employee management

Working Man

LawnSite Member
Location
Michigan
We are going crazy right now trying to get all the guys to do their jobs correctly. Employee ethics in general is worse than I've ever seen it. Some of it is lack of training with the newer guys but some of the guys that have plenty of experience are just saying they are getting everything done and then I check behind them and it seems that they only attempted to do a half ass job. I know someone just started a thread on grading scales but I have more issues that I am looking for advice on and I didn't want to hijack his thread. The main issues I'm having are quality, maintenance, and carelessness.
1. Quality: I'm trying to write up the characteristics of a job well done so that it is clearly defined and everyone is on the same page. I would also like to write up a contract to define each positions role in producing the quality desired. And finally I would like some sort of grading scale. The pro let is lack of time, and variables, but mostly analysis paralysis. I have trouble putting things out there when I do think feel I've touched on everything.
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Working Man

LawnSite Member
Location
Michigan
2. Maintenance: I have 10 to 14 guys come in in the morning for an hour to an hour in a half which I feel is way too long. However the more agitating thing is that the mowers are rarely powerwashed. I'll check an air filter and it is dirty as hell. They call after they get on the job and say that their weed whip isn't working or they forgot string. One crew developed a new habit of changing blades In the field and leaving the old blades in the bed of the pickup truck to rust under all the trash they throw on top of it and don't clean out at the end of the day by the way. The same crew started filling their mowers and mixing their own 2 cycle at the gas station not realizing that we put mid grade fuel and additives in the five gallon cans that are at the shop every morning to protect the equipment from the ethenol. Or a crew will call and say that someone stole their whip off the trailer in the morning. For a week we had a problem with someone over filling the oil in multiple mowers until we had a separate meeting about that. We have tried staggering crews and created an assembly line. Both had their own issues. I have tried to create checklist systems and just can't seem to figure out the complete system with all of the variables which takes me back to analysis paralysis.
3. Training: first of all everyone that comes in for an interview seemsbto think they know everything about landscaping and should make 15/hour to start. But for the kids that do come in and are honest with us and want to learn, I will put them out with someone competent and confident in their capabilities. The problem is my crew leaders might miss the little stuff like whipping all of the cracks in the parking lot or forget to show the guys how to grease a mower. The new guys don't know they're supposed to do that stuff and now when they move up not only do they make small mistakes but they also don't do everything they are supposed to do. I need a training manual and checklist with tests that tell me if the crew leaders understandbtheir ENTIRE job and expectations and if the trainee understands. I haven't really begun to write up these systems because I feel I need to get the quality and maintenance under more control and then I can use the forms and systems from that to build our training.
4. Carelessness: I stole a weed whip out of one of the trucks yesterday and still nobody has noticed that it is missing. We have paid for about 6 spindles this year. Bought more blades than ever. Had three vehicle accidents. Sent two cars to the body shop that has been working with me on trade due to mowers shooting rocks and baseball's at them. Replaced at least one very expensive window. Had three brand new $350 weed whips ruined. One got ran over by a truck. One by a mower and one stuck between a mower and a tree because they were driving with it on the deck of the mower. There have been plenty of other things.
We have interviewed probably close to 50 people this year. Hired at least 20. Had at least 5 quit or get fired because they were either upset that they couldn't smoke weed at work or because they were caught smoking weed at work. We've Fired people for breaking stuff due to carelessness. Fired at least 10 people for no/call no/show. Had people quit because they had to work late or had to work on weekends because of no/call no/shows.

I'm trying to create the systems to manage the people but I'm too busy putting out fires, can't get everyone to jump on board quick enough and then everyone loses interest. Or I'm just not good enough at managing people. It seems that the larger companies have a little more cash flow to work with and can throw some more money to the problem and the smaller companies don't have so many employees to deal with so it's not as much of a struggle. Sorry for the long post I'm just really frustrated right now.
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grassmonkey0311

LawnSite Gold Member
I feel for you! I'm firing a guy next week for carelessness. The guy before him was a no call no show on the 6th day of work!!

