By Tony Bass
In an industry in which wages are low and turnover is high, hiring the right person can make an amazingly positive impact on your company.
According to the Small Business Association, small businesses those having fewer than 500 employees — represent a key and vital component to the United States economy. Small firms represent 99.7 percent of all employer firms, employ about half of all private sector employees, and have generated 60 to 80 percent of net new jobs annually over the last decade.
But employee turnover rate is high in our industry. Business owners in the green industry are destined for high turnover and they need to be prepared to deal with it.
The growth of any company is often limited by the inability to build a dependable, capable and talented management team. And the most frequent mistake a company makes is initially allocating too much money on traditional methods of finding employees (such as newspaper ads). Recruiting and retaining employees doesn’t have to be expensive. There are several low-cost ways to build your team — and your business.
Use the empty space on business cards
Almost everyone carries a business card, but does anyone print on the back? Why not print available positions on that blank space, which costs a fraction of the original business card order? Business cards can be provided to all existing employees so they can hand them out if they encounter a prospective new team member.
In order to find employees, an owner has to ask for employees. And the very first place to ask is inside the company. Post a job announcement beside the time clock, the front door, and any other location in the company where people may enter or congregate. A physical posting in the office will constantly remind staff and visitors that the company is hiring. The second place to ask for employees is outside the company. Every time payment is sent to a vendor or supplier, let them know of the company’s desire to find a certain type of employee. Simply include a printed copy of the job announcement inside the payment envelope.
Invest in signs
Invest between $35 and $100 in two types of signs for the company. The first is a portable “help wanted” sign that can be stuck in the ground in front of the office. I have seen small signs like this draw up to 50 applicants in one day on busy streets. The second type is a magnetic sign that can be placed on the sides of trucks or trailers. Always make sure the company phone number is displayed clearly on the sign for people who might see it after business hours or passing on the street.
Put a lid on the trash can
Keep your applications on file for as long as possible. If you spent money, time and effort to collect a person’s name who expressed an interest in your company, you should keep their application for a couple of years. It can cost anywhere between $500 and $2,000 to run one help wanted ad. However, it will only cost you the price of a postage stamp to send a past applicant an announcement for open positions or a job fair. Things change for people, and even if they didn’t impress you two years ago, they may have matured and gotten an education and could now be a valuable lead for your team.
Keep your new hires happy
One of my clients has grown from $500,000 in annual sales to $2 million in just five years. However, the growth of the company meant he needed more people. We reviewed his budget, and discovered that he was spending too much to recruit employees. During a 60-day period he spent $1,300 on help wanted ads, he hired 15 people who had come and gone, and he still had 40 applications from people who could potentially be hired. Basically, he was spending an average of $24.64 to acquire an application.
After further questioning, the problems weren’t with the newly-hired employees, but with how the team handled new employees the first day on the job. Employee retention begins with the hiring process. Studies have shown that the first day of employment sets the tone for the duration of the employment. You will sabotage the potential of an employee if you do not handle day one with a professional orientation program.
Ongoing training pays off
I firmly believe that employees stay in your company for longer periods of time when you have an ongoing training program. When people are learning new job responsibilities they usually produce more, take greater pride in their work, and gain a new respect for the company. In my experience as an employer, I have seen young, inexperienced workers stay for periods of five to 10 years, and, during that time, double or triple their hourly wage rate simply because they took advantage of the employee training opportunities.
Establishing multiple strategies for supporting your ongoing need for employees is paramount. Although it is a challenge, it can be done with a little creativity and smart work.
Tony Bass is a small business consultant and author of the recently released “50 Ways to Find, Recruit, Hire & Retain Super Star Employees.” Bass bases his counsel on 20 years of green industry experience, including founding, growing and ultimately selling his initially small landscaping business for a seven-figure profit. He is also founder and president of Super Lawn Trucks, which manufactures vehicles designed specifically for lawn and landscape contractors.