Develop Your Employees, or They’ll Leave

Develop Your Employees, Or They’ll LEave

Of all of the factors relating to successful employee retention, one of the most important is employee development. An employee that feels secure and proud with how their career is developing will be a loyal employee. Unfortunately, this is an area in which a lot of business owner’s struggle. There are a vast array of reasons that employers do not help their employees achieve their goals. From not knowing what the employee really wants, to not having time to invest in their employee’s career growth, to not wanting their employees to get better and leave to start their own company. Each of these reasons prevent the business owner from conquering the employee retention debacle. In this article, I want to share with you a few ideas to consider when installing an intentional employee development program within your business.


Notice how I said intentional employee development program? The very first step is to commit to forming a definitive plan for your team members. Let go of the fear that your employees will get better than you and leave your organization. Sure this will happen with some, but even then, the former employee will be grateful for their start with your company and return the goodwill to you in unimaginable ways. You must tackle this issue head on and do it with your employee’s benefit in mind.


Individual Career Path – Of course we all know that not everyone in your company will be able to, or want to, progress upwards into management. For this simple reason, you must individualize the career opportunities to the employee’s goals and desires. Start by asking the employee what they want out of their career. What matters most to them? Don’t assume they want to make a lot of money or want to have ownership in the business. If they do, that is fine, but let them tell you that. More and more employees prioritize more time with their friends and families, as opposed to income. Next, look at the current positions within your company and show them how a particular position would satisfy their career desires. Also, share with them what qualities a person must have to be successful in that position. These conversations will lay the groundwork for training and experiences that the employee will need to obtain. With the employee, write down their goals and objectives and review them at each employee evaluation to see how they have progressed or, check to see if their goals have changed.


Support for Training – Once you have discussed where the employee wants to go with their career, it is necessary to engage and support that employee with training. Be as open and supportive as possible when getting a request from an employee to go to a training session. Training is expensive, especially when you take that employee out of production, but it is still a lot cheaper than the costs associated with employee turnover. Sending employees to ISA and TCIA conferences, or to CTSP or TRAQ classes, are all ways to help that employee better their skills and further their career. Make the TCIA Magazine and Reporter available for everyone to read and see what is happening in the industry. You will be surprised how often an employee will want to go to a class they find interesting when they know you will support their career education.


Communication then Creativity – Every employer needs to work on their communication skills. Being able to listen to their team members concerns and suggestions are pivotal in helping each employee reach their potential. Allowing the employees to openly discuss issues they are facing within the company and in their personal life will garner trust between both people. When the employee begins to trust that the employer is looking out for that individual above the company goals, then the magic happens. Creativity begins to grow. When an employee feels comfortable to share ideas on improving their daily work, whether it be exploring new climbing techniques or revising the sales process, that employee’s view on their importance within the company soars. Fostering an environment where the communication throughout the organization supports the development of every individual is the fastest way to organizational success.


Everyone wants to feel that they are part of the winning equation within your organization. Be the leader that your employees want you to be and help them achieve their career goals. If you don’t, they’ll be sure to walk out the door and find an employer that will support them.

Written by: Eric Petersen

4 Tips for Effective Employee Evaluations

4 Tips for Effective Employee Evaluations

Written By: Eric Petersen, CIC

Why are employee evaluations met with such anxiety for the employee and the manager performing them? I believe it’s because of the way that they traditionally were performed. The manager would have a laundry list of items that the employee can improve upon and felt required to discuss just those items and create goals on how to change their behavior. An evaluation set up like this is doomed to fail from the beginning. In today’s society and especially in the tree care industry, it is imperative to support your employees and help them develop as a person, to truly gain their trust and loyalty to the company. Below are my 4 tips to restructuring your employee evaluations to help maximize the relationship with your team members. 

Plan for & Prepare Ahead of Time – Evaluations should never be done spur of the moment. The employees will always feel a little bit of fear before an evaluation, however, scheduling it in advance and letting them know what you will be discussing goes a long way towards having a productive meeting. Make sure that you take notes on their performance throughout the year to supplement the conversation that pops up. Do this by keeping a list of positive and negative behavior that you or the crew leader have noticed throughout the year. The more concrete examples you can use to reinforce the right attitude you are looking for the more accepting the employee will be of the process. 

Don’t Call it a Review – Unfortunately, the word ‘review’ carries a negative connotation with it. When an employee hears that they will be having an employee review, a wave a panic almost always will sweep through their body. This puts them into a defensive position and mindset that will be counterproductive to the goals of the meeting. At my agency, we call it a check point. For us, a checkpoint is a time for both the manager and the employee to formally check in with each other. We ask the employee to grade themselves on their proficiency or comfortability levels within their technical skills/knowledge, their customer interaction skills and overall company goals. We then ask how we can help them improve within these categories.

Engage the Employee – This should be a discussion between both parties, not a lecture by the manager. Give the employee a series of questions before the meeting to give them the chance to participate in the conversation. Be as specific as you can for their position. For instance questions for a climber could include:

  • What is your comfort level with different climbing techniques (SRT vs. DRT)?
  • What additional skill or piece of equipment would you like to develop competency in?
  • What is the largest challenge that you face each day and how can we make that better for you?
  • If you were CEO for a day, what would you do different?

Once a Year is NOT Enough – While performing multiple employee evaluations throughout the year may seem like overkill, just doing one of them is not nearly enough. In this industry where turnover is such a huge issue, consistent feedback from the employee is vital to their happiness and success. Make employee evaluations a quarterly priority for both sides. It will open up communication even greater within your company and gives you a pulse of how that employee is doing so they don’t take another job without you having some indication.

Additionally, a few things you definitely want to avoid in an employee evaluation are:

  • Making promises that you can’t keep regarding employee development or pay.
  • Making comparisons between employees.
  • Pretending to have all of the answers and not being open to suggestions for improvement.

Lastly, think back to when you were an employee, I’m sure you wanted to know how you were doing and what you can improve upon. More importantly, you wanted to know that your employer was truly interested in your individual success. If you succeed in promoting each employee’s individual success, you will see these employee evaluations transform your business in a short time.

If you need additional help with hiring and recruiting quality employees, or developing the leaders within your tree care company, contact our Thrive team today to learn more about our Hiring and Recruiting Thrive Package or our Leadership Development Package!

7 Tips for Retaining Great Employees

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