Hiring Employees - Best Practices

John LeBlanc

New Member
Hey Everyone I wanted to post a question to you. I am a recruiter for multiple tree industry companies and we are having a shortage on Climbers. The question I have is what websites, techniques, and advertising do you use to attract climbers looking for work in your area?

I have tons of ads posted in many different areas I am just searching for something maybe I missed or didn't think of. I appreciate all of the feedback.
 

TimBr

Official Well Known Greeter
@treehumper; Bingo! Almost every ad I ever see is looking for experienced climbers. Nobody wants to pay the price of having to train someone. They want someone else to have already paid that price for them.

So tell me, how is a guy with no experience ever supposed to get the "minimum three years of climbing experience" that everyone seems to want, in order to qualify to get to work as an arborist? What you end up with is what you've got. A limited supply of very experienced people, and a bunch of others that would love to have the opportunity, but whom nobody will give a chance to.

I think August Hunicke himself said that he was forced to start his own company, just because of this chicken and egg problem. Nobody would give him a chance. So he ended up going out on his own, and becoming their competition.

End of rant, thanks for listening. And nice post, treehumper.

Tim
 

flyingsquirrel25

Well-Known Member
@treehumper; Bingo! Almost every ad I ever see is looking for experienced climbers. Nobody wants to pay the price of having to train someone. They want someone else to have already paid that price for them.

So tell me, how is a guy with no experience ever supposed to get the "minimum three years of climbing experience" that everyone seems to want, in order to qualify to get to work as an arborist? What you end up with is what you've got. A limited supply of very experienced people, and a bunch of others that would love to have the opportunity, but whom nobody will give a chance to.

I think August Hunicke himself said that he was forced to start his own company, just because of this chicken and egg problem. Nobody would give him a chance. So he ended up going out on his own, and becoming their competition.

End of rant, thanks for listening. And nice post, treehumper.

Tim
Tim and treehumper I agree with you both 100%. But I wish to offer my opinion of why employers don't spend the money and time. As a business owner why would any sane individual spend time, effort, production, and money to train a climber from nothing. Just to see them succeed to the point where they go off on their own and become the competition. We have all seen it thousands of times, it's what they call the American dream. Being your own boss, making your own hour and making lots of money (???). Hell, I've done it trying to better myself and my family. I look back at the 10 years at my last employer and see the money they invested in me, providing me with training, benefits, equipment ect... and I just left. Were they Disappointed, yes, upset, yes, out thousands of dollars over the years yes. This is how business looks at it. What did I (the business) loose today?

But what did I provide over the 10 years???? Did I live up to my end of the deal??? What was the net gain over ten years??? If my previous employer and I sat down (or anyone who has done the same thing) and answered these questions we would find that training the person is a net gain for everyone... in the long term.

But most business doesn't think long term... hell not even past the next slow season.

So until we can correct our businesses the way we drive for the almighty dollar, the way we need to scratch with all the hacks just to get work when it's slow, the way we need to "sharpen the pencil" when bidding against the lagit hacks. Until we can step back and slow down, we are an industry of rush, rush, rush, no time, hurry up, go get this other one. We will be in this spiral going down down down. Just watch the next (or the last) video put up by a "famous" arborist/tree guy.

I do not, by any means, say I run my business like this or agree at all with it... it's just how I see it being from both sides of the fence.
 

TreeVB

Well-Known Member
Also, from what I have seen, it is nearly impossible to find someone who is truly willing to properly learn from the ground up. New hires seem to always tell you that they fine with ground work, whatever it takes kind of attitude, so they can learn everything they can. But 95 percent of the time they get antsy after a couple months and think that they deserve to start climbing. When you don't feel like they're ready, they up and quit. Now you're back to square one.
 

