Everywhere I go in the pest control industry, people are talking about the tight labor market. The “Great Resignation” was one of the top stories post-pandemic. While some sources see the exodus of the workforce as coming to a close, it’s yet to be fully determined. If the trend does continue, at least part of the reason is that employers have stepped up and made their companies worth working for.
An average of 47.8 million people voluntarily quit their jobs in 2021. That number rose to 50.5 million in 2022. Statistics are now showing that while the quit rate was high, many employees left for better positions. Those better positions could be related to pay, benefits, or even company culture.
Bill Conerly, an economist who writes for Forbes, wrote about the various reasons people are returning to the workforce. He states that while workers are returning, there are still challenges to overcome.
Boomers are retiring and millennials are of working age. Their generation was followed by a record number of low births. The underlying challenge is lots of people are aging out of the workforce with fewer coming in to replace them.
The pursuit of better employment will also likely keep workers job-hopping for some time to come. These trends show how critical it is to make sure your company is very good at recruiting, hiring, and retaining good people.
So, why does this matter to a pest-control employer? Like any other industry, it’s better to attract the right employees in the first place. Then, it’s wise to have a strategy for keeping them long-term.
Here are some points to consider when developing your approach.
Plan and Document the Employee Journey.
When you fail to plan, you are, by default, planning to fail. It makes a huge difference when you’re intentional about the entire journey of your employees, not just portions of it. Many people use the terminology of “cradle to grave.” That means every interaction, from first to last, needs to be carefully considered and planned.
This “employee journey” should become a living document that you refine over time. Block off at least an hour every week to work on this process until it’s polished. Once it’s something you’re proud of—keep working on it. You’ll be glad you did.
Clarify and Improve Your Company’s Mission and Values.
Don’t focus on profit more than your people and your service. If you do, you’ll always have a harder time keeping your employees and customers. In his best-selling book “Built to Last,” Jim Collins and his research team studied 18 top companies in American history. They focused on what separated them from their closest competitors.
Their research showed that the top-performing companies had a purpose beyond profit. That purpose made a significant difference in their ability to attract and keep top talent. It also saw them outperform their competitors.
Take, for example, one of the most well-known automakers—Ford. During Ford’s most productive stretches, there was a primary focus on what they called the “Three P’s.” That’s people, product, and profit.
The idea was to focus on taking care of their people and their product. Then the profit would follow. It would also be sustainable and more significant. This laid the foundation for Ford to become the most dominant auto manufacturer in American history.
People become more engaged when they feel like they’re a part of something special. There’s the old analogy of three guys hired to lay bricks. The first guy says, “I’m laying bricks.” The second guy says, “I’m building a church.” The third guy says, “I’m building the house of God.”
When you can hire people who believe what you believe, they’ll work for purpose over money. This is where good company culture starts.
Though people want to work for more than money, they also want to be taken care of. At the close of 2021, a WTW (Willis Towers Watson) survey showed that over half of US employees would leave their jobs for a better one. That shows no sign of stopping.
Benefits are often the first thing new applicants will ask about. Offering good, easily understood benefits is an important part of attracting and keeping good people.
Building a great company culture and keeping great people isn’t a short-term goal. It isn’t something to check off the list of to-dos and then move on. You want to move the needle. To do that, you must think about how you can help people make their lives better. Then you need to make sure these ideas shine through.
Your company mission should be clear and strong. It should show in your daily interactions. Once you do that, it becomes much easier to recruit and keep good people. Getting this part right makes everything else much, much easier.
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Engage Your People in the Recruiting Process.
Most companies use services like Indeed or ZipRecruiter to help find applicants. Many companies also offer a referral bonus to their employees to help with recruiting. If you’re not doing this now, I highly recommend it.
Involving your employees in the recruiting process helps turn them into promoters. Your people can recruit and work with their friends. That makes a big difference in job satisfaction and retention.
