How long to give new employees a chance?

Discussion in 'Business Operations' started by Mitty87, Mar 17, 2018.

  1. Mitty87

    Mitty87 LawnSite Silver Member
    Messages: 2,346

    We are hiring our first two full time employees this year, mostly small landscape installs/renovations and hedge/shrub maintenance, irrigation.

    I told the first guy I had last week it would be one of our hardest jobs of the year. The builder completely blocked in 3 back yards and we had a 84 yard pile of soil to move from the spot we got it slung in. These are tight staircases and not really any access for even a mini skid. My wife and I did the first and farthest yard by wheelbarrow which was about 150 feet away.

    The guys first job was to bring me 2600 sq' sod down the stairs all day while I laid it, I would probably bring 1 roll for every 3 he did to catch up with him. I felt bad for him and let him take breaks every 10-15 minutes to catch his breath, have a smoke and snack break every pallet we finished plus 40 minute lunch.

    The next day was just moving soil. He would do about 1 wheelbarrow for every 1.75 that I would do but I don't expect him to be able to keep up right away.

    After every wheelbarrow or 2 he would have to take a minute to rest, then if I ever got a phone call he would just stop, which I did say that's not ok. I told him he could stop to rake out the soil every few loads but he said raking hurts his back. I just felt bad watching him struggle and didn't want to force him to go faster.

    3rd day was a garden tear out which was a little painful to watch him try to dig out shrubs but he did ok.

    The work we do is pretty labour intensive and mostly small tight yards so we almost never have machines, but get soil and gravel slung in if possible. But there is almost always some type of material that needs to be brought up or down a tight section with stairs only.

    Next week he will be bringing down another 6000sq' of turf and I don't want him to collapse on me.

    Should I be expecting labourers to always be generally weak and give them a chance, or should I just be firing guys like this and moving onto the next?

    I had $16-18/hr starting in the ad but after the first day I said I think you are worth $17, he said he was hoping for $20. I told him we will never pay cash or subcontract like most companies, so if he can get more somewhere else he should do it.

    Most companies doing landscaping and maintenance start at $12-15 here which is barely a livable wage so I'm trying to make it a bit more appealing.

    But then again I've read that paying more isn't much of a motivator and you get what you get.
  2. Griffinlawn

    Griffinlawn LawnSite Member
    Messages: 35

    Retaining employees is always a battl.

    You need to have a set period in which the employee is on probation. (15,30,60 days) we typically do a 30 day probation period. Supervisors must be happy with employee performance, no tardies, no absences, and some type of progress.

    With that said we hire at a lower rate an reward the ones that stay and strive to do better.

    Your customers won’t feel sorry for you, so you can’t feel sorry for your employee.

    Just my 2 cents
    Mark Stark and Rooted like this.
  3. stringfellohawk

    stringfellohawk LawnSite Senior Member
    Messages: 757

    Not to play the Devil's Advocate, but it does sound like you threw him into a meat grinder. You can't expect a geek off the street to be a labor-monster, especially humping all that material through stair wells. If he just jumped ship from another outfit, that's a different story. Here's the thing with labor, if you don't carb load the night before, you're going to see a qualitative change with quantity, as in, over the time of a few days, he's going to wear thing. The human body is a complex machine that requires the right kind of fuel. 3 beers with pasta of choice for dinner. If he's less than 160lbs, maybe 2 beers. His glycogen stores are depleting. Get him a rice crispy treat here and there.

    If he were a self starter, he may be worth 20, but stopping when the boss takes a phone call is a no go. If he saw not only step one and two, but also three, four, five, and six of the project, he'd be worth 20.

    Employees need to see a clear path towards progression. If they feel like they'll never go anywhere within the company and/or are promised things like benefits over time and you never deliver, they most likely will not produce at the level you need them to.

    Just some food for thought.
  4. grassmonkey0311

    grassmonkey0311 LawnSite Gold Member
    Messages: 3,435

    If it's that much physically intense labor, you'd be better off hiring a bunch of guys from a local temp agency. Depending on 1 or 2 guys to do that much constant lifting all day everyday will drive anyone anyone to look for a new job.

