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LCOs talk employee engagement

November 19, 2015 -  By
LM Editor Marisa Palmieri leads a panel discussion on engaging, retaining and hiring quality employees at the Lawn Care Forum in Orlando, Fla. Nov. 18.

LM Editor Marisa Palmieri leads a panel discussion on engaging, retaining and hiring quality employees at the Lawn Care Forum in Orlando, Fla., Nov. 18.

Of the 34 attendees of LM’s 2015 Lawn Care Forum, the majority noted the biggest challenge lawn care operators face is hiring and retaining quality employees.

During a breakfast panel Nov. 18 at the Forum, Chris Joyce, owner of Joyce Landscaping and Always Green of Cape Cod, Andrew Ziehler, owner of Ziehler Lawn & Tree Care, and Terry Jungels, president of Total Lawn Care, addressed the industry-wide problem and offered tips on how to combat this problem.

“The days of assuming quality, qualified people are going to walk in our door are over,” Joyce says. “I’ve given up on that mindset. We’re constantly recruiting.”

Beyond that, he wants his employees to buy into the company’s goals, engage in the operation and feel like they play a vital role in the organization. Joyce calls his approach “drinking the Kool-Aid.”

“I truly believe you’ll have great retention if you can engage people and make them feel like they’re a part of something,” Joyce says.

When employees leave the company, he tries to do exit interviews with them. Often the employees who don’t work are the ones who say they didn’t feel a part of the team.

He suggests wooing employees like you do customers. He calls it “romancing your employees.” For example, Joyce likes to greet every employee every morning. He also shared a story about honoring a 20-year employee with a Rolex watch. It was a token of his gratitude, as well as a symbol of where hard work gets employees at Joyce Landscape.

Ziehler also offered strategies to helping employees, new and old, feel welcomed and a part of the team. For new employees, the company welcomes them with a tour, a t-shirt- and pen-stuffed cooler and a welcome reception. All employees enjoy the company’s holiday parties on Cinco de Mayo, July 4 and Christmas, all of which family members are welcomed and encouraged to attend. It’s Ziehler’s way of saying thank you and getting to know his employees’ families.

“Retention is about culture, culture, culture,” Ziehler says. “Our staff members are spending more time with us than they are with their family, so we want to make them feel a part the company.”

Ziehler is also always recruiting new team members. Once he finds candidates, his vetting process includes yes-or-no prequalifying questions, such as “Do you have a driver’s license?” and “Have you ever committed a felony?” One “no” disqualifies the candidate. If applicants answer “yes” to everything, they must complete two short questionnaires that cover simple math, common sense and core values.

“We’re not just hiring people when we need them,” Ziehler says. “We need to do it with precision and process.”

Jungels has found success with employee engagement by allowing his employees to pursue  projects of interest to them that help move the company forward. For example, a few crew members work on developing his website during winter downtime, keeping it up to date and attempting to make it more user-friendly.

“If my guys want to do something, I let them do it,” Jungels says. “Sometimes they make mistakes, but sometimes you’ve got to live with that.”

About the Author:

Dillon Stewart graduated from Ohio University’s E.W. Scripps School of Journalism, earning a Bachelor of Science in Online Journalism with specializations in business and political science. Stewart is a former associate editor of LM.

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