Knowledge Transfer to Better Your Business

Knowledge Transfer to Better your Business

According to a study from the Work Institute, the estimated costs of employee turnover ranges from 33% to as much as 200% of the departing employee’s salary. Costs include lost revenue from reduced human resource levels, project delays, accidents, recruiting, training and on-boarding new personnel. The range of cost is affected by the skills and experience (knowledge) lost with the employee. Consider the difference between losing a seasonal employee to the cost of replacing a long-term retiring employee with advanced skills and years of experience with the company and the profession. With the later, the loss to the company is not only an employee but the knowledge that employee provided to the success of the operation.

Understanding that knowledge loss is the major casualty of employee turnover is the first step towards better employee management.

Researchers began studying the impacts of knowledge loss in the early 1990’s. The concern was related to one generation retiring and the knowledge lost as retirements increased. From that research the concept of knowledge transfer developed. Knowledge transfer is a method of sharing information, abilities, and ideas across different areas of your business. It helps capture the knowledge before it leaves the organization and is then used to train replacements, expand service offering and or cross train employees to increase efficiency.

One of the major benefits of a structured knowledge transfer process is uncovering the ‘special sauce’. People who have mastered their job have skills and experience that make them more successful. In addition to having the knowledge, they know when, where, and how to use that knowledge to work effectively…the special sauce.

Googling ‘knowledge transfer’ will give you a whole host of resources, however, the Knowledge Maverick is a free web resource which can assist you with understanding the concept of knowledge transfer and how to implement it within your company. They have developed a series of questions to get you started. The questions were developed to be answered in a conversation between the person with the knowledge, and the person interested in receiving the knowledge. The conversations will help develop more questions and productive discussion. They are also a good framework for employee mentors.

Lastly, there are knowledge transfer professionals that can assist you in developing a transfer system. Because the loss of knowledge within your company represents a large risk to the health of the organization, ArboRisk has created a Knowledge Transfer portion of Thrive to lower this exposure. Don’t hesitate to reach out to the ArboRisk team to learn more.

Written by: Jim Skiera

Better Relationships = Better Recruiting

Better Relationships = Better Recruiting

Recruiting new employees to your company is typically one of the hardest parts about owning a tree care company. There are so many creative ideas to recruit new employees that one article can not simply cover them all so I want to just focus on one very powerful way; organizations.

What I mean by organizations, are the membership based groups that are well established and have a mission to help their members. Your local ISA chapter, a military veteran organization, a local chamber of commerce are all examples of established organizations whose goal is to serve their members.

Recruiting within organizations does not happen immediately, but when done correctly, will create a long pipeline of future employees for your company. To be successful, you need to create a positive relationship between your company and the organization. Volunteering your time and talents for the organization is the quickest way to provide value and begin to create a great relationship that will turn into a recruiting hot spot for you.

Now with so many great organizations out there, how do you choose which one to invest in to see the best results? Below are the four areas that you should look at when assessing each organization that you are contemplating working with.

– Members – You need to get a feel of what their membership demographic consists of. How many total members are there? What are the ages of the members? Does the organization know what the positions or titles of their members are? All of these questions will help you understand if your ideal employee is a part of this organization or not.

– Events – The best way to meet a potential new hire is in person. So ask the organizations what they have for events. Are there any Job Fairs or specific hiring events? If so, how many potential employees come to them? How about informal networking events? What about any multi-day conferences?

– Marketing – Learn how the organization communicates with its members. Gain an understanding by simply asking the organization if they send out a newsletter or email blast? Would you be able to write an article within their newsletter so prospective employees begin to see your name? Are there any sponsorship or advertising opportunities that you could engage in? The more your personal name and business name get promoted by the organization, the better reputation and more likely it is that new employees will come to you for their next job.

– Leadership – Understanding who the centers of influence are within each organization is a critical task to choosing which organization to partner with. This isn’t necessarily apparent from looking at an organization’s website, so you’ll have to do some digging to find this out. Is there an Executive Director who is a full time position? If so, get to know them personally. Are there long-standing Board members or very influential members who provide advice and direction for the organization? Who is in charge of the events? Each of these questions will help identify who are the movers and shakers within the organization and are the ones you need to connect with to get in front of more new hires.

Learning about these four areas for each organization will help determine which one you should focus on for recruiting efforts. As you know, a solid recruiting plan takes effort to build deep relationships, so do not try to get involved with too many organizations.

If you would like more help with Hiring & Recruiting for your tree care company, please contact ArboRisk today!

Written by: Eric Petersen

Personality Testing for Employers

Personality Testing For Employers

How many times have you heard someone say, “I hire for personality not skills”? It’s a common theme amongst many owners and managers even in skilled labor industries like tree care world. So what does that mean and why are they doing it?