TreeWorks13

Active Member
So for two years I played in my back yard with ropes and stuff dicking around learning from books and videos. Everytime i see another company I would ask about working for them. Hell Ive even offered to work for free just for the learning experience. I had no interest in becoming an arborist or doing tree work I just wanted someone to learn from just wanted to climb. So when ppl started asking I started doing it part time on my own for 2 summers now. ( Still feel like i dont know shit ) I've gotten to know alot of the tree guys in the area. And there all crying because there's no climbers anymore. I only know 2 other guys that climb one is part time like me. Everyone else works from a bucket. I don't want to deal with any of the buisness stuff I just want to climb ..... the other tree guys look at me like I have three eyes when I say shit like that ..... so good luck climbers are out there but seems companies are blind to them for some reason. I've written it off as its the thing they never fix so they have something to cry about.
 

Tyler Durden

Well-Known Member
I personally think the turn over rate in the industry in atrocious. I have yet to be part of a company as dedicated to me as I to them. Us Buzzards are very talented, passionate people. Most large companies around DFW seem to be climber factorys. They teach their guys just enough to get out there and cut every sucker out of a tree they can reach, then work on convincing the client "Doesn't your tree look great now, look everybody else is doing it".
With a few exceptions, the big guys are just worried about production amd not killing any one. This is why I had to take a step back and become a Contract Climber.
Untill these big guys can start seeing there employees as people with familys and lifes and dreams, not just resources to drive in to the ground, the problem of finding good poeple will exist.
Is this guys problem really finding new help, or is it employee retention?

Sent from my SAMSUNG-SM-G891A using Tapatalk
 

TimBr

Official Well Known Greeter
So for two years I played in my back yard with ropes and stuff dicking around learning from books and videos. Everytime i see another company I would ask about working for them. Hell Ive even offered to work for free just for the learning experience. I had no interest in becoming an arborist or doing tree work I just wanted someone to learn from just wanted to climb. So when ppl started asking I started doing it part time on my own for 2 summers now. ( Still feel like i dont know shit ) I've gotten to know alot of the tree guys in the area. And there all crying because there's no climbers anymore. I only know 2 other guys that climb one is part time like me. Everyone else works from a bucket. I don't want to deal with any of the buisness stuff I just want to climb ..... the other tree guys look at me like I have three eyes when I say shit like that ..... so good luck climbers are out there but seems companies are blind to them for some reason. I've written it off as its the thing they never fix so they have something to cry about.
Thanks for giving us this really interesting background history. You did not specifically say this, but I'm assuming that even though you offered up free labor in exchange for some tutoring on climbing techniques, you never had any takers?

Also, you said "I don't want to deal with any of the business stuff I just want to climb ..... the other tree guys look at me like I have three eyes when I say shit like that." What are you saying here, that they think you're nuts for wanting to be a climber? Rather than just doing it for the money, I guess? Just curious. Thanks.

Tim
 
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John LeBlanc

New Member
I appreciate all the feedback from you guys and we do have a ground up program training people who want to climb and it has been extremely helpful for us so I agree with you 100% in that regard. The problem we are having is that we have lost a number of climbers that were with us for years for various reasons and the people in the training program do not have the skills developed yet to replace the climbers we have lost. It is going to be 1-2 years at the soonest for any of our Jr. Climbers to be ready to work at the level we need right now.

And Tyler I agree with your assessment of big companies not treating employees the same as small companies and I do work for a larger company in Washington state so we do have some retention problems being a local business we try to find a balance between being a production company and being a company that takes care of its people. Its always gonna be a double edged sword. I also have ran into a ton of experienced climbers and talked with hem and most of them said the same thing as you in regards to becoming a contract climber or going into business for themselves.

Before any tries to lay into me regarding how the company is run and it being a production company understand I am not in control of really anything except for the recruiting and hiring of people and trying to find people that can fill the openings we have. I figured the people here would be anle to give me some great insight and you have. You have basically reaffirmed what I have told the upper management for years now.
 

treehumper

Well-Known Member
Let's put this into perspective. These are not problems unique to us. Every small business person I've ever met or dealt with (and that's a lot across most industries in a past career) complains about the same things. It is a retention issue as much as anything else. So, instead of bemoaning it incorporate it into your training and development. Accelerate the learning so your jr. climbers are exposed to more sooner. Make the learning more intensive. At the NJ Shade Tree Federation Conference last week one of the presenters started off with a video called Shift Happens (watch it!) that boggles the mind in the dimensions of data we now have at our finger tips.

