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Crew management game-changer in North Carolina

April 22, 2020 -  By

“We are 100 percent working,” says Michael Hall, owner of ProGreen Turf & Landscape in Newport, N.C. “We haven’t slowed down.”

Hall says this time of year is always busy for his operation, but it seems busier than usual.

ProGreen Turf & Landscape’s provides about half design/build and half maintenance and turf management services to a 60 percent residential, 40 percent commercial clientele.

One of the biggest innovations to come out of COVID-19, Hall says, is how he’s approaching hiring. He’s noticed more applicants for jobs within the last week and not always from a landscaping background.

“We’ve upped our game on recruiting,” Hall says. “We’ve actually had an influx of females.”

Hall attributes this to two things: highlighting his female employees on social media and a new trial employment program. Following a phone interview, potential employees come into work a day.

“That’s the best way to hire somebody,” Hall says.

Employees fill out adequate paperwork and are paid $100 a day. He puts the new employees with strong crew leaders, and usually by lunch the first day, the crew leader has assessed whether the potential employee is a good fit.

“It doesn’t take much,” Hall says, and he’s impressed with how many female employees have taken advantage of this.

“Some of the females that were applying said they’d ‘give it a try for a day,’” Hall says.

One particular employee is a bartender and was looking for a new source of income after bars and restaurants in North Carolina closed due to COVID-19. She didn’t have any experience working outside, so she opted to try working for ProGreen Turf & Landscape for a day.

“And now she loves it,” Hall says.

Hall says he’s hired three women.

While ProGreen Turf & Landscape has plenty to do, Hall says he’s communicated with employees and clients about the measures they’re taking.

“We didn’t want one person to be at risk,” he says.

Start times are staggered. There’s a sanitizer bucket for each truck to spray tools and equipment down and he’s included handwashing stations at all worksites and port-o-johns on install sites, “even if it’s a one- or two-day job.”

Hall says this eliminates the added risk of employees stopping at a gas station and potentially being exposed to the virus, unnecessarily. He also limits trucks to one person and employees follow in personal vehicles.

Another innovation, Hall says, is how his employees have embraced using Slack to communicate while on job sites and instead of a weekly meeting. Hall calls it a game-changer.

“You send a message, get an answer and are done with it,” he says.

Hall sent out a mass text to all employees to download the app. He’s organized different channels between maintenance and install teams and he says it’s easy to disseminate information such as if it is supposed to rain and if crews need to shut down an install site.

“It makes it a lot easier to coordinate,” he says.

In a photo channel, employees are constantly sharing what they’re doing throughout the day. Now, his crews are trying to one-up each other on job sites whether it’s lawn striping or mowing patterns or designs with laying pavers.

“You’re getting your social media content,” he says. “They’re all competing for it. That’s been our home run. Everybody should have (Slack) for their company.”

Hall says while there’s a lot of good, he has noticed more micromanaging of clients since they’re home. One of his first customers who usually spends summers in Florida was very upset because tree suckers are coming up and he wasn’t sure what it was. Hall suspects it’s because this client had never seen the tree suckers before.

Another customer called and asked why ProGreen didn’t come out and mow. But, this customer’s contract was biweekly up to May and the client hadn’t noticed before.

“People are at home, and they’ve got nothing to do but look at their yard,” Hall says. “Every little detail, they’re picking out.”

Hall had hoped to apply for the Paycheck Production Program in the recent Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act, but he was unable to.

Christina Herrick

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