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Photo courtesy of D.W. Burr

D.W. Burr Landscape and Design has experienced significant growth over the years. Gaining new accounts affords us opportunity to invest in existing employees by increasing compensation and paying for more advanced training and licensing.

This growth has also meant we have been on the front lines of hiring, competing with other service providers in the area for talented individuals. To be innovative and remain relevant requires a workforce that is knowledgeable, creative and adaptive. We must look toward cultivating these qualities as we develop our next generation of workers.

Below are a few specific things I think we at D.W. Burr Landscape and Design are doing well to attract and retain talent. I am not suggesting that we are doing anything extraordinary. In fact, this is why we wish to engage in this conversation. We are offering our ideas and, in return, hope to gain ideas from others.

Desirable work schedules.

During the spring, summer and fall months, our landscape crews work four 10-hour days.

This shortened workweek is often cited by employees as one of the things they like most about working at D.W. Burr.

This schedule was initiated to reduce overtime costs, which it has done. Also, if there is rain during the week, we can hold off on work for that day and bring the crew in on Friday, our “flex day,” to make up for the lost time and keep our maintenance schedule on track.

By generally giving employees a three-day weekend, they have the option of spending more time with their families or working a part-time job. The millennial generation finds this particularly attractive, giving them more time on the weekends to pursue other interests.

Flexible work schedules.

Our owner, David Burr, emphasizes it is necessary for employees to put family first. To this end, he is willing to be flexible and make reasonable accommodations to schedules and workloads to enable workers to meet the needs of their families or personal lives from time to time.

Some employees may need to put work on hold for a month to move their household or to deal with a natural disaster back home. This flexibility, coupled with a work-at-will policy recognizes people’s need to leave by choice or circumstance with the understanding that they will be welcomed back at a future point.

Showing appreciation.

Loyalty is valued, especially because having a stable workforce contributes to our ability to offer a consistent level of service to clients. So, we reward loyalty with budgeted annual raises and years-of-service awards. We also value performance, so we offer opportunity for performance-based raises when we conduct annual reviews.

For those members of our team who are willing and available to work on snow removal crews in winter, we offer the “snow incentive plan,” which consists of two parts. The first part is a flat payment of $250 (prior to tax withholding) for each month during the snow season that the individual is available to be on call for snow removal duties. It adds up to $1,000 if an employee is available December, January, February and March.

The second part is a variable payment based on money left over in the snow damages account. Prior to the snow removal season, a certain amount of money is set aside to cover potential expenses for property damage that would be incurred as a direct result of snow removal operations.

The bonus is the balance of the snow damage account at the end of the season after covering the expenses for property damages such as turf repair, curb repair or garage door repair divided equally among each member of the snow removal team. This is a nice way of rewarding careful work.

We also offer tokens of appreciation for each employee with a turkey at Thanksgiving and a gift card in December at our holiday get-together. Another highlight of the year comes in mid-September when the company hosts a fishing trip on a charter boat on the Long Island Sound.

As I said before, we’d love to hear from you. Shoot me an email at jwposkus@gmail.com to continue the conversation.

Joel W. Poskus is the horticultural crew foreman at D.W. Burr in Simsbury, Connecticut.