How to hire employees in the tree care, how to know which are good candidates

hello hi everyone am new to this forum, am a female certified arborist and own my company am fully equipped from lift,two bobcats,stump grinder,chipper and so goes on i have to employees that are loyal climbers but it seems like is hard to get people to come and work we offer workers comp and we pay for theyr lunch and even all drinks(water,gatorade) we pay on salary by week and if the job ends early everyone goes home, here in tampa florida we pay them $180 a day for 10 hours,i have brought bunch of groundies wasted money and time to train them only to hear is not what they want they are so eager to learn at the beginning and then they give up, none wants a job these days is always about how much your going to pay and they are not even certified arborist or carry a cdl or per say have a clue what a chainsaw, here in tampa no one wants to work in the heat but want the good earning, as it right now i only have 4 people me my husband and the two climbers i do most the estimating, i will love to get a a recommendation on how to move forward how to get there how to hire is hourly wages better than salary?
 

VenasNursery

Branched out member
Location
Michigan
hello hi everyone am new to this forum, am a female certified arborist and own my company am fully equipped from lift,two bobcats,stump grinder,chipper and so goes on i have to employees that are loyal climbers but it seems like is hard to get people to come and work we offer workers comp and we pay for theyr lunch and even all drinks(water,gatorade) we pay on salary by week and if the job ends early everyone goes home, here in tampa florida we pay them $180 a day for 10 hours,i have brought bunch of groundies wasted money and time to train them only to hear is not what they want they are so eager to learn at the beginning and then they give up, none wants a job these days is always about how much your going to pay and they are not even certified arborist or carry a cdl or per say have a clue what a chainsaw, here in tampa no one wants to work in the heat but want the good earning, as it right now i only have 4 people me my husband and the two climbers i do most the estimating, i will love to get a a recommendation on how to move forward how to get there how to hire is hourly wages better than salary?
Welcome to the Buzz

Well your not alone
As long as you present yourself as a Top company (safety-equipment-customers-PAY-) you already are doing the best advertisement for customers and employees
We also buy lunches not drinks though and also do company vacations at least twice a year

something I started last year because we only work m-f 8-4

If a employee gets their own job I’ll book them for Saturday and Sunday and split the profits with that employee
I know that sounds crazy but my equipment doesn’t make money sitting at the shop
(Averages out to $3-6k extra a month )
And encourages my employees to work on weekends and they also have the opportunity to make really good money also

So long story long all your surroundings tree service people will hear and see your company doing great things they will want to become part of your Team

If you build it they will come lol
But true
 

VenasNursery

Branched out member
Location
Michigan
Welcome to the Buzz

Well your not alone
As long as you present yourself as a Top company (safety-equipment-customers-PAY-) you already are doing the best advertisement for customers and employees
We also buy lunches not drinks though and also do company vacations at least twice a year

something I started last year because we only work m-f 8-4

If a employee gets their own job I’ll book them for Saturday and Sunday and split the profits with that employee
I know that sounds crazy but my equipment doesn’t make money sitting at the shop
(Averages out to $3-6k extra a month )
And encourages my employees to work on weekends and they also have the opportunity to make really good money also

So long story long all your surroundings tree service people will hear and see your company doing great things they will want to become part of your Team

If you build it they will come lol
But true
But what do I know
I’m still looking for employees also
 

Stumpsprouts

Branched out member
Location
Asheville
This is a tough market to recruit! The local McDonald’s has a 1000 signing bonus. I don’t know if there are contract climbers in your area, but workin with them does have benefits. I’ve had the best luck using fellow ccs since they will always commit to the day, have the skill set and maturity, not to mention the equipment. It can be worth the extra cost.

I have a rotating cast of ground help since no one is interested in committing to this full time. They are all lovely wonderful people but I have a hard time keeping them committed.

Speaking of which, anyone want to work with me tomorrow in Asheville?? My groundie cancelled on me again.
 

Birdyman88

Branched out member
Location
Arlington
@charrezmichelle I'm in my 50's. I have been all over the pay scale in my life in many different roles and companies. Started out painting in the family biz, tree work with in-laws, then engineering, property management on side, now my own tree biz. Here are some observations of myself, and of other workers behavior over the last 38 years. This is focused just on your question of employee retention, not necessarily on whether you're going to be richer as a result.

