Sun Valley Landscaping Implements Navigator Program to Support Team Members - The Edge from the National Association of Landscape Professionals

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Sun Valley Landscaping Implements Navigator Program to Support Team Members

Photo: Sun Valley Landscaping

Last year, Sun Valley Landscaping, based in Omaha, Nebraska, struggled with employee turnover. These employees cited overwhelming personal circumstances that caused many of them to quit. Yet Paul Fraynd, LIC, co-owner of Sun Valley, says he felt like he was failing.

“We don’t have a lot of people that leave to go work at the landscaper down the street,” Fraynd says. “It’s usually something in life that happens.”

Fraynd recently read the book The Dream Manager by Matthew Kelly, which says as a manager your job is to help your employees’ dreams come true, whatever they might be. After reading the book, Fraynd received an email from their local Chamber of Commerce about the GrOW Navigator program.

Photo: Sun Valley Landscaping

This program provides a confidential Navigator who can help support employees through anything that might keep them from being physically or mentally present at work. This could include anything from challenges with personal finance, getting a driver’s license, having legal trouble, getting a loan, finding affordable childcare and much more.

“The beauty of it is it works not only for the employee but one generation up, down or across,” Fraynd says. “Like, my parents have to find a nursing home. These are all things that have come up already. Or my kid is starting a new school and the curriculum is different. It’s effectively like a social worker at your disposal.”

Fraynd says the program isn’t about handouts, but about helping employees navigate to the tools and resources to help them with their situation.

“There’s so many resources out there that if you know where to look, they can help,” Fraynd says. “Honestly, oftentimes it’s just a nice, confidential person to talk to like, ‘Hey, I’m scared to have a conversation with my manager next week. Can you help me out a little bit?’ They’re trained in all sorts of different things, but obviously mental health and presenting your best self at work and dealing with your personal life.”

Sun Valley is one of the first small businesses in Omaha to take advantage of the program. They share their Navigator with two other small companies as part of their subscription. Larger companies are able to afford to have their Navigator on-site at all times, paying essentially the Navigator’s salary plus the cost of administration.  

Photo: Sun Valley Landscaping

Currently, Sun Valley’s Navigator comes every other Friday on payday, so employees have time to meet face-to-face and discuss any issues. They can also contact the Navigator via text, video call and email. Fraynd says they had to be intentional and encourage their employees to take advantage of the program.

Sun Valley has only been using the program for a quarter and Fraynd says six to eight employees have already ended up working with their Navigator, but even more employees have contacted her.

“My goal when I started it was if we can prevent two people from turning over, it would pay for itself,” Fraynd says. “We’re looking for deep, not wide. Hopefully, over time one success story breeds another success story.”

So far, the Navigator has been able to help one employee find housing as they were living out of their car, and another employee who had a family member dealing with an immigration issue. Fraynd says it’s easy to latch on to outcomes, but all he can see right now is there is support for his employees and people are happy to have someone to talk to.

Fraynd used to think it was his job to know all the nonprofits and connect his staff with various resources.

“Coming from the boss is a lot different than coming from somebody else that is confidential and trusted,” Fraynd says. “I take for granted that I have that in my life, confidential people that I can bounce ideas off of like my fellow NALP members, but our staff just doesn’t have those relationships. So, the advice would be to not look at the outcomes of it and just look at the support you can provide to the humans that work for you.”

Photo: Sun Valley Landscaping

He says one employee said adding the Navigator has the best thing to happen to Sun Valley since he’s been working there.

Fraynd says he had to sell the program to his management team because they were thinking about the business outcome.

“I couldn’t really explain it aside from it will help our people, which will help our business,” Fraynd says.

When Sun Valley introduced the program to their employees, their staff understood pretty quickly the benefit of the program. Fraynd says building the trust between the Navigator and staff was the hard part. Their Navigator shared her construction background and can speak Spanish, which helped foster confidence with the crews.

Fraynd wants to eventually have an in-house Navigator whose sole job is to make their staff members’ lives great.

“We might get autonomous mowers that do some of our work, but at the end of the day, our business is getting humans to go do hard work outside and so we got to treat those people right,” Fraynd says.   

Jill Odom

Jill Odom is the senior content manager for NALP.