On Boarding New Employees

On Boarding New Employees

The Society of Human Resource Management (SHRM) estimates that 33% of new hires begin looking for new positions within six months of hire! That is a huge percentage!

As you know, bringing on a new team member takes a considerable amount of time and energy. However, what often happens next is the effort that went into finding the right talent creates a temporary sense of relief, and the energy level of your management team drops. The on-boarding of the new employee is typically limited to filling out all the paperwork and sending the recruit out to fit into the work environment to learn the job and company culture. Magically they become a member of the team. You know they have the skills and experience to succeed so integration should just happen right? Not quite.

SHRM research also finds that it costs up to 9 months of an employee’s salary to find and replace an employee and that a proper on-boarding process lowers recruitment costs, increases employee retention rate by 50%, as well as increasing productivity by as much as 54%.

One of the main reasons employees leave is because they are not engaged with their new role and don’t feel like part of the team. Why? Because no one took the time to teach them the duties of the job, culture and ground rules.

Top performing tree care companies, the ones you’re competing with for talent, look at on-boarding as the process of integrating a new employee into the company culture, as well as getting a new hire the tools and information needed to become a productive member of the team. It starts during the interview process and continues, step by step, until the employee is actively engaged and productive. The development of a thorough and repeatable on-boarding experience is an investment every company should make.

How to Develop an On-boarding Process

To start, let’s not confuse on-boarding with orientation. Orientation is the start of the process and typically lasts a week or so. It consists of filling out all the paperwork, going over the employee handbook, work rules, job duties, introduction to other team members and other routine tasks. On-boarding is a comprehensive process involving management and other employees that can last up to 12 months.

Here’s some key questions for the company leadership to answer while developing an on-boarding process:

What impression do you want new hires to walk away with at the end of the first day?
What do new employees need to know about the culture and work environment?
What role will HR play in the process? What about direct managers? Co-workers?
What kind of goals do you want to set for new employees?
How will you gather feedback on the program and measure its success?
Once these questions have been answered, devise an action plan to help new employees quickly assimilate company policies and workflow, while getting fully acquainted with the organization’s culture. We know tree care is a high-risk occupation. It is vital the on-boarding process includes regular and consistent briefings on the risks and hazards associated with daily operations. This is typically where the injuries occur, clear communication is required to operate as a team on the job site, and we all know each crew has its own language and set of expectations.

Something often overlooked, is the impact of on-boarding on the existing team members. Psychologist, Bruce Tuckman first described a path that teams follow during on-boarding of a new employee. Understanding this impact will be beneficial when establishing your on-boarding process.

Forming – “Welcome to the team”. Initially this stage can be very positive, however, formal processes and frameworks have not yet been established and the ground rules are not known by all team members. The strengths and weakness of other all team members may also not be known yet.

Storming– At this stage the team members begin to understand their role and what is expected. When new members are added, new skills and expectations are added to the mix, which can be a source of frustration. In this stage, the team leader needs to be aware of the stress put on the team associated with the integration and training of the new employee, and the challenges it presents to keep the work completed on time.

Norming– If integration is successful, the team will begin to hit its stride by working productively as a team. Each member understands their strengths as well as the strengths of others.

Performing– The final stage of the on-boarding process is when the team is functioning at a high level. Adding and removing team members at this point will have minimal impact, as it will allow the team to communicate team expectations quickly and effectively to new members.

Creating a solid on-boarding process is as simple as knowing what questions to ask your leadership team and considering each of the four stages above.

For help with creating an on-boarding process for your company, contact ArboRisk to get signed up for our Thrive program.

Written by: Jim Skiera

5 Steps to Adult Learning

5 Steps to Adult Learning

It’s true, we never stop learning. And as an owner of a tree care company, you have to make sure your employees continually learn. Think about how many different things your employees need to know to work safely. Ensuring your employees have a strong understanding of everything that goes into that, is one of the most important obligations you have as the owner.

But the thing is, not everyone learns the same way.

In early March, I attended the Certified Tree Safety Professional (CTSP) workshop in Lisle, IL. For those of you who have gone through this program, you know it doesn’t just hone in on the technical side of safety in the tree care world. In fact, the majority of the first day was spent on how employees learn so that we can get our messages/lessons across more efficiently.

As employers, you are responsible for many different types of learners. Some may prefer hands on, some may be visual, some may even prefer lecture. To make sure you cater to all types of learners, I’ve highlighted the Five Steps to Adult Learning below:

The Set-Up: This piece is where you introduce the purpose of the activity. I.e. laying out the ground rules. You’ll want to explain the “why” for what you are teaching, and give your employees a good understanding of the process that goes along with it.

