Hitting performance targets

March 12, 2015 -  By
Photo: ©istock.com/hudiemm

Photo: ©istock.com/hudiemm

How three firms tackle performance goals for maintenance crews, including establishing standards and recognizing employees for meeting or surpassing their marks.

Path to success

ND Landscape
Georgetown, Mass.

At ND Landscape, it was confirmed with a set of Legos—more specifically, the directions to a set of Legos.

The target was to put a Lego set together as quickly as possible. And the team-building exercise proved ND Landscape’s employees performed quicker and more efficiently when referring to the directions versus going rogue.

“It makes so much sense,” says Billy Butts, business development manager for commercial maintenance and snow. “Why not give them a formal, written, color-coded set of directions?”

A year later, the company has adopted that same principle in the field in the form of a “path of motion chart” for its six maintenance crews. It’s become the foundation for how the $7 million firm, accruing 50 percent of that annual revenue from maintenance, outlines performance targets for crews and keeps track of whether they’re on mark with them.

“At any time the field operations manager shows up on the job site, he can go to the truck to look at the path of motion and see where crews are on the property,” Butts says.

The document provides what tasks each crew members should be doing and where on the property in any given moment of the allotted time for a job. The plan is created from Go iLawn, an online property measurement program, to map out a property and a Gantt chart to indicate how long each piece of equipment should be running and in what particular area of the site. The company is working to create a chart for every site it offers routine services to, Butts says. After that’s accomplished, he plans to put in place an incentive program to formally recognize employees for staying on track.

Budgeted hours or bust

Reliable Property Services
St. Paul, Minn.

As an operations manager at Reliable Property Services, John Valtakis oversees all operations in Minnesota, including 15 mowing crews.

With the majority of Reliable’s maintenance accounts being commercial, Valtakis  generates “project guides” for every property from a bid template in Microsoft Excel. The guides include budgeted hours for the job. Crews reference those to get a grip on what they need to accomplish in their budgeted hours.

Give crews all the info they need to succeed in the allotted time for a job. Here, ND Landscape employees scope out one of the company’s ‘path of motion charts’ to understand what lies ahead. Photo: ND Landscape

Give crews all the info they need to succeed in the allotted time for a job. Here, ND Landscape employees scope out one of the company’s ‘path of motion charts’ to understand what lies ahead. (Photo: ND Landscape)

Also, it’s Valtakis’s job to analyze those hours and communicate to foremen whether their crews are performing on target within the budgeted hours or alarmingly above or below. He also publicizes this by posting reports in the break room every week.
Though Reliable has used the project guides for seven years—the $27 million firm has been around for eight years—it’s only been monetarily incentivizing employees for four years. It does that through scoring their performance in four areas:
1. quality, determined by site inspections;
2. whether they’ve met budgeted hours;
3. safety, based on workers’ comp claims and accidents; and
4. whether paperwork is turned in on time.
(See sidebar below for more on how to score performance.)

If a crew hits all those scores at the end of the month, the foreman gets a bonus of $250 and each crew member receives $100, Valtakis says.

At the end of the day, it’s all about having a good handle on your crews, he adds.
“We’re in business to make money,” he says. “Your largest cost on the maintenance side is the labor. You have to control that.”

Keep it customer-centric

Go Green Gardeners
Van Nuys, Calif.

At Go Green Gardeners, maintenance crews don’t step foot on a new job site before Owner Anne Phillips steps out of the client’s home with an ink-splattered piece of paper in hand.

Without “the form,” supervisors have no way to communicate to crews what they must accomplish and how within the budgeted hours. It outlines maintenance crews’ performance targets for the property based on the customers’ expectations—all the way down to what type of equipment to use, such as electric versus gas, and how they like their hedges or shrubs trimmed.

The firm has used this simple method for five years now. Doing about $250,000 in annual revenue, with 40 percent of that attributable to maintenance, the company typically runs two maintenance crews of about four people each.

In terms of rewarding crews for hitting their marks, Go Green Gardeners is in an unusual situation in that it subcontracts its maintenance work through a nonprofit, giving Phillips no control over wages or bonuses. An added layer to partnering with the nonprofit is that the crews are comprised of developmentally disabled adults, plus two supervisors. This makes incentivizing for a job well done a bit different, too.

“We move them up within the crew so they can learn different skill sets,” Phillips says. “They can rake, then we train them how to use the mower and the blower and then go on to more detailed pruning or how to repair irrigation systems.”

Bill Arman

Bill Arman

Scoring performance with ‘Q3EST’

Bill Arman, head harvester—west coast of The Harvest Group, advises contractors to refer to the acronym Q3EST to define and measure performance targets. Here’s what it stands for and how you should use it.

Q: Quantity of work and/or additional assignments, measured by monetary billings or man-hours responsible for;
Q: Quality of work as measured by customers, such as through retention and referrals;
Q: Quality of work as measured by internal quality standards, which must be measured with a quantitative score process, such as by counting the number of dead blossoms on a flower plant;
E: Efficiency, measured by gross margin or actual hours used to perform a job versus the budgeted hours;
S: Safety, measured by number of incidents, accidents or liabilities; and
T: Training and transfer of knowledge—you need foremen who are “willing and capable” of training.
Measure crews or employees in each of these areas on a scale of one to five, Arman says, beginning with measuring safety and then quality work by internal quality standards.

“If you aren’t doing quality work, nothing else really matters,” Arman says. “You have to do it safely, too.”

Foremost, communicate to employees even before they’re hired what they’ll be scored on and what’s expected of them. In addition, reward them accordingly when they surpass their targets, and know recognition “is not always about money,” Arman says.

“It’s about being feeling important and acknowledged,” he says. “The simplest way to do that is use their name when you speak with them. … Acknowledge they exist, they are a person, they are a part of your team and without them you wouldn’t be able to do what you do.”

 

Featured photo: ©istock.com/hudiemm

About the Author:

Former Associate Editor Sarah Pfledderer is a West Coast-based contributing editor for Landscape Management.

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