Many companies offer between $250 and $25,000 in referral bonuses. The amount often depends on the seniority of the position.
Most companies will spread the payment of these referral bonuses over a year. Some choose to pay out upfront. Others will withhold until the 6-month or even 1-year mark if the recruit is still employed.
Creating referral cards for your employees is a good way to track where referrals come from. You should include your company mission and values on these referral cards. Also include a place for your employees to write down their own names. This makes it easy for your employees to hand these out.
They can recruit while they are out and about and get credit for their efforts.
Be More Intentional About the Screening Process.
Focus on hiring for attitude. Then, train for aptitude. It’s far more important to find people with the right attributes than to find an experienced employee. They may know nothing about pest control. But it’s much easier to teach pest control than it is to change bad habits.
It helps to get specific about what you’re looking for. Then you can make sure you’re screening for that. Most companies will use a similar process. It may include a phone screening, a full application, and an in-person interview. They may also want a background check or personality assessment. There are great software and service options to help with personality assessments and background checks.
Make sure to ask the right questions. Experiment with how these steps can help you find the right people. Take a closer look at this part of your employee’s journey. It’s an important step and being thorough can go a long way.
The cost of replacing an employee can range from half to two times their annual salary. Those costs are incurred with all the obvious upfront expenses. But they also show up in some less obvious areas.
Consider the cost of dissatisfied customers that cancel because of high employee turnover. Training is a financial and time expense. Mistakes made by newer employees can also cost you. High turnover can also place more strain on your management team.
Many business owners don’t want to spend the extra time and money to refine their screening process. The reality is that underinvesting in this part of the process might cost more in the end.
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Improve Communication and Connectivity.
I went to lunch with a close friend years ago who has started and sold several very successful companies. I asked his opinion about company culture. How would he improve it?
He told me that the only thing that he had ever seen really move the needle was helping people feel like they are winning. He then recommended “The Four Disciplines of Execution” by McChesney, Covey and Huling. It has since become one of my all-time favorite books.
Because of this book, I got better at setting annual goals for my companies. I was able to help each department contribute to those goals. I know when they are winning.
Because of this book, we also implemented monthly companywide meetings. We got better at communicating with our people about our company mission, focus, and goals. These efforts have made a huge difference in helping our people feel well-informed. They’re part of a winning team.
In these monthly companywide meetings, each department reports on the past month. They go over their key performance indicators. They also recognize an employee of the month and employees’ tenure with the company. They give these individuals gift cards.
I’ll take time and talk about how we’re doing with our annual goals. I’ll often talk about our company mission and how it’s driving our progress as a company. I’ll also try to share a story about someone who went the extra mile or something else positive. And, I always make sure to sincerely thank our people and encourage them.
We usually have lunch and try to incorporate a 10–15-minute activity that everyone participates in.
These types of Townhall/Companywide meetings go a long way in helping our people feel like they are winning. They’re being recognized and connecting with everyone. They also help ensure there is good communication.
Employees have an inside perspective on the company’s goals and mission. They see how the company is performing across each department. This also helps with accountability. It’s a great way to help each department improve performance and receive positive recognition.
These meetings could be held monthly or quarterly. I wouldn’t recommend any more or less frequently than that. Adapt these concepts to fit your company. But make sure you’re leveraging these principles to foster communication. They should help your people feel like they are winning.
Have More Fun.
We have held a Summer Olympics for years that our people always look forward to. We break the company up into groups. These groups participate in a series of activities for points. There is an awards ceremony and food afterward, and the winning team goes on the Summer Olympics plaque, proudly displayed in the office.
There are lots of opportunities for fun. There are the usual holiday parties and company picnics. But, you can also take your team to a sporting event. Host barbeques and service projects. Have costume days and paper airplane competitions—with awards. Or, take one person in your company out to lunch every month and just get to know them.
Some of these ideas may seem overwhelming. If that’s the case, start small. No matter where you are, keep improving and keep trying to get better. Your commitment to these types of activities and ideas will be worth it.
