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Good help isn’t getting any easier to find. So we spoke with Joe Chiellini, president and CEO of ASI Landscape Management in Florida, to see how his Tampa Bay-area business is overcoming the challenges of a tough employment market.

Q: What tips do you have when it comes to creating a workplace employees want to work in?

A: Well it starts with culture, No. 1. And the culture’s got to be built around the core values. And the core values have to be lived. That’s one of the biggest things that we push at ASI is living our core values.

Two things happen – it attracts talent because word gets out and they hear about our culture and then it also helps in weeding out the people who maybe don’t believe in our culture.

Q: What are your core values?

A: They’re profit, loyalty and fun.

Q: What are your biggest challenges right now when it comes to recruiting new employees?

A: The Tampa Bay area is the second- or third-biggest boom going right now of construction. So with that being said, our workforce, our average hourly rate at ASI is $14 an hour for a maintenance position. Well, they can go make $20 with no skill, no experience hanging drywall.

With that boom in our area, this is a big struggle, Amazon opened one of their distribution warehouse here. That brings a lot of jobs.

I just read an article about Amazon and they’re moving their minimum wage to $15 an hour and, by the way, you get to work in the air conditioning. So that’s what we’re up against and that’s a regional issue.

They can go hang drywall, they can do concrete, they can do any of that just because they have a great work ethic.

Let’s be honest, it’s the Hispanic workforce we’re after.

They’ve got a great work ethic and if you tell them they’re going to make $20 an hour and hang drywall and then you throw in an Amazon distribution center for the Millennials who’d rather work in the AC and maybe learn a cool trade and we’ve got a double whammy going.

Q: What have been your most successful retention strategies?

A: We do BBQs twice a year; we do event outings; we’ve done hockey games. We bring the team members and we’ll also mix in some clients so we’ll use it for two different aspects.

That’s a big thing in attracting the talent and our team knows that we – all the way up to me, the CEO – we have an open-door policy.

If there’s something you need to talk about, or want to talk about, we have an open-door policy and I think that really helps that a production manager knows that he can walk into my office and sit in my chair and talk to me.

One of the things that helps us keep people is, in a nutshell, they feel like they have a voice.

Another thing we do is we do a lot of training. And I think with the new group, and I hate grouping people, but with the Millennials of today, they want that. They crave training, they crave appreciation. It’s not about money to them. It’s about more time off and if I’m training them to do their job better, quicker, get home, those kinds of things, it just seems to keep them.

Q: What have been your most successful recruiting strategies?

A: We concentrate heavily on who we have, No. 1. We didn’t do any layoffs this year.

Another thing that we’re doing is we’re opening branches and we’re trying to build density.

In our world, the labor workforce that we attract, they live within commuting distance to your branch or your office. So what we’ve done is we’re trying to save on time and travel and fuel.

Another thing we’ve done is we’ve taken our branches and strategically put them in places where we know that workforce is and they’re not having to drive 20 or 30 minutes to our headquarters.

So we’ve got a branch 20 or 30 minutes across town and still within our town, but we opened another one over there and hopefully we’ll attract some. All we did was move some of our trucks out of headquarters over there that can service that area anyways. I hate to say it, but maybe we’re attracting the guy that can ride a bike. Maybe he doesn’t have a driver’s license, but he can ride his bicycle to us.