    Something else to consider- anytime an employee says something "hurts" should be a red flag for you. Or having them do that much intense labor all day. All it takes is 1 guy to go to the doctor and say he hurt himself while working.

    More to think about- no employee will ever work the same pace and amount as the boss. Come up with a realistic job description and hire/pay based on what your needs/expectations are. It's not as easy as saying "I'll give you $17 an hour to carry this pile of stuff down those stairs".

    Hiring is very hard, but over time you'll get a better grasp at it. Welcome to the wonderful world of employees.
  5. hort101

    hort101 LawnSite Fanatic
    Male, from S.E. New England
    Messages: 16,096

    Imo sounds like you should plan to get a machine too:weightlifter:

    GRANTSKI LawnSite Bronze Member
    Messages: 1,665

    Holy crap 84 yards of topsoil ???????
    Me and a buddy did 20 yards this spring by wheelbartow and ill never do that again. We were both in pain for a cpl days...and we are both conditioned for mostly mowing & light landscaping work (+ he goes to the gym as well). Moving topsoil is probably one of the hardest things on your body if you are going nonstop & not used to it.
    But u can't feel too bad for him being out of breathe then stopping for smoke breaks lol.
    Don't get how or why guys do it to themselves.
  7. weeze

    weeze LawnSite Fanatic
    Messages: 15,176

    that doesn't sound like a job i would want to do even if it paid $25 per hour or more. it's just too much work to do that all day long every day. if it's just a few hours no big deal but 8hrs every day just wears your body down. he probably could barely move the second day and his back was sore and everything.

    if it's that much work you should probably hire from a temp agency. you get a fresh batch of guys every day paying them about $10 an hr each. hire 2 of them each day. after a day none of them are gonna want to come back. just being honest with you. the guy you hired kept showing up each day so that's remarkable.
  8. Mitty87

    Mitty87 LawnSite Silver Member
    Messages: 2,346

    Thanks for the replies. We haven't had a job this bad before, but priced it high and we ended up getting it. There was 200 man hours of labour and over $11k in gross profit so it was steady work to start the year.

    Other than this job he will get to do a mix of things, so if he shows up Monday I'll give him another chance. I really don't mind doing all the hard labour for now if he can clean up or rake and keep up.

    I didn't realize the guy was 36, and he doesn't have a drivers license, never has. I think his parents take care of him, might of been better to go younger and try to find someone who wants to run crews one day.

    I have my 25 year old cousin moving out here to work for us, staying for free at my parents house. Quiet farm kid so we will be able to trust him and maybe ease into learning how to manage people with him.
    grassmonkey0311 and hort101 like this.

    GRANTSKI LawnSite Bronze Member
    Messages: 1,665

    I've worked railroad construction for years & would take that over the job u mentioned any day .I paid my buddy $25 hour on topsoil jobs and still felt bad . You just put him through boot if he shows up Monday that's a good sign lol.
    I had a kid 10 minutes into spring cleanup was picking dirt out of his nails. I knew he was done right then.
    hort101 and Mitty87 like this.
  10. Mitty87

    Mitty87 LawnSite Silver Member
    Messages: 2,346

    I don't mind lots of breaks if we work hard, move 10 rolls of sod, stop for a minute, then was giving him smoke breaks every hour the first day. I believe I had given us 6 man minutes per roll of turf and we did it in about half that, sent him home after 6 hours with an extra hours pay. We only did 5 hours of soil moving the next day.

    We will Definately give him the chance though because this is as bad as it gets.

    I want to be a friendly boss, I've always been passive and quit but I will have to learn to be stern. My wife is a straight up mean woman so she said she will do any firing if necessary.

    We plan on expanding slowly over the next few years so if I can find someone who is interested in learning to manage a crew by himself, I haven't done the numbers, but should be able to make well over $20 an hour.
    hort101 likes this.

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