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On-the-job training

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Employee education can go a long way in ensuring safety and a job well done.

Lee Chilcote | April 28, 2011

Effective, responsible employees are a company’s greatest asset. Mike Haskell understands this – that’s why he’s developed a system for employee training.

“One of my biggest fears is putting the wrong person on a crew, and so I’m old-fashioned when it comes to training,” says Haskell, the owner of Plant Solutions Tree & Lawn Care, a lawn and landscape company in Warren and Short Hills, N.J. “Putting the wrong person on the job could cost me millions of dollars of damage in one day.”

First, Haskell requires all of his employees to become trained arborists. They complete an apprentice period, riding with an experienced arborist and learning the business first-hand. Two years later, they are eligible to be in charge of their own truck.

“The best training is sitting next to someone that knows what they’re doing,” says Haskell. “Of course, we also make sure that our arborists maintain their continuing education credits, and I provide winter-time education for my guys.”

Haskell also frequently goes out on jobs. “People see me working and that’s a huge thing. It helps that I love what I do.”

Each spring, Plant Solutions’ employees complete field training. “The first warm day, we’re out there doing applications,” says Haskell, explaining that he sets up 10,000 square feet of turf as a training ground. “I make sure that we do safety training. If there’s a spill, what do you do? Everyone wants to go to work – but we stress training first.”

Haskell also tests employees on their knowledge of the field before their first day. “I don’t do written tests, but I do verbal pop quizzes,” he says.”I give them a scenario – like seeing spider mites on an Alberta spruce – and they walk me through it.”

To impress upon employees the investment that Plant Solutions is making in their future, Haskell builds personal relationships with them and stresses the investment he’s made in equipment. “Once they see the truck, they want to work here,” he says.

 

This story is one of three that appeared in Lawn & Landscape's Growing Green e-newsletter. To continue reading about Plant Solutions and Mike Haskell:

Custom built: After years of working for larger companies, Mike Haskell started his own small, specialized lawn care operation to fill the gap in customer needs.

The right touch: Reaching customers begins with a strong brand and marketing plan.

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