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How do you build employee satisfaction and loyalty?
RYAN TOELKES is the owner of Neighborhood Painting, Inc., an award-winning residential and commercial painting company in Kansas City, KS. Toelkes founded his company in 2002, as a young entrepreneur of 21 years. KCNeighborhoodPainting.com
inPAINT | Sep/Oct 2018
I think the most important thing we do that contributes to the long-term happiness and tenure of our employees is to maintain a steady, consistent workload all year. It doesn’t sound that exciting or interesting and it actually takes a lot of planning and effort. But, in a business where seasonality can take a toll, I find it’s really important to give my crew members the security of knowing they’re going to have hours. Sometimes we get creative and I pay my crews to do work on my house and property when I don’t have other projects. It sounds a little crazy but I’ve been in business for 16 years and I’ve never had to lay anybody off. The average tenure of our employees is around six years. Another thing we do that I think contributes to retention is build a positive company culture. It is basically required practice that everyone values the contributions others are making to get every job done. That means the carpenters appreciate the painters, the painters appreciate the admin folks, and around and around and around. Nobody is more important than anybody else. It creates a real team spirit and it’s something that we make sure new crew members understand and value. Something we do that is different from many other paint companies is hire specialists. That is, we have dedicated carpenters and dedicated painters. We let the guys focus on the thing they enjoy doing and do well. The truth is, we all know what we’re good at and it’s never great to be asked to do something that we’re
not that comfortable with. There’s not a lot of pride that comes from doing a job just okay. With this approach, we not only get better-quality work, we also have higher levels of employee satisfaction. Now that’s not to say we don’t lose people. Sometimes they make family moves, sometimes they go out on their own. It doesn’t happen a lot, but it happens. The thing I do to prepare for that is to always be looking for talent. And I pull all employees into the effort.
… I’ve been in business for 16 years and I’ve never had to lay anybody off. The average tenure of our employees is around six years. We have a great reputation in our area. In our monthly meetings I’ll remind the team that our reputation is great because our team is great. Then I ask, “wouldn’t you like to choose who else should join this team?” This gets them really thinking about people they know and would want to work with. Yes, they get a bonus if the person stays on six months but, honestly, I think they’re more concerned about how that person’s presence impacts their reputation with the rest of the team. Right now I’m working on a new employee bonus program. We presently offer some production incentives—basically crew leaders get a small percentage of the job based on quality and getting work done on time. I’m aiming to create a team-wide bonus opportunity that helps reinforce the idea that everyone contributes and everyone matters.
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