Participation: Once you’ve explained to your employees why and how to do something, have them participate in the activity. If it is more on the mental side, such as “How to have a safety conscious mindset” be sure to use specific scenarios and ask open ended questions as you work through it. If it is something like chipper safety, demonstrate the activity, properly covering all the steps, then have your employee go through the same procedure with a supervisor watching over them.

Interpretation: 80% of the material we learn is forgotten within 24 hours. Addressing the main points of the activity and remembering each step will help reiterate the lesson. Below are some questions that can help employees review and relate what they just learned.

What were the key points of the activity?
What were the easiest/most difficult pieces?
Would you do anything differently?

Identify The Concept: By the age of 18-21, most will be able to identify their sense of “self”, ultimately recognizing how they learn best based on what has worked in the past. Relating the activity to past experiences will allow the lesson to piggyback on concepts your employee already understands. Here are some questions to help with that:

Where else have you seen these concepts?
Name another activity you can utilize the steps in.
Which steps were new? What did you already know?

Apply: It is important your employees understand why and when to apply what they’ve been taught. Re-visit the why, and ask some of the following questions to ensure your employees will utilize the concepts when they need to.

When will you use this approach in the field?
What are some scenarios that may make this approach more difficult? How will you prepare?
Explain the process to a team member(teaching helps the learning process)
One of my biggest takeaways from the class was the importance of asking open ended questions. Doing so gives your employees the opportunity to demonstrate their knowledge and express any concerns along the way. I know many of the safety meetings may come about after seeing something in the field, so choose a couple of questions that work for you, and utilize them when you see things pop up. And no matter how much experience an employee may have, critical steps in processes can often be overlooked or forgotten. Consider taking a seasoned vet vs a well trained newbie and comparing the differences. Could be an interesting outcome!

If you have any more questions or interest in getting help with your safety program/committee, feel free to reach out. Be safe!

Written by: Malcolm Jeffris, CTSP

Career Paths for Arborists

Career Paths for Arborists

So I know you want to keep your best employees with your company for as long as possible, especially since you own a tree service and good team members are hard to come by. And you probably already know that one of the top reasons why talented employees quit is because they do not see a future with their employer. What is even more frustrating is that most of the time the advancement opportunities are there or could be created for those high performing employees, there just was a breakdown in communication and the employee went looking for a different job.

How do you easily inform your current and future employees of the advancement opportunities within your company? My simple answer is to build a career path. Make an easy to follow diagram to show how an employee can progress through your company. Even if you are a small tree service and there are not be many positions available, set up different levels of their position based on skills and training so they have an idea how to develop their career.

To start creating your career path, ask yourself these four questions:

What are all of the different positions in your company today?
Will you be adding any new positions in the near future?
What is a logical career projection for an entry level employee?
What skills do you need at each position?
Use the answers to these questions to begin laying out the foundation of the career path.

When guiding some of my clients through this exercise, I’ve found it helpful to take a sheet of paper and turn it horizontally. Start with putting the entry level position on the far left side and move to the right adding the next level positions one at a time. In between each position draw a line to show the progression of the advancement. There may be a point where the employee could move into more than one position, like sales or plant health care; split the career path to show multiple ways for the employee to continue their career.

Pro Tip: Grab your job descriptions and use those. You probably already have your career path figured out within the different job descriptions for your company. These should list the skills required for each position.

Once you have the layout of the career path assembled, make notes based on what differentiates each level from the previous one. For instance, if you have a Climber I and Climber II positions, what training or skills must the Climber II employee possess? It could be a designation like the Certified Arborist or Aerial Lift Specialist or that they passed an in-house test to make the jump into the next level. Plotting these requirements out onto the diagram will quickly show any employee where they are in the career path and give them an easy visual of where they can go.

Your next step is to hand the piece of paper with your career path on it to someone in your office that can make the document look good. Making this document attractive and easy to understand is very important.

Lastly, communicate the career path with each individual on your team. Make it crystal clear to them that if they invest in themselves and their careers they will get rewarded by moving up in the organization.

If you’d like to see a sample career path that we created, email me directly at eric@arboriskinsurance.com and I’ll send one your way.

Written by: Eric Petersen

5 Tips to Become a Champion Recruiter

5 Tips to Become a Champion Recruiter

Did Nick Saban become the country’s best college football recruiter overnight? Of course not. Does he benefit from the history of the Alabama football program? Of course. But what really sets him apart is how he makes being an Alabama recruit the ONLY thing that a blue chip high school player thinks about.

I know what you are thinking, getting excited to play football in Tuscaloosa is drastically different than getting excited to work in the tree care industry, right? But is it really much different? After all, you want someone who is going to be passionate and not stop until they reach their peak, just like Coach Saban.

Following Coach Saban’s lead, here are my tips to becoming a champion recruiter in the tree care industry.