- The lower the wage, the more likely they're going to keep looking for better.
- The lower the wage, the more they want additional opportunities if they stay, like advancement, ownership, benefits, anything to help them feel like they're growing and important.
- The lower the wage, the better that unemployment check or other government benefit looks.
- The lower the wage, the stronger you need to be as a boss as the candidates aren't always the easiest to manage.
- When you find a candidate that is working out, do what it takes to keep them - pay them good, give them responsibility, don't micro manage, don't berate them (if that's your style), accept that you are personally going to take home less money but know their contribution can open up more opportunities for you.
- The lower the wage, the more flexibility you'll need to have with them - daycare, etc
- Outside work during the extreme months takes a special kind of person, no matter the pay.
- Nobody's going to love your company the way you do.
- Tree work(ers) has a certain stigma associated with it, so the best candidates may not even be looking your direction.
- This profession attracts candidates with drug and alcohol issues, and the latter impacts a persons ability/desire to keep a job.
- People want to be part of a tribe so look for people who view life through the same color glasses as you - it will make being around each other all day more tolerable, and even desirable.
- Some people just don't care about trees, so why would they care about your tree company.
- (related) The mission is important to people, which is why people are willing to do hard things for lower pay - the military knows that.
- The strenuous work makes some of us feel better, it makes other feel sick.
- The climber is your lead man, the groundie sometimes feels like the drummer, so make them feel like Neil Peart.
- Some people are just built to complain and it will not just go away, even with lots of money and benefits.
- If they like and respect you, they won't just bail on you, at least not without a decent excuse.
- If it ain't related to the cutting and disposing of wood, let the groundie(s) run the conversation on jobs, as long as it's clean and as long as they zip it when you have instructions for them.
- It's hard for some low income workers to understand why you have to kiss a customers behind, especially a rich person, and they may see that as a sign of weakness on your part, so explain it to them
- If an employee sees you as weak, they will become a cancer on your team, so 'strike down upon thee with great vengeance and furious anger those who attempt to poison their brothers'.
- Small companies just don't have the stability that larger ones do, so some good candidates aren't even gonna look at small operations.
- Part timers require flexibility, sometimes lots of it

Whew! But, I'm sure there's more to add.
 
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Dan Cobb

Branched out member
Location
Hoover
I'm a solo operation when it comes to tree care, but have experience hiring and interviewing. Pardon me if I mention things you're already doing or well aware of. Anyhow, a few random thoughts...

I'm unclear as to whether or not you're getting a decent pool of applicants. If you're not, I suspect pay rate and/or your job advertisement (job description, where you advertise,...) are the prime targets to scrutinize.

When screening applicants, I'd look for stability in their work history. When interviewing, some good open-ended questions are helpful for gauging if they will be a good employee. Questions like "Why do you want this job?," "Where do you see yourself in 5 years?," "What appeals to you about tree care?" and that sort of thing. If they have zero questions for you, or if their questions are all about time off and benefits, that's a red flag for me.

Paying more could be a better value for you. An unmotivated, unreliable $18/hr worker is probably more expensive than an excellent $22-25/hr worker.

Promise and delivery of a decent pay increase after some period (a few months) of satisfactory job performance and progression is a good motivator. Details need to be in writing. Requires you to keep good, specific documentation of their performance.

Providing lunch and drinks is a really nice thing to do for your employees, but I'm sure it easily becomes taken for granted.
 

evo

Been here a while
Location
My Island, WA
This is a tough market to recruit! The local McDonald’s has a 1000 signing bonus. I don’t know if there are contract climbers in your area, but workin with them does have benefits. I’ve had the best luck using fellow ccs since they will always commit to the day, have the skill set and maturity, not to mention the equipment. It can be worth the extra cost.

I have a rotating cast of ground help since no one is interested in committing to this full time. They are all lovely wonderful people but I have a hard time keeping them committed.

Speaking of which, anyone want to work with me tomorrow in Asheville?? My groundie cancelled on me again.
Love to, but it will cost ya round trip airfare and one days paid vacation for every day worked.
 

AdkEric

Participating member
Location
Adirondacks
we pay on salary by week and if the job ends early everyone goes home, here in tampa florida we pay them $180 a day for 10 hours
I will echo what others have said: your pay is low. $180/10 hrs =$18/hr. I am in rural upstate NY and the cost of living is lower than the Tampa area, not to mention we don't deal with that kind of heat and humidity, and around here an inexperienced ground worker starts at $20/hr, at least at reputable companies, with room to move up as skill increases. The disreputable companies are paying in the neighborhood of $15/hr and they are a revolving door.