Do you have policies in place and in writing? Do they know whats expected of them?

Can you change crews around to mix things up so the 'usual suspects' work with a fresh face?

Are they offered any type of incentive or bonus?

Are you hiring too quickly and not interviewing correctly?
 
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Working Man

LawnSite Member
Location
Michigan
I'm definitely guilty of hiring too quickly. I'm trying to get everything in writing hence the sops and job descriptions but like I stated I've always been terrible with over analyzing and constantly find loop holes where they will say "well it doesn't say this...." it took me forever to write our handbook and I just had a lawyer revise it. We are horrible at following through with write u - ups mostly because I feel if we do them constantly it's just another process and it doesn't mean anything. I haven't come up with a good enough punishment. Last year I had five crew leaders. My brother - in - law that I was teaching the entire business to. My wife's best friends fiancé. An old friend that was living with us at the time. A crew leader that came from another company late last year. And another one that had been around for a couple years. The last one was Mia for the biggest snowstorm of the year along with two of his friends that were working for us. They all went out partying the night before and didn't come in. I fired all of them because I almost lost a huge contract and had to get friends to call off work to come in and help out. The others were good at what they did but friendship family problems and living together added to the pressure of a very wet spring leaving us working every weekend for the month led them all to quit within a few weeks of each other. I should have known better than to hire friends and family but it's like a new relationship. When it starts everything is fantastic and when it goes down hill it can get ugly. I only had one foreman still in tact and he is my best guy still. He is very well taken care of and he's trying to help me get everyone else in line right now. I had to start all over this year though because of that. I've picked up a handful of great guys this year. A couple of them are running crews and a few of them are still in training. None of them were friends or family so I think when we finally get things together we will be a lot stronger for it. But this is why it has been so difficult. If my guys that I had last year were still here they could have taken on two or three guys each and trained them but instead it's been me and my main guy out trying to train 14 people on the way we do things. Because of all of the turnover it's hard for me to hold people's jobs over their head as punishment. I have given out random bonuses to a few guys when I thought they did an outstanding job. I've given out 6 $50 gift cards this year already. But giving a bonus for doing your job doesn't make sense to me. They get paid according to their work ethic. I start people out with no experience at 10/hour and give them raises as I see them progressing. With training, quality, and skills tests and production tracking I could make it simpler to give raises in a more rational way, another reason why I'm trying to write the sop's and job descriptions etc. I've been trying to over staff so that I can make people take days off but it has been very difficult for a couple reasons. When I put more people on a job it just adds more man hours. I still have people calling in so once I find one worth keeping around I will give them more time but I just end up getting rid of the person they have been covering for. I feel like I'm constantly training different people to do the same jobs over and over because I have to make due with what I have.
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ToddH

LawnSite Silver Member
The superlawn truck guy Tony Bass has some manuals
I have purchased "the complete business manual for landscape, Irrigation and Maintenance contractors" from Charles Vander Kooi.

I like Charles Vander Kooi and I think Tony Bass was associated with him at one time. Tony Bass has some books offered on the Vander Kooi page. Sounds like to me you need the training first.
 

ringahding

LawnSite Senior Member
Location
Stillwater, MN
I get it!!! We have implemented simple maintenance policies.
  • Everyday blades are sharpened after the crews are done mowing for the day.
  • Mowers & Trucks are filled up everyday after mowing is complete
  • Oil Changes/Greasing are done every end of the week

Have you sent a Operations Manager or Yourself on the job with the crews, to show them how it is done?

And maybe switch crews until you feel they get it. Or just show up where they are and start working.

I actually have my 23 year old son rocking one of our crews and everyone looks to do better than him...Do you have that guy? I cannot tell you how much of an asset he is to our company.

Competition to have the best crew will be talked about, by the crews, but having that one guy to kick errryone in the butt--->>>IS NEEDED..

