Incentivizing excellence

An Ohio-based company shares how its incentive-based pay program rewards crew members’ good work.

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Crew members are an essential part of your business. It’s their job to be the face of the company as they go about their daily tasks of maintenance, landscaping, lawn care, pesticide applications and a variety of other services your company may offer.

So what do they get in return?

Of course, every company offers its employees a paycheck, but what other incentives do you give them for helping make your company what it is?

Louisville, Ohio-based Enviroscapes created an incentive-based pay program for field crews to reward them for their role in the company.

“The whole thought process behind it is we want to reward good behavior,” says Todd Pugh, founder and CEO of Enviroscapes. “We want to reward excellence.”

The program – referred to as the Green Bucks Incentive – was rolled out nearly two years ago, and it has seen positive feedback from the company’s crews. Instead of incentivizing individuals, though, the company decided to do it by branch/department.

The company currently has six departments in the program: four maintenance departments, a landscape department and a utility department.

Enviroscapes has a monthly score card the size of a poster board that hangs where each individual department has its morning huddle. The score card has blocks allocated for the number of items that must be achieved to get the Green Bucks Incentive, judging on safety, attendance, productivity and image.

Each card is updated every day, and any infractions or check marks are hand-written so the team knows why each box was checked. At the end of the month, if an individual branch meets its goals, the crew receives $200 per person. If all the departments hit for the month, they get a $100 bonus on top of it.

“We wanted accountability across the branch,” says Pugh. “What we found is it kind of weeded out the underperformers. The ones who came late to work and couldn’t hit their productivity hours, because everybody wanted their $200 bonus.”

Enviroscapes received feedback from employees as it shaped its Green Bucks Incentive program.
Photo courtesy of Enviroscapes
Work in progress.

When Enviroscapes rolled out the program, they were open to adjustments. “That’s our philosophy on a lot of things: come up with ideas, free think,” Pugh says. “You always need to test this stuff, so we just tested it to see what it would look like.”

When the company rolled out the program, they did get some push back from employees who never had any check marks.

“You have to be really careful when you roll anything new out,” Pugh says. “When we rolled it out, we told everybody, ‘this is new, we’ve never done it before, but please understand we may adjust it as we go along if something’s not right with it.’”

Since its inception, the company has also altered the program to allow for positive feedback; the ability to earn check marks back.

“We realized we weren’t rewarding them, it was only a negative program,” he says. Now, a positive comment from a customer negates a negative action that took away a check mark.

This also helps with customer service.

“The whole thought process behind it is we want to reward good behavior. We want to reward excellence.” Todd Pugh, founder and CEO, Enviroscapes

“We want our team members to talk to customers,” Pugh says. The decision made crews interact more with customers.

It’s also important to be open with your crews when rolling out a program like this. “Each month we ask what they like and dislike about it, and we’ve gotten some good feedback,” Pugh says.

An example would be the payment setup. When the program started, the company would pay incentives in the third week of the month following the paycheck.

“If they hit their criteria in April, they wouldn’t get paid until the third week of June,” Pugh says. “That’s too long, so now we pay the third week of the following month.”

He says they’ve also decided to make the incentive a separate check. “It’s hedge money for doing a great job,” he says. “Some of these guys are on a tight budget, but now it gives these guys a live check.”

Since the program affects both management and crews, Enviroscapes made sure representatives from each group were involved in the planning process.

“Our purpose was this, their purpose was this, how do we overlap this so ultimately we both get what we want?” says Pugh, explaining the purpose of a group discussion.

Enviroscapes spent three to four, two-hour meetings working on a draft of the program to share with the team until it evolved into the program it is today.

Unexpected difficulties.

No matter how much you plan, there are always going to be unexpected factors that get in the way.

“What we thought was going to be the easiest part of the incentive for everybody to hit really turned out to be the hardest,” Pugh says. That “hardest thing” he’s referencing is being on time.

“If a branch had 30 guys, we gave them 10 unexcused absences,” he says. That covers anyone who misses a day of work without two weeks’ notice, as well as anyone who is even one minute late.

“All the guys said that would be the easiest thing. That was the hardest thing. It took a couple months for most of the branches to get guys to come into work early. This also really showed how much waste we had each morning until we began monitoring for the Green Bucks Incentive.”

He says habitual offenders were called by team members to make sure they were awake, and the program weeded out the employees who weren’t invested, something Pugh says was a positive and negative effect.

“Nobody wants to lose any people, but at the same time, we don’t need poor performers either,” he says. “I think by leaving it a total company program, what it really did, too, was drove accountability.”

He adds that a lot of times, employees don’t understand why managers are so concerned with being on time, and this helped with that. “When you’ve got 30 or 40 people in a department encouraging everybody to be there, it’s a nice way to make sure everyone’s working toward a common goal.”

Another unexpected effect of the program was competition. His crews are upset when a branch doesn’t hit its Green Bucks Incentive. The crew members have a winning attitude and want to win each month.

“People don’t like to lose,” he says. “Human nature is we like to win.”

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