Jeffrey Scott, NALP consultant member, and author and owner of his own business development consultancy, shares his top tips to get new employees off to the right start.
1. The First Impression
You get one chance at setting the first impression with your new hire – make their first (half) day count. Do you have them do any of the following?
•Read and sign off on your policies.
•Do safety training, hands-on training or video training from your own firm or from outside sources like the National Association of Landscape Professionals (landscapeprofessionals.org).
•Review your company’s quality manual showing photos of the right and wrong way to do things.
2. Assess New Employees in the First 3 Days
Assess your new hires before, or right after you hire them.
•During the interview process, by taking them to your shop for a hands-on interview, or putting them to work on a crew on a per diem basis and let them “show you” their skills.
•After you hire them, have the foreman assess them for competence & culture. Competence relates to the skills they possess and at what levels. Culture relates to them being a good fit for your values and company norms. Give your foremen a check list and grading system. Let him tell you in the first 3-5 days if the new hire is a keeper, and what skills he needs remedial training on.
3. Designate an Official Training Foreman
Which of your foremen are good trainers? Just because they can do a good job doesn’t mean they are natural trainers. Be intentional with who is tasked to train. Make it an honor at your company to be an official company trainer. Make it “worthwhile” to be tasked with training all the newbies.
4. Create a Mentor System
Improve your new hires’ chances of making it through the first 100 days, by giving them a mentor: someone on their crew, in the office or in a different part of the operations – whose job is to be their friend and look after them, to make sure small issues don’t become big problems that cause the new hire to leave or be fired. This role can go to the trainer, or someone other than their boss. There can also be a financial reward for retaining a new hire over the first 90 or 180 days.
5. Everyone Understands the Basics
New hires should have good practices modeled for them by the others on their crew; not just the foremen. Make sure the whole team is retrained on the basics each year.
6. On-Boarding: The First 7 and 30 Days
All new hires should have a written on-boarding plan that outlines the things they need to be able to do (or learn about) in the first 7 and 30 days. While this is crucial for the foremen position, it is also useful for laborer position. You can put teeth to this by having an up-or-out policy: a new hire must learn the basics (and gain a promotion to the next level) in order to stay at your company. Putting the plan in writing makes it clear for everyone to follow: new hire, foremen, trainer and manager.
7. Put Training in the Budget (Job Cost)
Proper training costs time and money, and this time must be put into the schedule and into the job cost budget. Don’t set up your crew to fail by allowing them no time for training.
8. The Foreman’s Role
Foremen should have a special itinerary they follow when they have a new employee on their crew. For example, they may have gotten used to not doing quality control with their older more experienced crew. Give them a check list of what to do differently with a freshman on their team.
9. Formalized Quality Control
Quality Control (QC) is part of a training program, by giving the crews clear feedback. Have a set of criteria that everyone knows is required to pass when a property is graded. Keep it simple and clear. The QC person should have a list of 5-10 specifics they are reviewing, with a set of written standards. The goal: Score an 8 or higher on a property. Scoring 7 or less is bad. Post the daily grades publicly and review in your weekly meeting.
10.Train the Trainer
Don’t assume even your best trainers know the best practices for training. Here is a simple 5-step training process.
•Tell them – Explain the most important elements and the desired results.
•Show them – This can be to watch a video and it can also be live: Watch me first as I dothis particular maneuver.
•Do it with them – Now I want you to do this maneuver along with me, we will do it together.
•Show me – You now do this maneuver on your own and I will watch you and correct you.
•Tell me – Finally, explain back to me the correct approach to take with this maneuver.
They expect to go online to find information they need. Gen X and even Boomers are now used to going online as well. Put your training (and handbooks) online to facilitate their learning. You can also find supplemental training online, for example, at landscapeprofessionals.org in the member center.
Training new employees is everyone’s responsibility. Making sure it is done proactively and consistently is key.