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Creating a Top Workplace: Focal Pointe Outdoor Solutions Shares Their Practices

Focal Pointe Outdoor Solutions was recently named one of the Top Workplaces in St. Louis by The St. Louis Post-Dispatch.

Focal Pointe is a full-service, high-end commercial and residential landscape company. They have been in business since 1998. They provide land care services to locations, such as Busch Stadium and the Edward Jones world headquarters. Based in Caseyville, Illinois, Focal Pointe has four branches and employs 185 people currently.

“Even though we have 185 employees, we still feel like it’s a small company,” says Sandra Gonzalez, director of talent and team development. “We have a tight group. People care for each other.”

The top workplace awards are determined by employee feedback gathered by the organisation Energage. The survey gathered anonymous responses on various topics related to workplace culture including coaching, engagement, leadership and more.

“This is the first time that we’ve been recognized and it’s a great feeling,” Gonzalez says. “I’ve been there for two and a half years and we have been working on employee retention, employee morale, having a better culture, being a great place to work and being an employer of choice.”

Gonzalez says they strive to be a company where people are happy to come to work. She says employees who have been in the industry for a long time notice they’re not like other companies.

“When people have come from other companies that do the same thing we do and they see the difference that we do employee appreciation events, Christmas parties, they’re like ‘This is cool, we’ve never had that,’” she says.

Focal Pointe University

One of the recent methods Focal Pointe has implemented to improve their company culture is the creation of Focal Pointe University. They have training modules for everyone from the entry-level laborer to a branch manager. This has streamlined the training process and provides a clear path for employees.

“With those training modules, we want everybody to have an opportunity to advance, and to go where they want to go,” Gonzalez says. “Also, besides the modules, we’re having an English teacher come twice a week and teach two different classes to anybody interested in it. We’re also going to provide CPR classes. We’re looking into financial classes.”

She says they’re offering the extra courses to help their employees outside of work. Focal Pointe will also send employees to outside training such as leadership courses and Dale Carnegie courses.

Gonzalez says they’re still working on and developing Focal Pointe University, but she expects it to be 100 percent done in the next few months.

“So, with everything we do, we always pick people who are going to provide feedback that’s relevant to the decision we’re going to make. We try to take everybody’s feedback and think about how will this impact our employees and customers.”

– Sandra Gonzalez, director of talent and team development

Being a Top Workplace

Gonzalez says they are very open to feedback and encourage employees to share their thoughts.

Focal Pointe does an employee survey every year and they also have an innovation committee that works to stay on top of what is new in the industry. For instance, if there are some new mowers, they will provide them to five different employees and ask them to try them out.

“By doing that the employees like that because they’re like ‘Wow they do value my opinion. They want me to try this out and tell them how it works for me,’” Gonzalez says. “So, with everything we do, we always pick people who are going to provide feedback that’s relevant to the decision we’re going to make. We try to take everybody’s feedback and think about how will this impact our employees and customers.”

Gonzalez says they also welcome diversity and employees from other fields.

“We want to have other people’s views because what’s fascinating to us is that people who don’t come from the landscaping industry, sometimes they have a better idea,” she says. “They come in and they’ll say ‘I think we could do it this way and it’ll work better,’ and we like those. We’re always very welcoming to those new ideas because that’s how we improve and that’s how we get better.”

Focal Pointe looks for workers who are humble, open-minded and willing to learn.

“We’ll teach you everything you need to know but I think they need to have those qualities to be able to work here,” Gonzalez says. “If they don’t want to learn, they’re not open-minded or humble is just not a good fit.”

Retention and Benefits

“I think what helps them stay the most is that they know that they come first, before anything,” Gonzalez says.

Focal Pointe is very flexible with their employees and lets them know they can take care of personal things before worrying about work. Gonzalez says they do snow removal in the winter to provide stable work for their employees all year round.

The company offers health insurance, a 401(k), and PTO. They’re also looking into offering short-term and long-term disability and some other benefits.

“It was something that wasn’t feasible at the time because we were too small,” Gonzalez says. “So, as we’re growing, we’re looking to add those. Also having like a counselor like a 1-800 number where you can call if you need any type of counseling, we’re looking into adding that as well.”

Gonzalez says they’re always looking at new ways to become a place that people want to work at.

Jill Odom

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