Get them in the door and make them stay

Recruiting and retention go hand-in-hand, and there’s several things companies can do to improve both.

Brigitte Orrick, director of recruiting and employee development at The Davey Tree Expert, and Cole Weller, president & CEO of Weller Brothers Landscaping, agree there is no silver bullet to eliminate recruiting and retention hardships.

The duo dove into the topic of recruitment at NALP’s recent Leaders Forum in Hawaii.

“Any of us in bad H-2B groups, we really have to have our recruiting dialed in for 2023,” Weller said.

Weller called himself a “good energy guy” and said finding similar energies to join the team at Weller Brothers is what’s most important with recruiting.

“It’s something I’ve become very passionate about,” he said.

He said having a good attitude from the top down is the best way to recruit and retain the right employees.

“Recruiting is how you show up every single day,” Weller said. “Recruiting is everyone’s job.”

When it comes to getting crews involved in recruiting, Weller sang the praises of referral programs that incentivize current employees to bring in people they feel would be a great fit. He noted at Well Brothers, his team members can earn up to $2,000 for recruiting someone.

He added that another tool in recruiting the right people is asking those out in the field for input on what makes someone a good fit.

“We started asking our front-line workers, ‘What do you need from us? What can we do for you?’,” he explained. “They told us they needed more, better guys.”

Most in the industry can recognize it takes a special kind of person to blossom in these career paths and that not everyone is cut out for it. Weller noted he feels the green industry should start trying to entice the next generation to pursue these careers sooner rather than later.

“The foundation is finding ways to get in front of kids sooner,” he said. “We’re falling behind other industries in that regard.”

For Orrick, as the director of recruiting for a massive North American brand, the task becomes tougher.

“One of the challenges we face is scale — how do we address some of the needs in different labor markets across the country and Canada?” she noted.

Orrick says recruiters at Davey are expected to hire 300 people per year per cycle.

But that’s not their only job — in addition to finding that new talent, they also have to get them onboarded and off to the races.

Orrick also noted that having a dedicated recruiter is much different than just simply having an HR role filled.

“The specialization of recruiting is very different than HR,” she said.

This is especially true for companies with high turnover rates where recruitment is fast and furious.

Currently, Orrick said Davey has about 11,400 employees.

“Last year we hired 6,500 people,” she said. “That means we’re backfilling and replacing persons year-round.”

Orrick added that while replacing that many people was no small feat — turnover shouldn’t always be looked at so negatively.

“I think some turnover in any company is healthy,” she said. “But I think anything over 20% might be considered unhealthy.”

And while the turnover rate at Davey was going up right along with profit margins, Orrick said concern started to grow once the rate was 55% and really starting to cost the business financially.

After doing some calculations, Orrick said the team at Davey came to a stark realization.

“$5,000 walks out that door if a person leaves within the first 90 days of employment,” she said.

So to combat this, Orrick and Davey staff started prioritizing those new employees first three months and ensuring they had access to whatever they needed.

That included a new, easy-to-use webpage where they could go to get all their questions answered easily.

“You have to have comprehensive programs to make your employees successful,” she said. “We wanted to provide a consistent resource to new employees. We’re across America and every branch has their own micro-culture.”