The simple response that you will hear is that skills can be taught, personality cannot. I agree with this thought process and want to give you an article devoted to figuring out what personalities you have currently and what type you’d like to build your team around.


Find the Right Tool – Just like using the proper sized saw for a removal job, the first step is to commit to using a tool to help identify key characteristics that you want to see in your team members. There are many personality tests on the market today, however, my favorite one is True Colors. True Colors is a simple personality test that helps highlight how individuals communicate and what they value most which in turn helps create a better team atmosphere within your organization.


I first was introduced to the True Colors system while attending a Leadership Workshop for the ISA a few years ago. All of the participants at the workshop took the short test and were split up into groups based on our colors. It was incredible to see how accurate the simple test was at identifying our core personalities. Throughout the workshop, we wore nametags that had our primary color listed. It helped all of us communicate much better and understand where the other party was coming from when discussing certain topics. Because I found it so powerful, I brought it back to the Wisconsin Arborist Association to do with our Board Members and internally for my team at my agency. Knowing how others communicate has been a tremendous help to accomplishing any of our goals.


Test Your Current Staff – Once you choose which tool you will use, have your current employees take the profile and discuss the results with each of them individually. What did you learn about your top performers? Are there common traits amongst the best within your team? What skills does your team lack as a whole? Learning from these tests will help you identify what type of person you want to hire next. It also can help you recognize if you have someone in the wrong role. Perhaps, one of your production climbers would be better suited as a sales person because of their personality. Or maybe the opposite, a person on the sales team would be better fit for technical work like consulting or plant health care. Understanding who you have on your team and how they interact with others is an enormous benefit to you as the leader of the organization.


Use with Interviewees – Lastly, when you are looking to bring in someone to your team, have them take the same test that the rest of the team has. Make sure that their personality will fit the position that they are applying for. Too often in the tree care industry, owner’s hire anybody with a pulse and a driver’s license. This will only do one thing; set up the business and new employee for future pain and trouble when personalities clash and internal issues arise that would have been prevented if they were never hired.


Getting the right person on your team is difficult to do, however, using personality tests can be a great tool for you. And because there always seems to be a shortage of potential employees, check out our article on the 5 Hiring Hotspots to get some ideas on how to start recruiting top notch talent.


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

Do I Need an Employee Handbook?

Do I Need an Employee Handbook?

While not specifically required by law, having an employee handbook is a great business practice that will set the tone for your entire business operation. Unfortunately, there is a lot of negative stigma surrounding employee handbooks. This article will help you understand the importance of a handbook and debunk some of the more common myths about them.


The purpose of an employee handbook is to outline the operating rules for the business so that every employee knows what is to be expected of them. Company policies such as vacation time, sick days and dress code are cornerstones of a handbook, but they also need to address topics such as Family Medical Leave Act (FMLA) and the American’s with Disabilities Act (ADA).


These company policies set up the same rules for everyone and allow the business to govern seemlessly. The goal is to be fair to all employees so that special preferences do not impede production of the entire team. Also, when the policies within the handbook are consistently followed and applied, the business has a much better chance at being successful in defending itself from a lawsuit brought on by an employee.


A few of the more common myths are:


Myth #1 – Handbooks are too dry and employees don’t read them anyways.
Okay, an employee handbook obviously isn’t going to make the best seller list, but that does not mean the employee will not read it. When the employee handbook is part of the initial employee on-boarding process, it becomes the most beneficial tool to explain the ins and outs of your company. Having the employee sign to acknowledge that they read the handbook is also a good way to get the employees to read the information.


Myth #2 – Having a handbook creates more liability.
I’ve heard plenty of business owners say that they don’t want to have their policies in writing because they could be held liable if they don’t follow the same process every time. However, that is exactly why you do need to have a handbook, to make sure the policies are followed the same way each time. When one employee gets treated differently than the next, you open up a possibility of getting sued for discrimination. Close that opportunity by having a handbook and following what it says. Of course, if you have a handbook and you choose not to follow what is written in it, you will create more potential liability for your company.


Myth #3 – Creating an employee handbook costs too much.
On average, the cost to settle an employment related lawsuit out of court is $40,000. These cases typically surround one particular issue that was not clearly defined in the company’s handbook. Because both sides claim the opposite viewpoint on the issue, these suits can be settled out of court. However, if the lawsuit goes to trial, just the defense costs alone average $75,000, without a certainty of a positive verdict. In my experience, the typical cost to get an employee handbook created by an attorney is about $1,500. So if you are faced with a $40,000 bill or a $1,500 fee to establish the proper procedures, which would you prefer?


By understanding the importance of your employee handbook and following the procedures that you have established, you will be able to improve your employee relations and position your business for faster growth.


Written by: Eric Petersen