Creating Successful Workforce Retention Programs

Creating Successful Workforce Retention Programs


By Patrick Larsen, Regional Manager

Hiring and retaining an experienced and engaged workforce has become a challenge in the utility vegetation management (UVM) industry due in part to the tremendous growth and the developmental changes in our industry’s external environment. The UVM industry’s best management practices, improved safety practices, equipment and UVM programs are consistently being reviewed and improved. In response, we need an informed, motivated and dedicated workforce that can respond well to those changes.

In a business environment where there is intense competition for the best employees, it is essential for hiring managers and companies to review their current retention programs and make necessary changes to be successful.

What Employees Want

There is not one retention plan that will work for every employee because human beings are complicated. We each have our own opinions, priorities and motivation. For a hiring manager or company, it can be difficult to pinpoint and satisfy each person’s wants and needs. That is why companies need an array of broad programs and initiatives that are intended to identify the majority of the workforce’s motivating factors, goals and demotivators or turn-offs.

Many companies have answered the need for improved retention by designing retention programs for all position levels. This approach has led to a significant increase in employee satisfaction and employee retention. If employees and companies are united in achieving a company’s goals and developing its workforce, employees are more likely to remain with that company longer.

Start with Recruitment

Several companies have taken a multi-level approach to workforce retention starting at the beginning – the recruitment stage. Successful hiring recruiters identify the critical skills needed to be successful in each role then, using their knowledge of social media, online job boards, college job fairs and more, target and reach out to the hundreds of qualified, eager candidates that are looking for a job. Recruiters should be trained in the industry or have worked in the operations side of the industry themselves so they can clearly and honestly inform candidates about the duties, requirements and benefits of each job.

After recruitment, human resources and hiring managers can interview the candidates that meet the requirements for open positions. Training human resources and hiring managers to be able to identify the candidates that align with the company’s overall vision, mission, and values is a critical component of this process.

The Importance of Onboarding

Companies that do not rush the onboarding phase have stated that they see an increase in workforce retention. If time is spent with the newly hired employee explaining company policies and procedures, defining rules and responsibilities and establishing expectations, employees can start their new job ready for success. They are more likely to excel, which in turn leads to increased satisfaction for both the employee and employer. Once an employee is hired, onboarded and trained, it is essential to continue education and development.

Continual Development

Numerous companies have transitioned from often dreaded employee reviews to employee development programs. Employee reviews measure employee performance but little else, while employee development programs measure performance, open a line of communication between supervisors and employees and assist employees in setting personal and professional goals that benefit both parties.

For these types of programs to be successful, they need to be done more than once per year. At the very least, there needs to be a check-in period established for increased accountability on both sides. Listening to your teams and helping them set and achieve their goals is a sure-fire way to ensure that the company is investing in them and, in turn, they are investing in the company.

Conduct Exit Interviews

Finally, exit interviews can play an essential role in a company’s workforce retention plan. Although it is seemingly an after-the-fact process, it can be advantageous to poll employees that are moving to new opportunities to learn why they are leaving. Perhaps there is a trend that can be identified and adjusted to benefit employees, which may lead to increased retention. It is also a great way to gauge an employee’s perception of the company culture


To summarize, there isn’t one standard and proven method of improving workforce retention. There are numerous programs to try, some successful and others not so much. However, one undeniable fact is the need to consistently monitor and review company programs, speak to employees and continue to improve to keep up with the everyday changes.


This article was originally published in the March/April 2020 issue of the Utility Arborist Newsline.

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