For Phoenix-based AAA Landscape, COVID-19 compiled with an already difficult labor market meant it was time to make some changes when it came to hiring and recruiting.
Despite this, the company’s CFO Greg Gaston says AAA Landscape continued to grow in 2020, as it has for the last several years.
“In August 2020, the company implemented several monetary programs,” Gaston says. “They consisted of a new hire and mentor program, whereby both the new hire and mentor/trainer receive a monetary incentive. Additionally, we increased the incentive amount for our new hire referral program.”
The company is even considering starting a new perfect attendance program. However, before it’s put into action, Gaston says they still have to carefully define what “perfect” means.
“Some thought it should be strictly that there must be 100% attendance in order to qualify,” he explains. “Some thought that an excused absence shouldn’t disqualify an employee. Another issue is whether an employee should be disqualified if they stayed home to care for someone who has COVID-19. The goal is to motivate employees, not have them get upset because the think their attendance was perfect but our program states differently.”
While these programs were not initially budgeted for in 2020, they were still impactful, as they helped boost retention.
“Management at AAA looked at the incentives as something it must do in order to compete and grow,” Gaston says. “In order to meet the requirements of our customers, the company must have employees to perform the services.”
According to Gaston, money budgeted for recruiting was utilized to start the incentive programs, and while it didn’t cover the entirety of the costs, it did help get the programs off the ground.
With labor being an ongoing obstacle for green industry businesses across the country, Gaston recommends looking into incentive programs to entice employees to stay longer.
“Companies which aren’t proactive might face many employee related hurdles now and in the very near future,” he says. “High turnover typically occurs within the first month. A company needs to give the employee a reason to stay longer.”
“Companies which aren’t proactive might face many employee-related hurdles.” Greg Gaston, CFO, AAA Landscape
But before instituting an incentive program, Gaston says taking a hard look at the costs is a good starting point. “A company must calculate the annual cost of the incentive program realistically,” Gaston says. “There are times in which the incentives aren’t paid because the employee quits before qualifying.”
However, more importantly, he recommends looking at the costs of just maintaining your status quo when it comes to recruiting during these tough times.
“The second thing is to calculate the cost not creating a plan,” he says. “Once you find and hire an employee, how long will they stay? Having a financial incentive to stay 90 days helps. If the employee stays 90 days, the likelihood of them staying over a year increases significantly.
“The company believes starting the incentive program was definitely the right thing to do for AAA Landscape,” Gaston adds.
Beyond establishing the new programs, Gaston says the coronavirus caused another unexpected bright spot in the year by boosting camaraderie among employees.
“Employees became more of a team as a result of COVID-19,” he says.
Gaston adds that this was through AAA’s proactive approach to providing safety protocols and information that helped team members feel secure.
“The company provided leadership and communicated weekly with employees regarding the impact COVID-19 on AAA Landscape,” Gaston says. “Well over $100,000 was spent to combat the potential impact of the virus to our workers. It was money well spent because employees were aware the company was trying to keep them as safe as possible.”