Your people are the lifeblood of your company. The more you invest in them, the stronger your company will become.
Be More Creative.
In his book “Delivering Happiness,” Tony Hsieh tells the story of his company, Zappos. He shows how he took it from a startup to over a billion dollars in annual merchandise sales. Tony and his team took a people-focused approach. They made delivering wow (great customer service) and taking care of their people central to their Company Mission.
One of the creative initiatives that made Zappos famous was its annual Culture Book. Every year they asked each employee to write a few paragraphs about what Zappos meant to them. They asked how they would describe the Zappos culture. Then they collected the responses along with photos. This comprised the Culture Book. Everyone in the company got a copy.
They even published the less flattering entries and used them to learn from. This kind of exercise can be adjusted to fit your company. Focus on the idea of being creative. Those efforts will be appreciated. They help your people feel heard. And thus, they are more loyal and connected at work.
Get More Feedback from Your Quarterly and Annual Reviews.
Employees should be getting coaching and feedback as often as possible. But, every employee should have the opportunity to meet with a supervisor for an annual or quarterly review. These reviews should be positive experiences for the employee. They should provide a two-way street for feedback.
Review any eligible annual bonuses with the employee (90% objective, 10% subjective). Provide a summary of annual benefits and see if there are any questions. This summary should help the employee see the totality of their compensation package. That may increase their appreciation and understanding.
A review needs to talk through areas where the employee still has room for improvement. Supervisors should express appreciation for the employee. Highlight their strengths and their progress.
Ask the employee how the company can better serve its customers. Also, ask the employee what the supervisor can improve on. What can be done to make the company a better place to work?
Improve Training and Strengthen the Employee-Supervisor Relationship.
One of the processes we have implemented in my pest control company is monthly QCs. Every month our Branch Managers will go out incognito and observe their technicians perform a service. The technicians never know when this will happen or that it’s happening.
After the service is complete, the Branch Manager will review the job with them. Then, the Branch Manager will ride along with the technician to their next stop. They complete that next stop with the technician, providing extra training and encouragement.
These QCs provide great accountability for our technicians because they never know when their work will be inspected. This has been a great way for our company to help ensure higher quality service.
This monthly process has also provided our Branch Managers a great opportunity to coach our technicians in the field. It has strengthened their relationship with each of their technicians. They know the Branch Managers are getting out into the field to help them learn and do their job even better.
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Measure What Matters.
When performance is measured, performance improves. Make sure you’re tracking your employee Net Promoter Score (NPS).
NPS comes from this question: On a scale of 1 to 10, with 10 being the highest, how likely are you to refer working for _______ Pest Control to friends and family?
Make sure you’re also asking the following types of questions:
- If your response was a 10, what are the main reasons why?
- If your response wasn’t a 10, what would it take for _______ Pest Control to improve your working experience enough for your answer to become a 10?
There are many reputable software companies that can help you with employee surveys. Gathering this information at least once a year will give you better insight into how your employees feel about their work. It also shows what you can do to improve.
It’s also helpful to track the following KPIs:
- Employee attrition rate (total number of team members measured against total quits)
- Average lifespan of an employee
- Cost per hire.
Tracking these numbers will give you helpful insight into the health of your employee journey. It also makes it easier to measure the effectiveness of the adjustments you make.
Aristotle said, “Pleasure in the job puts perfection in the work.” Enjoyment or pleasure at work comes in large measure from feeling connected, having purpose, and realizing you are doing well.
Hopefully, some of these ideas will lead to improvements in your business or spark other ideas that will be helpful. These types of initiatives take time. Be patient but be persistent.
The Great Resignation and the reduced pool of incoming workers have contributed to a tighter labor market. While that looks to be slowing, that’s no reason not to always put your best foot forward. Your efforts to improve your employee journey might well be the single most defining element of your company’s future success.
Good luck and keep on keepin’ on.