Investment in training builds winning teams in landscaping
Good training produces better performance, company profit
October 10, 2022 By Mike Jiggens
Location, location, location,” is an often-heard cliché that property experts use to express a property’s desirability. In the landscaping industry, companies will attribute their success to “training, training, training.”
Rob Redden, vice-president at London, Ont.-based In-Lite Design Corporation, says training is the key ingredient when building winning teams. He shared his business-building strategies in the winter during Landscape Ontario’s virtually delivered Congress.
Many landscaping companies aren’t enamoured by high costs associated with employee training, but it’s an investment that pays dividends, Redden said, noting there are numerous cheaper options available.
“Training can be expensive, but it’s critically important that you find some way to start implementing some type of training program into your company,” he said. “Increased performance leads to profit per revenue per team member.”
Confident team members are happy and perform better, he added, noting proper training reduces liability.
Companies that train their people today create a culture of improvement for the future, Redden said.
“Create a culture of learning through ongoing training opportunities.”
One of the struggles landscaping companies face is recruiting good employees. He said it can cost about 20 per cent to recruit an employee who earns $40,000 to $60,000.
“It can cost up to 200 times the employee’s salary for a highly trained individual.”
Redden said he spends about 10 hours for each recruitment, simply going through resumes. This doesn’t account for any lost production In-Lite incurs during this process.
About 41 per cent of employees will leave a company within their first year because of poor training programs, he said. This means if 10 employees are hired for the current season, four will part ways with the company if it has a poor training program or none at all.
Untrained employees are unhappy, Redden said.
“They’re making mistakes, they’re unsuccessful and they’re going to underperform.”
In-Lite has initiated a program that allows the creation of action items throughout the season and during the career development of a candidate. Evaluations are made after one month, three months and again each June and December once employees finish their probationary period. Employees say they wish to grow and become team leaders or managers, which Redden said he’s happy to hear.
Poor training equals lost customers
A poor training program, or the lack of one, results in lost customers, Redden said. A competing design/build company may offer another level of training in business software, professional development or leadership development, and word will spread. Poorly trained employees will migrate to other companies that are willing to invest in their human resources and take them to the next level.
“If your training is poor and your team is slow and inefficient and they’re making mistakes, you’re going to lose referrals. Referrals are huge. The value of not having training is costing you way more than what training would actually cost you.”
In January 2014, the average employee remained with his or her company for 4.6 years. Two years later, the average employee stayed for only 4.2 years. By August 2021, the average employee remained for 4.1 years.
“If we can train them and keep them just a little bit longer, but also if they’re going to be here for 4.1 years, you better train them and get as much out of them as possible in those 4.1 years.”
Redden said it’s vital for companies to do everything necessary to increase that tenure time, adding employees should be trained so well and are so efficient that their company is making as much money off them as possible. This will also create a reputation for the company that it’s one for which people will want to work.
Broken down further, employees between the ages of 25 and 34 stay with a company an average of 2.8 years while those between the ages of 55 and 64 remain an average of 9.9 years. Management level employees stay with a company about 4.9 years.
At In-Lite, training begins during the recruitment process, Redden said.
“We ask about their past training. We ask what they currently do and then we tell them about the training program at In-Lite. I’m selling them the job, but I’m also creating culture.”
Redden said his company’s practices get new employees excited about joining a team, and they eagerly anticipate the opportunities afforded to them.
In-Lite employees are required to undergo six hours of training per quarter and are allowed a half-hour per week in their daily schedule to accommodate that training.
“We allow that half-hour per week after their onboarding to continue training.”
Redden said In-Lite will also pay for training beyond the six hours per quarter but will tell employees it’s above and beyond and on their own time. The company agrees to pay for it because it will ultimately benefit from it, he added.
“We encourage it as much as possible. We use training as a performance indicator. Their training is part of their performance review. I’m going to squeeze every little bit that I can out of these people while I have them for the 4.1 to 4.9 years.”
Employees are asked during their review periods if their training was sufficient or if there was anything else they might desire.
“You’d be surprised by what different people want, based on their sex, generation or department,” Redden said. “Many want their training to be continuously tweaked.”
Companies that offer extension training programs can see as much as a 218 per cent increase in revenue per team member and will often achieve a 24 per cent or more higher profit margin, he said.
Training doesn’t have to be expensive, Redden said, noting there are several online courses available – some of which are free.
“You can’t tell me that a $12 training course is expensive when you’re not doing it and the employees leave with the tools to make you more money.”
Some courses can cost hundreds of dollars, but to spend that much to invest in someone who can successfully market a profitable company and remain with the company “starts to become a pretty affordable solution.”
Redden said he tells new recruits, “I’m going to train you so well, and I hope you can leave In-Lite one day and get a better job and get paid more money. But, between now and then, I want to treat you so good you’ll never have to. But, in that time, I’m going to milk you for everything I possibly can.”
He said his goal is to build his employees and make them better and to treat them well enough that they won’t want to leave.
Employees don’t quit their jobs, he said. Rather, they quit their managers. They’re quitting because they’re not being trained to help them grow, he added.
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