Widening the Net
Today, finding a quality workforce means getting creative with your approach
In the era of the Great Resignation, hiring the best candidate—and then making sure they’ll stay—has become more critical than ever. Three pest control company executives recently shared their best practices for both recruitment and retention, especially during this most competitive time for quality talent.
"Getting applicants in the door is harder than it’s ever been before, which has caused us to get creative and always recruit for good candidates," said Mike Bullert, president of Big Time Pest Control in Anderson, California. "Now we want every department to be fully staffed—plus one in training, so we have a bench always ready to go."
For Arrow Exterminators in Atlanta, it’s even more important these days to differentiate the company from competitors when attracting prospective candidates—finding what’s important to them and being able to show how Arrow would fit their needs, said Shay Runion, chief human resources officer and senior vice president of professional development.
"It’s a given for us that we are going to be competitive in wages, benefits, 401k, paid time off and more," Runion said. "However, being able to show a candidate opportunity for career growth through our career mapping or our training academies can meet a need that a candidate may have."
Indeed, in addition to clearly stating what the base pay will be so the candidate can determine whether it would at least cover their fixed expenses, employers must also have an easily explainable career-pathing process that shows how employees can increase their pay, said Greg Canning, president of Economy Exterminators Inc. in Apex, North Carolina.
"You should incentivize the learning and abilities that your business needs in order to succeed down the road," Canning said. "Your business strategy needs to be clear, so that you can provide a compelling picture to candidates. You can create a plan for career advancement based on the things that the company has determined will lead to its success in five to 10 years—and then candidates can easily tell how they can achieve those goals that lead to their personal success."
All three companies utilize job boards to locate candidates. Arrow leverages an online job sourcing tool that takes the company’s job requisitions and "spiders" openings out to all the major job boards, as well as to hundreds of other platforms.
Big Time prefers to mine resumes posted on job boards of candidates with experience in industries outside of pest control, such as uniform service, cable installation, pool service and armored car service. The company is making an effort to recruit more women, including technician and sales positions.
"We also have success with our Facebook page," Bullert said. "The nice thing about Facebook is that it’s friends of our friends—someone who is familiar with our company or knows somebody here."
All three also incentivize employees for referring quality candidates—"no one is a better advocate for you as an employer than your current employees," Canning said. "We also advertise this referral bonus to our customers. I would rather give money to our employees and customers than a job board."
These days especially, the companies have added creative ways to recruit.
"Managers pass out business cards when they’re out and about at vendors like Home Depot or other places and see a worker doing a great job," Bullert said. "We want folks who are self-driven but may be looking for something better—more pay, regular hours, or a better fit for them."
Big Time has also launched an internship program for high school students, with the goal of transitioning them into entry-level positions so they can grow with the company. The company also leverages the NPMA Workforce Toolkit which contains best management practices for job listings, recruiting videos, career path models, recruiting brochures and a nationwide job board.
One of Arrow’s most successful recruiting tools are mini-career fairs, and there is an emphasis on the company’s culture. "We are a Top 5 U.S. Workplace again this year, and that designation is special to us because this feedback comes straight from our 3,300 team members," Runion said.
The company recently entered a partnership with the U.S. Army to hire more veterans through the Army PaYS program. In addition, whenever company representatives participate in local community events such as elementary school science nights discussing insects or high school career fairs, they also strive to find prospective candidates—both students for Arrow’s internship program as well as their parents "looking for a new opportunity."
One creative source of finding quality candidates is to think of places that have a pool of people that other employers "would not normally touch"—like addiction recovery houses, Canning said.
"These candidates would need to be vetted with more scrutiny, such as additional drug screening once on board if that is permitted by the state in which your company operates," he said. "You would also need to make sure you have informed your attorney to make sure you are not just compliant, but are taking consideration of the best interests of the business."
Big Time first conducts quick introductory phone interviews with prospective candidates, selling the family-owned local company as much as candidates try to sell them. Next are in-person interviews with a panel of managers, starting with "fun icebreaker questions" and then questions to find out if they fit within the culture.
"You can always teach pest control, but you need a cultural fit first—someone who is professional, a team player and communicates well with customers and builds relationships," Bullert said. "If they’re a thumbs up, the next step is a ride along to experience the field firsthand, see if it’s really a fit for them, and also to ask team members what it’s really like working for the company."
When interviewing candidates, employers should be transparent about what the expectations are from the beginning, Canning said. When conducting telephone or video interviews, detail the hiring process, including if there’s drug screening, checking references, motor vehicle records and criminal backgrounds—"telling them these details may help you eliminate candidates who are ineligible and thus save yourself—and them—time."
Candidates should be aware of where they stand in regard to the steps within the process, he said. For example, they should know that the hiring manager was able to talk with two out of their three references, but couldn’t reach the third.
"The hiring manager should be in daily contact with the candidate to let him or her know what is going on," Canning said. "We have seen great success in this communication strategy—it also sets the standard for what the candidate should expect when they come to work for the company."