Consider what this implies about our newest recruits. Is our training geared toward them or us? Instead of bemoaning the future and the new generations, we need to keep up and adapt to better leverage them so we as an industry are not left behind.

Here's another interesting point, the lack of available skilled labor is a bigger driving force for automation than wage costs.

As with anything we acquire to operate our companies, we evaluate based on ROI. Those thousands spent on training and outfitting an employee is returned to us several times over. Bearing this in mind and keeping track of it would demonstrate what the value of employee development is. However, be mindful of the fact that they will often desire to direct their own destiny and set out on their own,. So, who have you identified as the next climber?

Furthermore, in the age of information and data, we must become an information business leveraging data for growth. Realize your people need to be knowledge workers who happen to be able to deliver the physical elements of the work. But, it will be their ability to process and analyze data that will be key to your business' success.
 
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TimBr

Official Well Known Greeter
Also, from what I have seen, it is nearly impossible to find someone who is truly willing to properly learn from the ground up. New hires seem to always tell you that they fine with ground work, whatever it takes kind of attitude, so they can learn everything they can. But 95 percent of the time they get antsy after a couple months and think that they deserve to start climbing. When you don't feel like they're ready, they up and quit. Now you're back to square one.
Hey, TreeVB, I've got a question for you, and I'm not taking a shot, just asking. In the two months that the guy was with you, did you teach him anything at all that relates to climbing? Like how to tie a friction hitch, or a termination knot? If the guy went two whole months dragging brush for you, and you failed to teach him anything at all that relates to climbing, I can see how he might start to think that you have no such intentions. If, on the other hand, you'd been teaching him various friction hitches and other needed knots, and explaining the purpose of various pieces of your climbing gear, but still judged him not yet ready to start in with the climbing, I can see how you might view him as too impatient.

My point here is that it might help a guy to stick around if he felt you were actually investing a little bit of effort towards teaching him the basics he'll need when the time to climb does get there. Without that investment, you are asking a new guy to trust you not to just use him for grunt labor for the indefinite future. Setting some kind of schedule that is laid out in advance as to what he can expect to be taught and approximately when would allow a new guy to believe that you really do want to see him progress. Knowing there's a path to learning and success would give them the hope for the future that would cause them to stay around long term. Without any of that stuff present, they might start to conclude, possibly wrongly, that you just want to use them up and keep them stupid. Create specific learning targets and rewards, a step by step path to professionalism. Demonstrate mastery of this task, and I'll let you try this next task; that sort of thing. It might raise your retention numbers.

Tim
 

Crimsonking

Well-Known Member
My story- I was thrown in rather quickly by my crew leaders, without the owner's knowledge. A few weeks in, I was told to climb four trees (straight up, straight down). A few months later my crew leader developed a skin condition that made wearing a saddle unbearable, so when he and I went out without the owner, he directed me through the tree and did the ground work. Within a year I was finishing small rigging removals without a superior on site.

After four years I moved on. Since then I've worked for a few companies and have seen different approaches:

- The detached, sit the team through some classes approach, which is akin to Tyler's description of larger companies.

- The "as we have time" approach. It can be painful to watch this one due to the rushed culture many companies have, mentioned by Flyingsquirrel. People are required to do the least skilled work for a long time before picking up any skills that will move them forward. If the hire is self-motivated and has a passion for the industry they may be able to push through and better learn intangibles like workflow and the climbers' preferences. These things will change at every company, but being able to recognize them is a big help. Slow isn't bad, but slow without a solid plan and follow through crushes the will.

- the planned, methodical approach. One company's model is to hire, lay out options that are possible, start slow, with no climbing instruction beyond company wide training meetings for a couple months. Assess the person's attitude and aptitude, then start training them. It's still otj, but it's planned, intentional, and there is communication throughout the process.

What made this model work- a skilled trainer, a plan, and communication. I've seen that model take completely inexperienced hires and make them good, productive climbers in less than two years. The skilled trainer part of the model can be the hardest part. You need a skilled climber who is also a skilled teacher.

