Getting Employees to Stay

Features - Cover Story

January 8, 2021

The newest generation entering the workforce — Gen Z, or employees age 18 to 23 — was the cohort most likely to leave pest management companies, according to 44 percent of PMPs who took part in the PCT-NPMA 2021 Workplace Survey.

Of course, employees of any age will leave if they don’t buy into the company vision or feel their work isn’t contributing to something greater, said Vess Pearson, Aptive Environmental. Besides aspiring to be a growth and technology leader, Pearson says Aptive aims to be a premier service company like Ritz Carlton, Lexus and Chick-fil-A. “It’s those types of ideas that excite your employees and that keep them working with you,” he said.

Nor can leaders take a one-size-fits-all approach to managing people. “You can’t treat everybody exactly the same because they don’t all respond the same way,” said Adam Jones, Massey Services. Figuratively speaking, some employees need the occasional kick in the pants, others need a hug. “You’ve got to learn how to pull the right strings with people,” he said.

To minimize turnover, especially with younger workers, PMPs employ various strategies, discussed on the following pages.


1. Recognize Contributions

The top three ways companies made employees feel valued was to give them financial bonuses (74 percent), act on their comments and criticisms (74 percent), and recognize them in front of coworkers (60 percent), according to PMPs who participated in the PCT-NPMA 2021 Workplace Survey.

Petri Pest Control Services in Pompano Beach, Fla, distributes year-end bonuses. The company also hosts an employee holiday party (though not this year due to COVID-19), regularly updates its fleet so technicians have new vehicles to drive and holds quarterly recognition meetings where employees are served gourmet meals thanks to a chef in the family, said the company’s president, Brendan Cavanagh.

2. Give Back

In a 2019 study by the Great Place to Work Institute, people said they were 11 times more likely to work long term at companies that made a positive impact on the world.

Many pest control companies do this by giving back to their communities. Sixty- three percent of PMPs said their companies encourage employees to participate in community service programs, found the PCT-NPMA 2021 Workplace Survey.

“Community is one of our core values,” said Shay Runion, Arrow Exterminators, which gives team members and service centers the leeway to support the activities they care about. As such, Arrow may be seen supporting the local Little League park, March of Dimes walk, Children’s Healthcare of Atlanta holiday parade, Red Cross blood drives and more.

3. Communicate Better

Workers want feedback and transparency when it comes to their progress and the company’s performance.

Chase Hazelwood, CEO, Go-Forth Pest Control, High Point, N.C., also learned to never assume with employees. “We have a phrase in the management team that goes, ‘They don’t know,’” and it’s brought up when managers need help reframing an employee issue, he said.

Another mantra — “Half instruction is worse than no instruction” — reminds Go-Forth managers that employee success requires more coaching, not less, even down to nitty-gritty details like where to the park their truck during a termite job.

According to the PCT-NPMA 2021 Workplace Survey, 89 percent of PMPs said company leadership typically communicates with employees face-to-face during company meetings.

Go-Forth managers also meet one-on-one with employees monthly, weekly and even daily to help them achieve professional and personal growth goals. “We get good responses to it,” said Hazelwood of employee participation.

Even GPS and remote vehicle cameras give managers an opportunity to provide positive feedback to employees. “They want you to catch them doing everything right,” explained Hazelwood.


4. Define Career PATHs

One third (33 percent) of PMPs said their companies had dedicated career advancement or individual development plans for employees, found the PCT-NPMA 2021 Workplace Survey.

“You need people to feel like there’s progression,” explained Chase Hazelwood, Go-Forth Pest Control. As such, he provides raises to employees who advance through three different account manager positions or acquire additional technical certifications.

Employees don’t want to wait 10 years for a promotion, said Hazelwood. “Ten years to someone who’s under 35 might as well be never,” he said. That’s why Go-Forth aims for 20 percent annual growth: By doubling in size every four years, the company has twice as many management opportunities to fill. “People can connect to that,” said Hazelwood.

Similarly, Aptive Environmental gives college-age employees the opportunity to manage seven digits of sales revenue. That is “pretty unique for someone who might be 24 or 25 years old or even younger than that,” said Vess Pearson.

5. Provide Mentorship

According to the PCT-NPMA 2021 Workplace Survey, 67 percent of PMPs said their companies offered internal mentoring programs for employees. These included manager-to-employee and peer-to-peer initiatives.

All-American Pest Control started a mentoring program three years ago. It helps less-tenured team members develop professionally while providing insight to their leadership potential. “We get to see how they handle tough situations, relate to others, and problem solve early in their career,” said Erin Richardson.

In addition, 31 percent of pest management professionals said their companies offered external mentoring opportunities, which included one-on-one instruction and participation in roundtable and industry peer-sharing groups.

Chase Hazelwood, Go-Forth Pest Control, has business and human resources coaches and also participates in Vistage, a peer advisory group for CEOs. “I’m trying to grow my company profitably and faster than the norm and so I need to learn from people running other businesses in other industries where people are exceptional at what they do,” he said.

6. Be Flexible

“Flexibility is important with today’s worker, especially,” said Mike Rottler, Rottler Pest & Lawn Solutions, noting the challenges of raising children when both spouses work.

In a typical workweek, service technicians worked 40.7 hours on average; office staff and customer service reps worked 39.6 hours; salespeople worked 39.7 hours; and managers worked 43 hours, reported PMPs in the PCT-NPMA 2021 Workplace Survey.

To give employees a breather, All-American Pest Control has a four-day work week for technicians and gives office staff paid “gift days” to use for extra time off or as cash at year end.

Petri Pest Control has adapted jobs to keep valued employees on the roster, whether that’s offering remote work to a new mom or creating a new training role for a technician with health issues. “We have very rarely lost people to quitting because they felt they weren’t being taking care of,” said Brendan Cavanagh.

COVID-19 forced some pest control companies to embrace remote work. More than one third (35 percent) of PMPs expected remote work for customer service reps, in particular, to continue post pandemic. In response to this shift, All-American Pest Control is converting its corporate office into a multi-functional, flexible, collaborative workspace.