Debugging pest control recruitment problems


December 3, 2018

Photo: Keating


In today’s tight labor markets, pest management companies don’t have the luxury to stick with an old-fashioned playbook for recruiting and retaining employees. The bottom line depends on reducing turnover and finding ways to attract new talent in an economy that’s approaching full employment.

Engagement boosts productivity

Trevor Flannigan

Trevor Flannigan

Happy workers are more productive and work harder for their employers, and that boosts bottom lines. They are also less likely to have one foot out the door and are more engaged with the daily functions of pest control companies and the challenges they face.

Engaged employees are more likely to follow company processes and treat customers well. They wear shoe covers, park the truck appropriately, give customers honest options and upsell services and products. These things only happen when someone is engaged, trained well and passionate about a job and company.

Less engaged employees put in less effort and have contagious, negative attitudes. No one wants to work with unhappy colleagues. If a pest control company wants to grow and retain good people, it needs to cultivate a happy team. Turnover is incredibly expensive. Factoring in the cost of training and onboarding, it takes time to even break even on an employee, before they really start bringing in the profits. A constant churn of replacing unhappy people kills the bottom line.

Hiring well

The heavy lifting of assembling a positive team is to hire well in the first place, but team-building also involves finding time for adequate coaching and ongoing training. Top performers are often motivated by continued growth and advice and lessons handed down by experienced supervisors are appreciated. If a manager doesn’t do regular one-on-ones with direct reports and help them gauge progress, they won’t know what success looks like and the employee-manager relationship quickly starts to fall apart.

One main reason to reduce turnover is the difficulty in finding quality employees in the first place. Pest control companies face the same recruiting challenges as other home service companies. Virtually everyone who needs a job and is employable has a job. The specific skills required of a pest control technician further winnows down the candidate pool.

Recruiting as marketing

Companies and hiring managers need to readjust their focus and start thinking about recruitment the same way they do marketing and sales. Home service companies need to wow prospective employees like they do potential clients, and managers and owners need to dedicate a set amount of time each week to focus solely on recruiting.

Avoid the brush-off. If a technician applies for a job or expresses interest in working for a home service company, managers shouldn’t bury the resume or neglect a return phone call just because it’s a slow season or there are no current openings. There will be job vacancies in the future, and a pest control company needs to have a good candidate pool to choose. Treat job candidates the same way customers are treated. Call them back immediately or respond to their queries even if there are no immediate openings. Empathy is always in order. They will appreciate it and be more willing to return your call in a couple of months.

Recruitment metrics

A good technician can bring in six figures in annual revenue, so it’s well worth it to spend some money on recruiting. Managers or owners, however, need to track what job recruitment platform yields the most bang for the buck. A company needs to gauge return on investment and examine results, just as it would evaluate the effectiveness of an advertising campaign.

This is another way recruiting candidates can be similar to marketing efforts. Managers should take the time to track every recruiting platform they are using — from Facebook to LinkedIn to print, radio and television ads — and pump some money into them. Then calculate the effectiveness of the various platforms by tracking metrics such as cost per acquisition and return on investment.

Don’t botch the final step

Hiring managers must be more intentional with the hiring process, from beginning to end. Companies must portray professionalism, caring and a healthy culture to applicants. They need to sell themselves just as much as the jobseeker.

Some technicians are indeed money-motivated, and higher wages may sweeten the pot. But if a company botches the application process, money becomes less enticing. All the benefits in the world can’t overcome the negative perception that emerges if a company seems unprepared for a visit.

Ultimately, a pest control company’s goal is to maintain a full pipeline of talent and help current employees grow and prosper. Remember, happy employees are best for the bottom line. Respect, empathy, intentionality and a healthy culture can both reduce turnover, keep that pipeline full and keep a company profitable.

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