One other aspect that help this model is an open-hand attitude on the part of the company. Two companies I've worked with that trained intentionally also accepted that any trainee may one day leave, and they decided that their greater commitment was to the growth of their people, even at the risk of one day losing them. This decision, when actively walked out, wins the hearts of your employees, and makes you a place where people want to learn.

The problem, as mentioned, is getting people trained enough to take a leadership role. Like TH said, acceleration is important. I'm grateful to have been thrown in as quickly as I was. It was good to have been surrounded by safety minded leaders in the process. Another consideration is keeping an eye out for your gifted, passionate people, and invest more in them. Put them with the crew leaders that exemplify what the company stands for. Let those leaders mold them and push them. I have in mind one such pairing. The hire was committed to making the job work, and the crew leader was a skilled leader and manager. The hire became a proficient climber in a year's time.

So to end my rambling, my point is- have an established, personalized training plan that focuses on the individual's aptitude, and assemble teams that will grow each member as they work together. And COMMUNICATE. Feedback gives vision, encourages, and motivates.


One more bit on properly mixing teams- when I worked with one company that focused on this, I was appointed lead climber, but not crew leader. The crew leader was a gifted manager, but not a strong climber. By putting us together, the company helped us both. I learned more about detail management, and he was motivated to push himself harder in climbing. I also got to show him a few neat tricks I've learned along the way. What made this pairing work especially well was the fact that we'd been in the industry for the same length of time, which accentuated each of our needs for growth as we saw the other's strengths.
 

TreeWorks13

Active Member
Thanks for giving us this really interesting background history. You did not specifically say this, but I'm assuming that even though you offered up free labor in exchange for some tutoring on climbing techniques, you never had any takers?

Also, you said "I don't want to deal with any of the buisness stuff I just want to climb ..... the other tree guys look at me like I have three eyes when I say shit like that." What are you saying here, that they think you're nuts for wanting to be a climber? Rather than just doing it for the money, I guess? Just curious. Thanks.

Tim
Correct Tim no takers. The next best thing was actually my nighbor. He's 65 and working on retiring been slowly cutting back. Anyways he wanted to help me start a tree buisness. Basically he throws me work that he dident want or couldent get to with his bucket. Or if it's bigger than trimming a bush he has me do the ground work I've seen him climb one time and he has had me climb maybe a half dozen times. So no learning happening here other than what I'm teaching myself as far as climbing goes. I'm not upset with this arrangement but it's not what I'm looking for. As for the other owners looking at me like I'm nuts ..... they see me out there they know the quality of my work. They see how aggressive I am when i want something. They don't understand that I'm not a buisness person I have no passion for that side of it. I can see how they would be weary of me leaving to do my own thing after s while. I see this happen in alot of industries btw ( welding toolmakers construction health care ) .... You can't fault someone for trying to better themselves the buisness owners dident get where they are by not taking the better opertunity when it came along.
 

TheCiscoKid

Member
It's rather hard to find someone to teach you to climb. I left my first company as I felt there was no intention to teach me. my 2nd company was slow to make a move. I bought my own gear, and taught myself after work and on the weekends. Now I climb doing mostly thinning, and trimming. I am more than capable doing removals-my foreman just pawns off work to me he doesn't want to do.

It's pretty hard to find an employer willing to build your skills. Most of them just want someone to do grunt ground work for a low wage. I will probably be running my own operation soon with much better training practices. in this industry right now, it's kind of a joke.
 

rope-a-dope

Well-Known Member
Sounds like the task of training people to be good tree workers isn't a strong feature of many tree businesses out there. The economic goals of a tree business are strenuous and challenging, for sure. Employee retention, mismanagement of human resources, and poor planning for future growth are problems that wont be solved easily from the same leadership responsible for creating them. Thus, the climber for hire shortage.
My idea is simple and small. I want to start a tree climbing club. It doesn't have to be big or expensive like a training program for amateur arborists or trade school. Its recreation. People that are interested learn skills and gain knowledge off the clock, but along side a pro that happens to work for so and so. Dedicated members with extra tree hunger have the option to level up into a job if they so desire.
If you cant have NATS or Arbormaster level training for average hires, then you could try to attract above average hires through community enrichment.
Maybe you don't get anyone working, but at least you get people in trees!
 

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