When it comes to hiring and retaining your staff, the team over at ArtisTree Landscape Maintenance and Design may have discovered the answer.
Located in Venice, Fla., the company started in 1990 with a four-man crew. Over the years it’s grown, and today it boasts approximately 200 employees. Of those 200, 17 have been with the company for more than 10 years.
According to Debra Morrow, vice president of marketing, a big reason for the employee retention is the company's culture.
“There’s face-to-face contact, as opposed to other companies where you don’t see the founders any given day,” she says. “It’s very inspirational. It’s just a family environment. You feel appreciated here and I know for a fact that’s why people stay.”
Care packages. For any company wondering how to have the success at keeping employees, Morrow says it takes showing your employees that you care.
“(Show) that you care about their safety, you care about them being happy and productive in their position,” she says. “You’re there for them whenever they have questions. You make sure the equipment is maintained for their safety and welfare.”
She also says it’s important for you to care in a non-work-related way as well.
“Do things to surprise them,” she says. “On any given week throughout the particularly hot summer months, an account executive will go out and pick up some food for the crews and treat them to lunch.
“They’re not just people who punch clocks. It’s important to show respect for each other … to really treat them as a family.”
Build the right way. Along with making sure the environment is one that employees want to stay in, Morrow says it’s important to make sure you make the correct hires. Otherwise, that employee won’t be a good fit and they’re more likely to leave. That’s why ArtisTree tries to weed those hires out during the interviews.
“Someone can come in and meet all the black-and-white criteria and have all the licensing and years of experience needed, but if they’re a jerk, if they’ve got some type of attitude or baggage with them, we won’t hire them, because we want to have fun, we want to do quality work and we want to make money together,” she says.
It’s hard to spot the jerks, especially when they’re on their best behavior in the interview.
“We try to have just a nice conversation in the beginning, to get to know about them as a person before we actually start going through the job criteria,” Morrow says. “When we do go through the job criteria, if we sense any hesitation or look of concern, then we know that person probably isn’t the candidate for us.
“Occasionally we do lose someone, and we almost always hear back that they wished they hadn’t left. We have had a couple people leave and come back. As long as they’ve left on good terms, they’re right back in the saddle again and we’re glad to see them. I don’t know all the reasons why they leave, but for whatever reason, they come back for the family feel and they know we take good care of them.”
ArtisTree’s 10th annual training day was a little different from previous years. This year the company decided to do something special and highlight the company’s focus on safety.
“We said 'Everybody, we have a special announcement. When we call your name, we want you to stand up and go up to the front,’” Morrow says.
Twenty-seven employees were called up, and then it was announced that they had all been accident-free for five years.
“That’s pretty impressive in our industry,” Morrow says. She adds they have approximately 40 additional employees who have been at the company more than four years with no accidents.
The 27 employees were each given a certificate and a new hat with a special pin attached, recognizing their achievement. Then, the accident-free employees were also each surprised with an iPod.
The acknowledgments were just one part of the event, which included recognizing employees who had been with the company for 10 years or more.
“A couple of the crew members applied to both,” Morrow says. “One of the guys not only won the iPod and the 5-year pin, he was also recognized with a $250 check for being here for 16 years.”
Morrow says the training day is another big factor in employees staying with the company.
“It’s not just a one-day ceremony,” she says. “It’s education, and that’s important to our crews. That continued education is another important thing that I think other landscape employers would want to consider.”
The meeting kicks-off with task-specific training – classes taught by the company’s account executives or by vendors who come in and demonstrate the newest techniques and trends.
At noon, the account executives and vendors serve food to the crews, with the day turning into an employee barbecue. As the crew members eat their meals, trivia questions are asked, and whoever gets the answer correct first wins either a gift card or a cash gift.
“We have servant leadership in our company,” Morrow says. “We’re here to serve the crews … and they’re the heroes of the day.”