Asking Employees Their Thoughts and Concerns Sparks Important Dialogue

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January 16, 2020

It’s a tough time of year for many of us. The holidays are over, New Year’s resolutions may have been made and broken (and made and broken again), and for those of us in the North, it’s a long few months until spring (and termite swarms). But PCT is here to bring you some good news about your profession during these dark January days: Your employees are generally happy with their job! We have proof!

Let me back up a bit before I expand on this month’s good news. This is the sixth year PCT has joined with NPMA to survey our readers and their members about a variety of topics. (Many thanks to BASF for sponsoring this research and the accompanying report since 2015.) These topics have created lots of conversations in the industry, some positive, some not so positive, but they’ve all been topics that are of critical importance, shedding light on how pest management firms big and small run their businesses. In previous January cover story packages, we’ve tackled operating costs, compensation and benefits, growth opportunities/challenges, and employee recruitment and retention. Last year we reported on workplace diversity.

While all of these topics are different, they all can be looked at through an “employee” lens. What I mean is, 99.9 percent of owners/operators will say, “I’m in the people business, not the bug business.” And of course they’re right. But with a U.S. unemployment rate at 3.5 percent as of press time, it’s a difficult time to find workers. At a recent industry event I attended, in a room of 150 people, virtually everyone raised their hand when asked if the inability to hire workers this year hindered their company’s growth.

So it follows then, that you want the employees you already have to be happy. OK, maybe “happy” is too ambitious. Perhaps “satisfied” is a better goal? Most owners I know want their employees to generally enjoy their jobs, earn a healthy paycheck with benefits for their families, and feel like they’re contributing to the health and safety of their clients.

But to find out what employees think, we had to ask employees, which is different in that typically we reach out to owners/operators for such surveys. We got a better response than we could have asked for: Almost 1,400 of your technicians, CSRs, sales staff and more told us what they really think. In this month’s series of articles, which are based on the research (and a number of interviews), we tackle such topics as workday stress, advancement opportunities, salary and benefits, interactions with management and coworkers, and more. It’s a thorough package that overall shows a mostly satisfied workforce; however, there are areas in which company leadership can improve.

The research found employees are least satisfied about their on-the-job stress and advancement opportunities. Makes sense, right? It seems most everyone is more stressed these days, whether at work, at home or both. If you can’t find enough employees, that means new or additional work must be divvied up among existing staff. More work! More stress! Regarding advancement opportunities, everyone can’t be promoted or else we’d have an office of branch managers with no one in the field. And, of course, for many of our readers whose firms may have just one or two employees, they are already at the top of their corporate ladder.

But the good news is you can do something about any of these issues at your company. TALK TO YOUR EMPLOYEES. Ask them how their work life is going, what you can do better and offer advice if they seek it. Additionally, every employer should check out Glassdoor.com and Indeed.com to review comments made about their firm. While it may sting if there are angry comments, wouldn’t you rather know than not? It’s no longer a world where you can put your head in the sand and ignore what’s being said about your firm. (In fact, one HR director we talked to conducts exit interviews and surveys with the hope of letting people vent to her instead of venting online.)

I hope these articles and accompanying research help you learn more about your employees’ current wants and needs. After all, aren’t we in the people business?

The author is editor of PCT magazine.