Employee appreciation and exempt workers

Employee appreciation and exempt workers

Departments - Ask the Experts

ASK THE EXPERTS is presented in partnership with PLANET’s Trailblazers On Call program. Trailblazers are industry leaders who volunteer their time and expertise to give back to the industry.

September 6, 2011
Lawn & Landscape Staff

Q. How can I improve employee retention without spending a great deal of money on additional benefits?

A. First and foremost, you must remember that your employees are as important as, if not more important, than your customers. One good employee can help you keep a customer for life and one bad employee can cause you to lose it all.

Your employees have more potential contact with your customers than any other person on your team.

We teach our staff that the customer is important, but if you don't treat your staff as if they are important, how do you think they will translate that attitude to our customers? We in the industry often forget that our employees are how we deliver service to the customers and are a very important part of our customer service process. You should always say "good job" or "thank you" on a regular basis. I have read numerous surveys that say getting appreciative responses from management is the No. 1 item employees look for.

Give them gift cards for finishing a project under budget, turkeys for Thanksgiving, or send them birthday cards and put them on your company's mailing list for Christmas cards.

Offer a restaurant gift card for the crew that performs the most every month. All of these items are inexpensive, and you would be amazed at how receptive the staff would be to receiving them.

Rich Arlington, III, PLANET Trailblazer, Rich Arlington & Associates

Q. In our company, the nonexempt employees get paid overtime at 150 percent of their regular pay rate for all the hours they work over 40 in a week. We exempt employees do not get paid overtime. We often work just as many and sometimes even more hours than they do. But they often make more money on the paycheck than we do. Why don't exempts get compensated for their overtime hours?

A. There are two answers: the Federal Labor Standards Act (FLSA) and the definition of what you get paid for.

FLSA. The FLSA requires all employees in the United States to be paid overtime. But, it then declares that there are four categories of employees who are exempt from that overtime requirement. Those employment categories are executive, administrative, professional and some sales (and, in some cases, certain categories of employees in computer work). All other employees (nonexempts) must be paid overtime.

What do I pay you for? Hourly paid (nonexempt) employees are paid to surrender control of their time to the employer. The employer must pay for all the time surrendered. If the employee comes to work and stands in one place all day doing nothing, you still must pay for the time that employee has surrendered to your control. His position description is basically a list of functions he must perform. You would judge his performance on how well he carried out those functions. You would terminate him for failure to perform those functions properly.

Salaried (exempts) employees are paid to produce a predetermined end result. They are expected to be more focused on achieving that end-result by using their professional judgment and knowledge. There is much less focus on how they choose to do what they're doing or how long a specific process takes. All these things may be relevant, but much less so than with the nonexempt worker. The exempt employee has much more freedom to act and is expected to make decisions about significant things.

For example:

One manager may be a very good delegator and may accomplish the end results you specified by selecting, training, developing and assigning the right people to the right work and managing the process.

A second manager may be a totally dedicated employee who works 15 hours a day for seven straight days to accomplish the same end result.

Both, however, will be focused on achieving that end result. The job description of the exempt employee will generally include an overview of the working environment, the nature and scope of the position, and how the job relates to other staff members. But, it focuses on the (usually) four to eight accountabilities that comprise the end results you desire from this position. You would evaluate the performance of the exempt employee by the delivered results of those accountabilities, whether those results took 40 or 65 hours a week to produce. The primary reason you would terminate the exempt employee is the failure to accomplish the required end result.

You're either paid for surrendering your time or delivering results. You can't have it both ways.

William Cook, PLANET HR Consultant


Have a question for the experts? Send it to llexperts@gie.net.