Company Culture – New recruits go to Alabama because they want to win a national championship. That is the culture and expectation that has been set by Coach Saban and his staff. Everyone knows it and understands their role in how to achieve it together. The culture focuses on the team success, not individual performances. Obviously, a tree service must have a team first approach as well, but creating a desirable culture can be difficult for tree care owners. There are no national championship trophies to hoist or conference rivalries to get excited about. So find pride in what you do and rally around that. Whether it is your unrelenting commitment to safety, the desire to enhance your customer’s lives by maintaining their trees, or the goal to plant more trees than you remove, it needs to be clearly defined to become the best tree service you can be. That message must be known and embraced by everyone on your team. When you have it, your company culture will start recruiting new employees for you.

Identify Future Staffing Needs – Just like in college football, turnover on your team is inevitable. No matter how great your company is, you will always have employees who leave your organization either to a municipality or to start their own company or need to switch careers because their body cannot handle the daily workload anymore. So do not avoid thinking about turnover, plan on it happening. Look at your current team and think about timeline for each person to be moving on from their current role. Also, look for ways that each individual can still remain a part of your organization. In doing so, you will have identified your future staffing needs and started creating internal career paths that can help retain those team members and recruit new ones.

Set Key Characteristics – Do you know what characteristics you want in an employee? Have you written them down? When looking at your current team members, what makes them a valuable asset to your company? Write down the desirable traits so you can start to build an ideal employee profile. At Alabama, the coaching staff has a very specific set of physical (height, weight, speed, strength) and personality traits (motivation, discipline, academics) that they stick to. If someone does not fit within their desired profile, they pass on them. Due to the lack of prospective employees in the tree care industry, it makes this part of recruiting much more difficult for you. However, every one of us has hired someone out of desperation that did not fit with what you want but you needed another person to do the work. Many times, this is the individual that is the most challenging to manage, they are the ones that get hurt and cause accidents. Be specific on who you want and don’t settle just because you need a body.

Be Present to Create the Pipeline – Being selective with your new hires can only happen when you have options. For that to happen you must build your recruiting pipeline just like college coaches do. You and your company must be present in the areas that your new hires will be. Depending on what who your ideal new employee is, this could mean having a physical presence at local high school and college career fairs or working with them to develop internships, or having an interactive booth at a 4-H or FFA conference. In addition to being physically present, you must be visible on the correct social media platforms (hint: Instagram not Facebook) showing why a career in the tree care industry is exciting and rewarding. If you haven’t looked at www.outsidecareers.org, do so today. They have some great information and stories that you can use to recruit new employees. After all, isn’t that really what Coach Saban uses? Stories from former players and alumni on how their time at Alabama shaped their lives into what they are today.

Always be Recruiting – The NCAA puts restrictions on how and when college football coaches can recruit high school players, but in the tree care industry the only limit on recruiting efforts is what you place on yourself. Putting a year round emphasis on recruiting is the best way to create the pipeline of prospective employees that you can tap into when you need it. Don’t delay recruiting until someone hands you their two week notice or when you finally land that big job and need more employees to complete it. Recognize recruiting it as a critical component of your business and one that must be given time and energy to be effective.

Becoming a champion recruiter takes a lot of time and hard work, but the rewards pay off tenfold. Just ask Nick Saban where his football program would be if he was not getting the right players to come play for him.

Need help creating a recruiting plan? Helping tree care owners become champion recruiters is one of the many services that we offer through Thrive.

Written by: Eric Petersen

Hiring Best Practices

Hiring Best Practices

Hiring Best Practices

Hiring is one of the most difficult challenges that a business owner faces, especially in the tree care world. Despite the frustrations that hiring presents, you can get great employees on your team by setting up a structure for your hiring process. And as you know, better employees will help your company grow which in turn will attract even more all-star employees.


So here are my four Hiring Best Practices that you can use to assemble the best team possible.


1.Initial Paperwork: Job Description, Application and Background Authorization Forms – To get the right person for the job, you must be able to define the work that you want them to do. Having written job descriptions for each position is a critical. The job description can be used to promote the position opening as well. An application for employment that includes authorization forms for background checks, including driving record checks is the second part of the initial paperwork that you should have before you hire someone. Checking the applicant’s references and driving record should be one of the first things you do to assess their potential for employment with your company.


2. Interviews – I recommend that the interview process is done in three steps…


Start with a phone interview with a few predetermined questions. You can find out a lot of great information about the applicant before you spend any more time on them by simple talking to them over the phone first. Two things that you will notice immediately with a phone interview are the punctuality of the applicant and how prepared they are. Do they answer right away or does it go to voicemail? You will be able to tell if they are driving (risky behavior?) or sitting in a quiet area. Ask questions to gauge their devotion to safety and how important it is to them as well as what their past experiences are.


If they pass the initial phone interview, schedule an in-person interview with the hiring manager and one of the potential crew leaders. Having two people in on each interview helps protect your company for any he said/she said arguments that may arise if an individual isn’t hired by your company.


