7 Tips For Retaining Great Employees

It’s hard to find a good employee and yet it feels like it is even harder to keep them around. Especially in the tree care industry, employee turnover can be the most demoralizing challenge that you as the business owner face. While every organization will have employees leave from time to time, top level tree services make a concerted effort to retain their team members. My list of 7 tips for retaining great employees come from working with and observing these top companies over the years.

Hire for culture fit – Okay this is more of a hiring tip than a retention tip, however, it’s the best way to improve your retention. It is a lot easier to keep your employees when you start with employees that fit the culture of your organization. Skills can be taught, but you will never be able to change the personality of your employees. If you hire to fill a specific skill set and do not pay attention to whether or not that employee will fit the culture you will either have that employee leave sooner than you want or they will push out good employees.

Communication – Everything within your company depends great communication. Knowing what matters to your employees and what motivates them is the key to keeping them happy while working within your organization. Provide a work environment that encourages communication between management and laborers without fear of repercussions and you will dramatically increase your employee retention.

Career development – Supporting and encouraging your team members to pursue additional training lets them know that you are committed to them and their careers first and your profits second. Great employees will produce more profit for the business, so allow each of your team members to grow individually. Also, developing a career path structure that an employee can follow to advance in your company will provide motivation and clarity for all team members.

Provide challenges – The best employees on your team want to be challenged. They want to use their skills and talents to accomplish goals that not everyone can. This helps them feel fulfilled in their work and wanting to stay with your organization. A clear defined career path, provides one way to challenge your employees, but you can also have a number of special projects lined up that an employee can sign up for. Perhaps starting a safety committee, researching the latest equipment, figuring out a way to utilize the latest client management software, or creating small videos for use on social media channels for marketing purposes are all examples of simple challenges that you can provide your employees that would be valuable to your company.
Flexibility – In general, most employees today are looking for a work place that can be flexible with them. Understanding that just earning a paycheck is less attractive now than it was in the past. Employees want to be able to take time with their families and perhaps work from home from time to time if they do sales or office work. When talking about field staff it is a little harder to be flexible, but not impossible. You must have great communication and a solid set of rules for flexible schedule so that everyone knows what to expect of them and their teammates. This eliminates one person from taking advantage of it and creates respect for everyone. Let your employees come up with ideas on how this would work that would be fair for all.

Diversify work opportunities – Providing a varied work day for your employees is nearly impossible within the tree care industry, but what isn’t is creating a rotation where employees get to work in different areas every so often to break up the monotony of their work. This starts by having the roles and duties of each position outlined and written down for everyone. Then create a structure where each employee spends one day out of every two or three weeks in a different area of your business. That could mean that a production arborist may spend one day working with the plant health care crew and one day in the shop with your mechanic each month. Resist the urge to keep pounding production out of your best employees to avoid burnout.

Compensation – I listed this as the last tip, because while important to retaining employees, if you master the points above, compensation takes care of itself. With a flexible work schedule and chance for career development, warranted performance based pay increases become a normal part of your company’s culture. If you have trouble figuring out how much to pay your employees, start by using the TCIA’s Wage Survey.

Written by: Eric Petersen