Employee retention is a hot topic right now as many companies grapple with the impact of what’s being called the “Great Resignation.” Staff members are leaving their jobs in droves—some with notice, and some without. Alarmingly, the problem of employee “ghosting” (when workers simply stop showing up altogether) has become even more prevalent, leaving businesses scrambling to pick up the pieces.
The challenge isn’t new for companies that handle snow and ice removal. The demanding nature of the work and unpredictable hours complicate recruitment and make keeping great people even harder. This, worsened by labor shortages sweeping the U.S., is the cause of many a business owner’s sleepless night.
We know how serious these concerns are, which is why we’ve been focusing our attention on labor recently (and plan to continue doing so). The free ebook below is a 29-page guide with practical advice for landscape and snow/ice removal companies who want to improve their hiring and retention efforts.
For some quick tips on keeping workers during snow and ice season, consider the recommendations below.
It’s always important to set clear expectations for employees, field staff and back-office workers alike.
While necessary year-round, this is easily neglected during particularly busy or chaotic times (like snow and ice season). Things are moving quickly, everyone’s tired, and nerves are frayed. This situation is fertile ground for the types of miscommunication and assumptions that create serious problems.
By setting clear expectations from the outset, you can avoid causing employees to feel uncertain, insecure, or frustrated.
Make sure new employees receive appropriate training, know how to dress, and understand what’s required to successfully complete a job. Be upfront about the schedule and how many hours each crew member is required to work. If a certain amount of overtime is typically necessary, let back-office staff know about it in advance—but try to minimize the need for this kind of after-hours work.
Reward excellent work
High performing employees are the ones you least want to lose, but they’re often the most taken for granted.
Research has shown that top performers are up to 400% more productive than average performers. That means keeping a high-performing employee can be just as important as keeping four whose performance is average.
To keep your high performers (and encourage average workers to boost productivity), don’t let exceptional work go unrecognized. Did someone stay late to resolve a client issue? Leave them a $5 Starbucks gift card and a thank you note. Did one of your crews provide excellent service despite a roadblock or challenge? Reward them with a surprise day off.
The form recognition takes isn’t as important as the fact that it happens. Bonuses, thank you notes, public recognition, unexpected time off—these are all ways to show your employees you see and appreciate the effort they put in.
Our approach to work has shifted in the past few decades. In addition to making a living, people now want to feel like they’re a part of something bigger—doing work that makes a real difference.
To satisfy this desire, tell staff in your organization how important their contributions are. Show them the impact their work has on your community—supporting local businesses, allowing schools and hospitals to stay open, and keeping people safe. Whether they’re moving snow, scheduling crews, or sending an invoice, every employee plays a valuable part in providing critical services for your clients.
Reminding team members of this can help unite them with a common goal and sense of purpose.
Listen to concerns
Make sure employees are comfortable talking to their supervisors about potential problems. Some griping will always happen behind the scenes, but encouraging direct feedback and suggestions shows you care. Even if you’re not able to make the changes they request, listening (and not dismissing) allows employees to feel validated and heard.
In addition to systems for collecting anonymous feedback, managers can ask what’s going well—and what’s not—in check-ins or reviews with their direct reports. The frequency of these conversations may depend on your organization and the employee’s role, but everyone should have a chance to share their thoughts.
Go above and beyond
Do you ever buy flowers or a gift for that special someone in your life, just to show them you care?
The same kind of thoughtful gesture can be applied to the workplace as well. Even when there’s not a special occasion to celebrate, a surprise treat to say “thank you” or “hang in there” can go a long way toward boosting morale.
You don’t have to do anything expensive or time-consuming—anything from a simple donut run or catered lunch to baseball tickets or an organized happy hour can work. The key is just to remind staff you’re grateful for them.
Take care of your people
It almost goes without saying, but providing for a safe and effective work environment is the foundation of good employee retention. Without it, little else matters.
Following safety standards is important, particularly in the types of hazardous conditions your crews may face during snow season. Provide a thorough training each year (OSHA has some good resources), and make sure supervisors keep a close eye on things. Snow and ice removal should never come at the expense of injury to a crew member.
Finally, equipping staff with the tools they need to do a job efficiently doesn’t just speed up the work—it improves their experience. There’s nothing worse than being forced to accomplish a task with tools that slow you down or make your job harder. Whether it’s the latest snow plow or the right software program, make sure your employees have access to the resources they need to succeed.
When workers keep leaving (and you can’t get quality applicants), it’s hard to avoid demanding more and more of the people who are left. As a business owner, it’s easy to assume every employee shares the commitment you feel to achieving success at any cost. The reality for most, though, is that they’re not tied as closely to the business as you are. If pushed too far, they’re going to look for opportunities elsewhere—and right now, those opportunities are easier than ever to find.
It may seem impossible to prioritize employee wellness when you’re understaffed, but finding creative ways to do so isn’t just a good idea anymore. It’s a necessity to invest in retention if you want to maintain a quality workforce and sustainable growth.
Retention isn’t an easy subject to master (many have tried), but putting some of the ideas found here into practice can help you hold on to your best workers—even when times are hard.
For a complete guide to finding and keeping the best people for your snow and ice removal business, download our free ebook, Level up your HR efforts, below.