Crews will stop at the store, it is a give in. If you have them fueling up everyday and changing blades after route is complete...they are probably bustin their butttt to get done at that point. Naturally they are slower in the morning, but will probably still stop at the store. But at least you pay them to milk the clock early in the morning.

I am just typing things that come to me , trying to help ya man..
 
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Working Man

LawnSite Member
Location
Michigan
Thank you grass monkey and ELS. I do get the Tony bass emails and have heard a lot of good things about Vander Kooi I will look into them more this weekend. I finally read e-myth revisited a couple weeks ago and Find that his style of writing reminds me a lot of kyosoki. It's very easy to read and seems so simplistic but more about the WHY and less about the specific HOW. I haven't read the e-myth directed specifically to contractors. I understand why I need to build the systems and what should ultimately be done but need to better understand what steps to focus on and in what order so I'm not wasting time or money trying to solve the wrong problems in the wrong order.

I did try staggering the crews but I kept running into problems with people stealing equipment off of other trailers and when the last trailer would go out I would either have to hunt down another crew to find the equipment or buy another whip or something just to get them going. I've got numbers on all off the equipment and for the most part the guys use the same stuff every day but we have some large contracts and there are a lot of variables. We send 6 whips together on one day because they are doing cemeteries. Then we need three whips on a different crew the next day. Then we need one 72 on this side of town and two 60's on the other side of town the next day. Also because I'm still trying to develop the crew leaders one crew might go out and not think to grease their mowers for a while. Plus we never did figure out who the person was that was over filling the mowers with oil, what if that crew went out with the same equip every morning with too much oil and blew the seals. That's how we started the assembly line. So that only two people were allowed to touch the oil. One person does nothing but check tire pressure etc. The problem was I would get one guy going on his job and then move to the next one and by three days in the first one would somehow forget what his job was. Or somebody wouldn't show up and it would put a kink in things. I realize that by punishing or firing the people that don't follow through they should get in line but like I said, with all of the training I try to put into these guys and not having strong backup workers it puts me in a tough spot to just fire somebody and start all over again with a new guy.
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Working Man

LawnSite Member
Location
Michigan
Yeah. Just got my best guy out of the field to be me a couple weeks ago. I was trying to keep up with bids and office and training and blah blah blah. It's seems to be helping a lot. I've actually freed up my time enough to stop in at the job sites too. Right now the guys don't know what to think because he might stop by and then I'll be there ten minutes later. That's how I fired two of my guys last week. I was getting complaints on their route so I went to check on some properties while my foreman went to talk to them. I showed up a half hour later and something didn't seem right. I walked over to their truck and pulled a cigarette pack off the center council with a roach in it and the whole truck smelled like weed. I have nothing against weed but I disagree that it makes you cut better, faster, or whatever else these guys claim. It makes you slower less observant to your surroundings, forgetful of the complaints that you have had on the property etc. They are all told this in the interview. I don't care what you do on your own time but don't do it on my time. It kills me to not have my best guy out cutting everyday but I can see the benefits it will bring and I can tell he's much happier. He gets the brand new company truck and gets paid well and he's learning the business side. This was the role I was trying to set my brother in law up with earlier this year.
We did try to get the guys to do the maintenance at the end of the day a couple times but I have to figure out a better way to do it. Right now these guys are taking too long on their routes as it is and they are getting back later than they should. I think I need to tell them what time they need to come back whether their done or not. I just would hate to see them have to drive ten miles to finish up one property the next day and be further behind.
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dc33

LawnSite Senior Member
Location
Indiana
after reading this, I think all my guys are getting raises tomorrow :D

Ive been through all this. Got to weed out the idiots ASAP cause they will never get better.
A good work ethic and attitude is worth far more than experience. I personally work with my guys and with new guys or have my GM do it and watch them like a hawk and point out errors and ride them hard if they try to slack. I keep a fast pace and demand it of them. They don't keep up they are gone, they **** up they are gone, they don't care they are gone. They either float to top fast or are flunkies and gone asap. I don't have the patients for losers.
 

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