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How one Michigan company used training to keep employees engaged

June 4, 2020 -  By

Michigan’s work from home order went into effect on March 24, but Troy Clogg Landscape Associates of Wixon, Mich., started to act about two weeks earlier, says Adam DeLamielleure, director of support for Troy Clogg Landscape Associates.

“Realistically, everything started for us around the 12th or 13th of March,” DeLamielleure says.

Owner Troy Clogg and the management team began communicating with employees and enacting heightened sanitation of equipment and hygiene protocols for the company that specializes in winter maintenance as well as design/build and summer maintenance for commercial clients. The company also does high-end design/build projects for residential clients.

A week before the work from home order, Troy Clogg Landscape Associates enacted social distancing and limited office staff. Bringing employees together for meetings was out of the question, naturally, and DeLamielleure says internally the management team discussed remote working for office employees.

And after the work from home order, “We literally flipped a switch that night,” he says in terms of transitioning office staff to work remotely. Technology such as Microsoft Teams came in handy, as employees could come together for meetings.

“Early in the process, we made a choice to maintain a COVID-19 log,” he says. “Trying to capture every expense we incur going through this and the impact it has on the business so we can learn from this. We wanted to make sure we were very well documented.”

Wixom is in Oakland County and is a western suburb of Detroit, an area hit hard with COVID-19. The Oakland County Health Division issued an emergency order that required daily screenings of employees for COVID-19 symptoms as well as implementing social distancing measures. Sanitizing trucks and equipment is an added expense and screening employees for signs of COVID-19 daily also takes time. And, DeLamielleure says these added costs aren’t a line item in a job.

“Nobody thought about that cost when we were selling jobs,” he says. “This log – a byproduct of this if this is the new normal — is going to help us with job costs moving forward.”

DeLamielleure estimates that each screening takes about a minute and a half and March 25 to early May the company has logged more than 600 hours screening employees. The process has become digital and streamlined.

“The cool part about it is some of the customers and some of the counties (there are five counties in the Detroit metro area) are asking for that type of information,” he says.

DeLamielleure says giving updates to employees was important to keeping crews engaged and wanting to come back to work. The management team at Troy Clogg Landscape Associates also offered training to employees which included programs from Accredited Snow Contractors Association, Michigan Nursery and Landscape Association, Utech and even through Troy Clogg Landscape Associates’ insurance provider. Troy Clogg also paid employees who took the training.

“Everything that we chose to use had some type of documentation coming back to us,” he says.

When the state extended the stay at home order from April 15 to May 1, DeLamielleure says some workers started on unemployment. But, once Gov. Gretchen Whitmer lifted the restrictions, employees started back slowly, with the team at full strength about three days later. New measures include irrigation techs wear full bodysuits. There are also staggered start times. Employees also wear branded face masks.

“Pink is a big color for us,” he says. “70 guys are running around with pink face masks.”

The management team worked to develop manuals and protocols on sanitation and safety. The company gathered gloves and other materials needed to equip trucks. DeLamielleure says it was hard at first to get a lot of the necessary PPE and supplies – something as simple as spray bottles for sanitization kits.

“It’s very easy to think that the world has gone back to normal,” he says. “We have to remind everybody that it hasn’t yet.”

Troy Clogg Landscapes and Associates also has a corporate video to illustrate the steps the company is doing to keep workers and clients safe.

DeLamielleure says he’s proud of how his company has responded to an unusual time in the industry and the world.

“I’m grateful to work at a company that people chose to come back to,” he says. “We were able to get that pause to get some projects done that set us up better to achieve in the future.”

And, he says from an office standpoint, he’s grateful for the technology that allows the office team to work together, albeit remotely.

“It proves that you can do things in different ways and still be effective,” he says. “I truly believe that there will be things that we learn about how to do business differently moving forward.”

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Christina Herrick

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