Sometimes my boss will buy us lunch, but it's certainly not an everyday thing and it's not expected of him to do that. We appreciate it when it happens.

We are paid hourly, not salary. I like getting paid hourly. I'm not sure what is better. I've heard a lot of arguments for both sides of that debate.

I have brought bunch of groundies wasted money and time to train them only to hear is not what they want they are so eager to learn at the beginning and then they give up
"The only thing worse than training your employees and having them leave is not training them and having them stay." -Henry Ford.

Incentivize training and education, and reward hard work and progress. Set goals for their improvement. Communicate to the candidate during the interview that pay can increase as they complete ISA certification/acquire their CDL/etc.
 

Birdyman88

Branched out member
Location
Arlington
One of the more successful residential construction companies in our area - the ones that build the big homes - picks up day laborers in the parking lot when they have a big job. They do great work and other companies have a hard time competing with their bids. The owner of the company is loyal to the worker group when he has work, and he is held in high regard among the workers. IDK, he probably invites them to his house for cookouts, and sends their kids birthday presents. I knew one successful construction pro we used to work with back in the day who did just that, and he was the best in town, and expensive. You gotta admit, there's some real beauty and genius in this that few people mention.

When I had my roof put on several years back, the crew of about 12 people showed up, the boom box came on at 8am and they jammed all day, joking and laughing, right up until they were finished at 7pm. Did an excellent job.

IDK, I think some people overthink hiring, the obvious stuff like pay and underthink retaining other things like work environment. Not implying the OP did that by any means! Just saying sometimes all the pay in the world isn't enough to make a person feel at home in a place that doesn't feel like home. No fault on either party.

Lots of college sports teams of all types win and lose by this concept. Look up the Navy SEAL pod structure. Its all about the members learning to gel, which starts by looking at personalities, not skills. Paul Azinger used it as US Ryder Cup captain back in 2008 and beat the crap out of Europe. Oh, and was criticized for it, lol.
 
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evo

Been here a while
Location
My Island, WA
One of the more successful residential construction companies in our area - the ones that build the big homes - picks up day laborers in the parking lot when they have a big job. They do great work and other companies have a hard time competing with their bids. The owner of the company is loyal to the worker group when he has work, and he is held in high regard among the workers. IDK, he probably invites them to his house for cookouts, and sends their kids birthday presents. I knew one successful construction pro we used to work with back in the day who did just that, and he was the best in town, and expensive. You gotta admit, there's some real beauty and genius in this that few people mention.

When I had my roof put on several years back, the crew of about 12 people showed up, the boom box came on at 8am and they jammed all day, joking and laughing, right up until they were finished at 7pm. Did an excellent job.

IDK, I think some people overthink hiring, and underthink retaining.
Agreed and bluntly this is the hardest part of running my own show. Creating a fun work environment, mostly because I’m burnt out myself. Also partly because I’m a recluse, the most social I’ve been in months was taking an hour to hang out with my son’s tutor’s husband, but I was called from my wife to swing by and pick up some books for the kid at the end of my bid day.
 

Jehinten

Carpal tunnel level member
Location
Evansville
Not for everyone, but I run a solo company with no employees and team up with two other small companies as needed. Some days I work solo, others with company A or company B and occasionally have jobs where all three companies show up. One of the other companies is also solo and the other is the owner and one employee.

This works great for us because we each have different equipment and strengths; as well as when you have multiple company owners working together, instead of just a warm body, the level of professionalism and self motivation seems to increase. Not to say that employees cannot be professional or motivated, I know that they can, but I see a lot of examples in other companies that makes me relieved that I don't have employees.
 

Chris Schultz

Participating member
Location
Minturn
Your pay is way WAY to low to get anyone worth their weight... Our ground guys make more than that and we have lower cost of living up here.
100% agree here. Ask yourself: Could you thrive on $180/day, and be happy? Is that after taxes, or before? Lunches and drinks are a nice gesture, but they don’t keep the lights on, make vehicle payments or pay for health insurance.
 
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Chris Schultz

Participating member
Location
Minturn
These days with costs of living anywhere, 18/hour you’d be lucky just to have a body with a pulse show up, even luckier if they have a few brain cells and show up more than one day. Just like the tools in this industry you have to invest in the people that operate those tools. You get what you pay for, shit rates=shit attitudes and resentment. Shit rates=no skill, or motivation to improve skills.
 

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