks from the primary role to allow additional time and attention for the secondary responsibilities.
- When hiring one person for multiple roles, please consider what it would cost to hire one person for each role (including placement fees, wages, taxes, and vacation time) and extend the job offer and benefits beyond the standard package for their primary role.