Employee retention over the Winter

Discussion in 'Lawn Mowing' started by LushGreenLawn, Feb 6, 2007.

  1. LushGreenLawn

    LushGreenLawn LawnSite Silver Member
    Posts: 2,121

    Hello Everyone,

    I read a thread on here a while back, and now I cannot find it, about how to retain employees over the Winter.

    While alot of people posted that they had work for their crews all winter long, I will not be in that situation for a while. There were also a few posts about letting the employee draw unemployment over the Winter. I know a few industrial plants around where I live will lay off employees with "intent to rehire". I've had a few friends in this situation. It means you still work for the company, but they have no work for you at the present time, and will "recall" you when there is more work.

    How many of you do this, and how bad does it affect your unemployment insurance. Does it Skyrocket?
     
  2. JimLewis

    JimLewis LawnSite Fanatic
    Posts: 6,842

    Don't worry about the unemployment insurance deal. There's no way for guys like us to avoid it. Essentially it works like this; you either pay the "lower" rate, or you pay the "higher rate". If you've laid anyone off over the last 2 years, or something like that, you pay the "higher rate". Doesn't matter why. That's just the way it works. So just consider it part of doing business. But the higher rate isn't all that much more anyway. Unemployment is one of the smaller tax burdens anyway.

    As for how to keep employees to stay all winter, that's a tough one. If you're not at the point where you can keep someone working all year, even part-time, then you're always going to be at risk for losing them, come next season.

    I've heard of companies using a system called "comp. time". The idea being that any overtime accrued during the rest of the year gets put into a savings account. And the employee can draw from that account and still get regular paychecks during the winter. So, say an employee worked 50 hours per week for 8 months. And that's at time and a half. So after 8 months, he essentially has about 500 hours of "comp. time" saved up. If he takes 40 hours per week, that will last him 12.5 weeks, or about 3 months. If he takes only 30 hours per week, it would last him all 4 months of winter break. It's a cool system. But it's questionable whether it's legal or not. I know for sure it's not legal to do this in my state. But I also know for a fact some other companies who do this. So I guess it's legal some places. It's an idea, at least.

    I always have to lay off about half of our 15 workers during the winter. And sometimes it gets down to only 6 people for a few weeks. But I try like crazy to keep my best guys working - at least 20-30 hours ea. week - all winter. Just barely enough for them to survive and not leave us. The good thing is most of my hispanic workers have 2nd jobs in the evening and weekends and pizza joints or restaurants. So in the winter, they just tell their bosses at those jobs that they are available for more hours, more days. So it works out well for them.

    Otherwise, consider other things you could do during the winter to bring in extra dough. Gutter cleaning, whatever. There are tons of threads here on lawnsite regarding winter services. I know one guy here locally who goes and places "gutter cleaning service - tomorrow only - $35 front, $35 back" flyers on people's doors all winter. He throws out 100-300 flyers in a neighborhood one day, comes back the next day and collects about 20 checks and does about 20 gutter cleanings. It's not much fun in the cold wet rain. But I guess for him it's better than being broke all winter. And it probably keeps his guys busy.
     
  3. corey1977

    corey1977 LawnSite Senior Member
    from maine
    Posts: 262

    I work for a city cemetery and mow part time on the side I get laid off from december till april and collece unploment
     
  4. corey1977

    corey1977 LawnSite Senior Member
    from maine
    Posts: 262

    unployment
     
  5. LushGreenLawn

    LushGreenLawn LawnSite Silver Member
    Posts: 2,121

  6. corey1977

    corey1977 LawnSite Senior Member
    from maine
    Posts: 262

    thank you lush
     
  7. ed2hess

    ed2hess LawnSite Fanatic
    Posts: 13,317

    One advantage of H2B is the workers go home when work drops off and come back in March. Program is expensive and not practical unless you are bringing 3 or more. We specifically target commerical properties that need to have service year round so we can keep a small number of guys working. We try to give them at least 20 a week. We do treework, small landscape jobs, clearing, do some irrigation work....just whatever to keep them busy.
     
  8. LushGreenLawn

    LushGreenLawn LawnSite Silver Member
    Posts: 2,121

    I looked into H2B, and once I've grown enough to need a few employees, I may look into it again. The only thing that concerns me is that the website says that they do not speak english. I do not speak spanish, and would have a hard time communicating with them.

    Did you guys that have H2B workers learn spanish?
     
  9. Ecoscape01

    Ecoscape01 LawnSite Senior Member
    Posts: 375

    Im in college right now and when I decided that I would start a company in the spring, learning spanish became one of my first priorities for exactly that reason. I think it is a good idea in general in this country but it is a must for landscapers - and your Hispanic employees will have a lot more respect for you. It might even motivate them to learn English or learn to speak it better. I figured I cant go wrong learning spanish
     
  10. JimLewis

    JimLewis LawnSite Fanatic
    Posts: 6,842

    Good for you. I am fluent in spanish and it's been extremely helpful.

    The one thing you are wrong about though is motivating THEM to learn english. I think you are hoping for too much, there. If you learn how to do that, I'll be very impressed.

    I have several who already do speak good english when they come to work for me. But I've never been able to motivate one who didn't know english to learn it. Many of them seem very content not knowing a lick of english. Which is odd to me. If I went to another country to live, I would make it a priority.
     

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