The last interview should be an informal group interview where the applicant gets to meet some of the crew members that they would be working with to learn how their personalities will fit with your current team. The hiring manager and crew leader should not be present during this time so the applicant feels secure to be him or herself. The best way to facilitate this is to have the applicant drive out to a job site for a quick lunch with the crew. It is very obvious who will fit in with your culture and who will not during an informal interview like this.


3. Physical Testing – After the applicant passes each of the interviews, it is time to see if they have the physical skills and capabilities necessary to perform the job. This can include having them do a skills test for knot tying, chainsaw knowledge or a climbing test. Perhaps you want to see their tree ID skills or plant health care knowledge. A driving test with one of your larger trucks and trailers is also a great idea to complete at this stage of the hiring process. Lastly, have the applicant go into your local Occupational Health Clinic for a pre-employment physical or ergonomic assessment. This is imperative step to make sure you are not hiring a Work Comp claim!


One very important thing to note on pre-employment testing is that no matter what skills you test for, make sure they are directly related to the job they will be performing.


4. Post Hire On-Boarding – After the applicant has made it through all of the interviews and pre-employment testing, you must make sure the beginning of their employment goes smoothly. This is the time to establish a fantastic start to their career with your organization. Having a proper new employee training and on-boarding procedure is very important in giving that new team member the best attention right away.


If any of this seems overwhelming remember the goal is to hire the best person possible. I’m sure you have hired someone you shouldn’t have just because you needed another body on your team. Looking back at that, it is usually easy to see how you spent a lot more time and money on that person than you would have if you spent your time finding the right fit for your team. I guarantee you won’t regret starting to implement these best practices into your hiring process the next time you need to add someone.

Written by: Eric Petersen

Effective Delegation

Effective Delegation

Delegation. A simple concept that is extremely difficult for some, especially for a business owner of a growing tree care company. Perhaps the definition of the word can help those out? Merriam-Webster defines delegation as; the act of empowering to act for another. True leaders do not merely pass off work that they do not want to. They inspire and empower their team to perform tasks that help achieve the overall mission of the organization. Below are my five tips to successful delegation.


Understand Your Value to Your Team – As the owner, you obviously have the ultimate responsibility to make sure the business stays afloat and remains profitable. Unfortunately, many times the pressure to keep the doors open makes you think you should be doing everything for the company because no one knows your business quite like you do. Naturally you push yourself into tasks that you are not qualified or passionate about and it has a ripple effect on your organization. The best leaders understand what their value is to the team. Where is your time best spent for the greatest benefit to the entire organization? Take account of your skills and passions. Pay attention to what really gets you excited and remind yourself why you wanted to be an owner. Are you great with numbers and setting goals or is the physical work more to your liking? What value do you add to the organization above and beyond others? I have seen many successful tree care companies where the owner is still in production because his or her passion lies in proper tree care versus the paperwork and management side of things. Define your role for your team so that you can delegate the rest of the tasks.


Utilize Your Team Member’s Strengths – Effective delegation occurs when duties are shifted to the appropriate team member. Build your team with people that have the strengths that you need in your organization. Confirm those strengths with each individual so you know that they are on the same page with you. There are plenty of production arborists who are natural sales people. If sales is an area of weakness for you, explore transferring that role to them instead of struggling along just because you are the owner. There will be some training necessary when delegating any task or responsibility so be open and willing to commit to teaching those skills and knowledge to your team.


Begin With the Why – Everyone wants to know what’s in it for them. If you are delegating more work to your team, give them the reasons why early and often. If your team members feel they are having work dumped on them without knowing why the morale of your team will suffer dramatically.


Inspire Your Team – When people understand why they have been assigned a new task they can accept that extra obligation. However, to truly be a top level delegator, you must inspire your team at the same time. Every one of your team members will find inspiration a little differently. Think about why the goals of the organization would be meaningful to every individual. What do they get excited about? Why did they join your company? Parlay that knowledge of your team members to motivate them not only to accept the task being delegated, but to get them to reach out for more responsibility.


Trust Your Team and They Will Trust You – This should go without saying, but when you delegate a task it is imperative that you trust your team to accomplish it. Checking in on the progress of the task, especially if it is new to them, is good to do, however, avoid the most common mistake with delegation; micro-managing. No one wants an assignment handed to them only to be told exactly how to do it. Learning to trust that your team will get the work done can be challenging for some owners. There will most likely be some small mistakes and the outcome of the task may not look exactly like it would have if you did it, however, if you stomp your feet and get upset you can guarantee that you will lose the trust of your employees. Once that is gone, it will take a long time to get it back.


Delegation is such a critical part of running a successful business and fortunately it is a skill that can be learned and developed. Use these five tips to begin to consciously think about delegation within your organization and how you can improve on it.

Written by: Eric Petersen