While teaching at Penn State in the mid-1980s, Jim Ingram would meet every-so-often with Jack Good, who was a vice president at Bartlett Tree Experts. Good would recruit workers from Ingram’s class, but told Ingram if he was ever interested in working at Bartlett to let him know.
“And before you knew it, I had joined the company,” he says. After working his way up the ladder, Ingram became president in 2013. He spoke to Lawn & Landscape about Bartlett’s approach to training.
Q: How do you get your message down to the workers in the field?
A: Every office has a local manager. The division managers teach the local managers, and then they’re supported by our lab resources. If there’s a concern on the landscape, we’re sending tissue samples down to the lab, soil samples down to the lab. And these people that we hire, all our new recruits, are trained at the lab.
We have a business and leadership program that we have instituted.
We invite the local administrative assistant, the lead arborist representative or local manager, and then the lead crew leader, together, to come to learn how to better communicate and learn how to better look at the given opportunities when it comes to efficiencies.
Q: How often do they go through training?
A: We are training on a year-round basis. We have updates every year, based on what’s happening out there. And we ask our champions throughout the company to help train our people. We’ve identified who our champions are at every level, whether it’s a ground person, or a climber, or a crew leader, or administrative assistant, or arborist representatives or local manager.
They help teach our classes. So, we have peers teaching to one another. And it’s really a fun curriculum. Our curriculum changes every year based on the feedback we get from the participants. We’ve been able to grow out the program that way, and it makes our people feel valued, and they know they have a future.
Q: What actions do you want current employees to take with new employees?
A: We have an orientation program. We take time out and we’ll spend days with them, orienting them to the science, technology, the safety protocols. We pretty much open the books to them and show them how they can help with the business.
And then we have them on an assessment program. In each one of those categories I’ve mentioned, as part of our champion program, we’ve identified the criteria that help make people successful in their respective job responsibilities. Say that, if we looked at a task that we employ on a landscape, doing soil management and through scheduling practices, we team up a learner, which most people are when they come to us, and we team them up with someone who excels, they can teach the practice.
After a few times being out in the field with that person, then we bring them along a gradient, and they’re actually scaled and graded in their respective position. They know every waking moment. They’re not waiting for an annual review to know where they stand. They know where they stand every day.
And our best managers, the ones that bring them in and say, “Hey. I’m going to bring you along. You’re going to go from being a learner, now, to someone who’s competent in this realm, and your total score went from a 78 to an 82 percent. Congratulations. Next week we’re going to bring you along into these categories, and help you learn more about these things.” And so it’s fun to see that.
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