Disclaimer: The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of the Arboricultural Association.

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Engaging your teams

Author:  Kirsty McNicol
Last Updated:  09/03/2022

Bitesize Business 2

Engaging your teams

Help and ideas from the Media & Communications Committee team

Kirsty McNicholl Hi-Line Training

With quality arborists more and more difficult to recruit, it is now essential more than ever that companies look after their most important asset: the people that work for them.

Whether your business employs 2, 200 or 2000 people, you need to look after them and ensure they understand how important they are to you and your company.

Employee engagement is a buzz phrase in HR but simply put, it means ensuring that your staff are happy and engaged in their work. If your people feel valued, want to work for you and have pride in their work, then their attitude, motivation, performance and loyalty to your company will usually follow.

What can you do to engage the people that work for you?

Putting things in place to keep people engaged within your organisation doesn’t have to be overly complicated, time consuming or expensive. Some of the following suggestions should be in place already, such as your contracts of employment and correct PPE, but others could be introduced gradually.

Before changing what you currently have in place it may be worthwhile chatting to your staff or carrying out an anonymous staff survey to get everyone’s opinions. There is no point taking the time to introduce things if they are not the things that your people would benefit from.

Team engagement

Contract of employment: The agreement between employer and employee so everyone knows where they stand – hours, salary, holiday entitlement, pension etc.

Staff handbook: Can be as basic or in-depth as you need; can include the company’s mission statement, behavioural expectations, disciplinary and absence policies etc.

New employee induction: A welcoming and informative induction for new employees can make all the difference. Even the most confident of people can feel nervous when they start a new role, so make sure your new employees understand all the bits that will make fitting into your company a simple process – your expectations of them, who they will be working with, who their supervisor will be, your health and safety policy etc. Don’t assume they are already working to your standards, so run through key things like risk assessments, two-rope working, customer care, equipment use and care etc.

Providing the right PPE and equipment: Your employees will be wearing their PPE each day and using equipment each day so it is important to ensure that both are fit for purpose and suitable for the job. Ensure LOLER [Lifting Operations and Lifting Equipment Regulations 1998] thorough examination is in date on your climbing kits and that all items issued are safe to use; make sure saws and chippers are maintained and safe. Good communication: Encourage an open line of communication and trust between management and teams, both informal and formal. Keep people up to date on any changes in the company or teams, industry updates, how people are doing etc., and make sure people know they can come to you or their supervisors with any questions or concerns. Lack of communication is one of the major causes of people feeling demoralised and leaving a job. However many teams you have, it is worth trying to get some kind of catch-up once a week. Lots of teams now use WhatsApp or in-house apps to share news, and whilst these are great, it is also essential to have regular face-to-face communication with everyone.

Getting to know your staff: To get the best out of people it is important that you get to know them. Organisations are made up of different personalities and different skills. Learning about the people in your team can play a big part in how well they work for you and how motivated they are in their job.

Performance development: Whether it is via informal feedback, regular performance reviews/appraisals or having important but perhaps difficult conversations if things are not going quite right, ensuring your staff understand how they are doing is an essential part of managing them. People want to know if they are doing well and that they are valued by their manager and the company as a whole. Even if they don’t want to be told when improvement is needed, it is important to have those conversations: if you don’t know you are doing something wrong then how are you expected to change that? Taking time to chat one-on-one with people gives you the chance to find out what their plans are for the future, how they think they are doing, if they have aspirations to move up within the organisation or if they have any concerns. In return you can give feedback and set goals to work towards, a training plan for the future etc. Trying to fit in a documented performance review/appraisal at least once a year is beneficial, but in addition to this, regular more informal catch-ups will benefit both parties.

Personal development: Both you and your employees are responsible for their personal development whilst they are working for you. Whether formal or informal, offer regular training and skills updates for them but also encourage them to want to develop their skills themselves, for example by reading industry-related books, magazines or social media posts or joining the Arb Association. Let them know about events such as regional Arb Association meetings, industry shows or climbing competitions. Whether they have ambitions to progress their career or are happy sticking in their current role, helping employees achieve their personal development goals will go a long way in helping them remain in your organisation.

Training: Arb training can be a large expense to businesses but offering good training to staff not only means you know they are up to date and competent to do their job; it also provides them with additional skills, self-confidence and personal development within their role, which is a key part of employee engagement. As well as arb qualifications, it is worth looking at non-arb-related training. This may be for the company as a whole or for specific roles within the business and could include leadership and/or management, specific health and safety topics, IT, teamwork, customer care, social media, climbing ergonomics or equipment demos. Whether it be a five-minute toolbox talk, an online course or a team-building day, any additional information or skills that you can provide your employees with is a positive for both them and you.

Good management: Having management in place that offers good leadership, communication, direction and organisation can be key in keeping employees within a company. From your team leaders and supervisors up to the managing director, it is important that employees feel they are being managed well and that the company is in good hands.

Employee benefit schemes: As well as the standard legal pension scheme and holiday entitlement for employees, some organisations decide to offer additional benefits such as increased pension contributions, additional holiday entitlement, sickness pay, health care insurance and gym membership to staff. Look at what might be of benefit to the people that work for you as each organisation is different and there is no point in paying out on employee benefits which aren’t of interest to your staff.

Rewards/incentives: Whether this be a prize for the team of the week, a bonus scheme to encourage safe and quality work, a team breakfast on a Friday, a staff social event that gets everyone together, getting the kettle on at break times or a visit to the ARB Show, providing your employees with perks additional to their monthly salary can be great for team morale and staff engagement.

Saying thank you: Although last on this list, this is one of the most important things you can do. It doesn’t cost you anything, doesn’t take much time and is easy. It may seem obvious but the simple act of thanking your employees for work they have done goes a very long way.

With the high costs of recruiting new staff, and the lack of experienced tree surgeons looking for work, implementing simple steps to keep the quality people you already have within your organisation is essential for businesses both large and small.

We hope you have found this useful. If you have any queries you can contact us at chairmedia@trees.org.uk

This article was taken from Issue 196 Spring 2022 of the ARB Magazine, which is available to view free to members by simply logging in to the website and viewing your profile area.