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Employer Basics 101

Employer Basics 101

I'm not going to try and tell you that I know everything about employing people for tree work. I do know a thing or two about what keeps good employees around. As a subcontractor I fit in the middle of employee and employer relations. Both employers and employees speak to me from their viewpoint. For some contracts I'm around enough for both parties to become very candid. I hope I can help enlighten the situation just small amount and maybe help with the scenario you find yourself presented with day in and day out.

Employees want the same thing in their working relationship as they want in their personal relationships. Most workers are looking for basic respect, reliability, sustainability, and commitment. If your environment doesn't display all of those, good luck keeping good help around. You will be stuck feeding from the bottom of the barrel after all the others have grabbed up the good help. There's obviously going to be those employees who are just plain complicated but the majority of those seeking employment are fair, just, and honest citizens looking to feed and house their families. Those are the guys I'm talking about here. How to deal with cancerous employees is a topic all unto itself. We're talking about securing and maintaining a roster of success minded individuals. Individuals who are mined toward the mutual growth and success of both you and them.

No one respects a cash only position. How many times has a cash employee held you back because they did not feel like working or had other unannounced plans? They may have delayed or down right stopped it from happening. Cash positions are viewed as temporary or unimportant. Cash guys aren't goal oriented or success driven. They have a short term mindset that ultimately does not pay in the end or sometimes ever.

You know what they say, 'the only things guaranteed are death and taxes'. Good employees know that legitimate jobs have taxes. They don't have the short term cash only mindset. If you want to grow your business, you need to start with payroll.

Being willing and able to put them on payroll shows a commitment to them from you to match their commitment to you. It says 'you are willing to be a reliable source of labor and I have the work to keep you busy". Payroll has a subconscious scream of legitimacy that comes with it. It shows the employee that you are a functioning company in the community. Payroll is literally the smallest and the largest thing you can do to keep good reliable help available when you need it most.

Reliable success driven members of your team need and deserve your respect. Before compensation, they are thinking about fitting into your organization. A hopeful employee wants to know that they are an integral part of the machine. Most don't want to be treated like the high command, just a basic level of human respect. Some people will stick around for years with poor pay just because they like the treatment. Employees don't leave because the money is bad, they leave because the management is bad. I have had some pretty decent pay in my history but left anyway because the treatment was so bad. Simple gestures of respect like 'good morning" , 'good job" , 'thank you" , etc. go a long way in keeping their morale high. They have to feel like they are in a place that appreciates them.

In return for respect from you, they will perform as though they are key to your success plan. An employee is only going to be as respectful as you are to them. Do not forget that and they won't either.

Success means a lot of things to a lot of people but in its most basic form, it means goal completion. If your goal is to grow, you will need to have a reliable schedule. What that means to you and your staff will vary but always keep up the schedule. If you do not have enough work to keep the schedule up, they will notice and they may become as unreliable as your schedule has become.

Payroll, respect, and the amount of work you have all lead into visible sustainability for the foreseeable future. If the outlook for sustainability is bleak, your loyal, reliable, success driven employee is not going to stay around. At the end of the day, no matter how much they like you, they have bills to pay and families to feed.

Now all this is just talk up to now but I'd like to tell you about two different companies I've subbed for that illustrate my points. One misses the target in every way and the other places a bullet in front of the bullet dead center like Davy Crocket in The King of the Wild Frontier. I'm sure I can't use the actual names for legal reasons so I'll just forgo them completely. These are two very real accounts.

Missed the mark entirely

A guy I worked for on contract has the worst attitude I've ever encountered from an owner. He doesn't meet a single bit of the criteria I mentioned. He hires cash labor, throws fits about their production, demeans them constantly, and cuts their pay for minor issues every chance he gets. He doesn't have the work to support a full time crew because he believes that he cannot find the labor to support a heavier workload. He openly claims that 'the American workforce is comprised entirely of the laziest people the world has ever known".

It's no wonder this guy can't keep people around. He openly disrespects them. He only hires short term minded people, he plays with their pay, and he is generally insufferable to work for.

Davy Crocket

I've been contracting for this person quite regularly over the last couple years. He doesn't seem to have a whole lot of issues keeping guys around and having them show up for work. Sure every employee will have things come up from time to time but this guy's crew is pretty good at coming to work and getting things done.

He meets every requirement I mentioned. He's not out there demeaning his staff. There is more work scheduled year round than can be done. He shows an interest in what his staff has going on in their personal lives. He's got payroll. He's looking to get benefits going.

He has guys that come to work. They are success minded because he is success minded. His attitude and the things he has done like payroll, raises, scheduling, and training have shown his employees that he is serious about success which in turn drives them to be as well.


It's fair to say that not every cash worker is a poor employee. It's fair to say that because it's simply not entirely true. However, it has been my experience and the experience of many other company owners and employees who have shared their thoughts with me that bring these concepts into writing. I hope that anything I've said here is contemplated before putting into motion as mot every dynamic is the and thus, these concepts are not written in stone.

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