With the cost of recruitment sky-high, businesses should consider revisiting their benefits to make sure they are competitive, including retirement plans, medical, dental, vision and life insurance, Canning said, "Communication here is key: tell your employees about the benefits currently offered, and tell them often! If there is a new development to their benefit, make a big deal about it."
Employers should also consider awarding trips and other industry-sponsored prizes to the employees who helped meet the goals—instead of just upper-level management. Canning said, "This is often an untapped tool that can be plied to the company’s benefit by retaining talented employees."
To retain workers, Big Time increases pay every six months to stay competitive, and the company has an award of excellence program for those who are highly productive and offer a high quality of service—last year they went on a group trip to Cabo San Lucas.
"We also offer opportunities for employees to advance in their careers, particularly as we expand into new markets," Bullert said. "Lastly, throughout the year we hold fun company events and we also invite our employees to volunteer with us at local charities—people really like working for a company that has a strong sense of purpose, like ours."
Listening to employees is a key component of retention, Runion said. She analyzes retention patterns and reviews the results with Arrow’s senior operation leadership for follow-up.
"Tools such as 90-day stay interviews, annual surveys, innovation stations and our open-door policy are all ways that we use to keep our finger on the pulse of what is going on," she said. "We invite any suggestions and see if there are ways to improve our processes."
One key component of recruiting, hiring and retention is to not be afraid to change what you are doing, Runion said.
"It isn’t passive. You must be active," she said. "This means that you must get a little nerdy and dig into the ‘numbers.’ You must pay attention to candidate flow, time to fill, time to hire, turnover and more. There are a lot of moving parts."
Hiring in 2023: What Are You Doing to Stay Ahead of the Curve?
An inside look at NPMA’s Workforce Development Program
If you take a look back on recruitment trends over the past few years, the trajectory looks less like a bell curve with rolling peaks and valleys, and more like an EKG scan with sharp jumps in each direction. Normalcy has not been evident in any aspect of life in recent years, and hiring is no different. Priorities are shifting, new generations are joining the workforce and companies are looking for support as they adapt. The National Pest Management Association (NPMA) is answering that call.
2021 brought about the "great resignation" and saw one in four employees regularly leaving their jobs in search of something new, fueled by general discontent and shifting priorities following the global pandemic.
2022 was the "year of the employee," where employers did everything possible to recruit new employees or, more importantly, keep their good ones happy. End-of-year jobs reports told a story of changing tides, and employers were starting to regain the upper hand.
2023, understandably, continues to forge its own path. Despite fears of a looming recession, employees are once again vacating their seats in an ongoing wave of resignations and retirement, leaving a workforce in desperate need of replenishment. On top of that, employees continue to desire the benefits and lifestyle that propelled them through the previous two years of instability.
But how do you mesh the need to recruit and retain employees with an industry that offers all the benefits jobseekers are looking for? Enter: NPMA’s Workforce Development Program.
Since late 2020, NPMA has worked diligently to develop its Workforce Program to raise awareness of the industry as a lucrative career option, increase pride and professionalism and attract qualified talent to thousands of open positions on the industry-specific job board, Careers. PestControlJobs.com. Since the job board launched, more than 21,000 jobs have been posted by NPMA member companies, and nearly 11,000 jobseekers have submitted an application.
The associated jobseeker website, PestControlJobs.com, is designed to be a resource for visitors exploring a new job or career path and features real-life career stories, information on special hiring programs and industry statistics to show the future is bright for pest control. Along with developing new content for the website on a regular basis, NPMA also implements a robust search engine optimization program to ensure all website content is optimized for top keywords that drive traffic from search engines. Dozens of keywords are managed across Google, Yahoo! and Bing.
All of these initiatives are supported by digital ad campaigns on ZipRecruiter and social media designed to drive traffic to the website and job board. Messaging and ads are segmented for identified target audiences to highlight the ways in which pest control offers the benefits job seekers are looking for: flexibility, great pay, advancement, work-life balance and on-the-job training, along with a sense of pride in helping to protect public health.
There’s also a public relations component to the program, with the goal to promote the industry through targeted media outreach. NPMA’s Workforce Development Program has been featured in Stars and Stripes magazine’s Transition Guide and G.I. Jobs, and was listed among U.S. News & World Report’s Best Maintenance and Repair Jobs.
This year, outreach will be expanded to include podcasts, specifically for key demographics such as veterans reentering the workforce, college alternatives, and stay-at-home parents looking for their next move. In addition, a new target audience was added for retirees, as many people are looking for a flexible and rewarding job that offers that sense of purpose they are missing since leaving the workforce.
Member support is critical to the Workforce Program, and NPMA is fortunate to realize this success through the support of Founders Club, Patrons Club and Gold and Silver Supplier level sponsors. With sponsorship comes many incredible and valuable opportunities, such as unlimited job postings for Founders Club members and exclusive access to Employer Toolkit materials to help in the hiring and recruiting process, which are available to all sponsorship levels. In addition, all NPMA members get one complimentary job posting per year.
April is National Pest Management Month—the perfect time to get involved.
Visit NPMAWorkforce.org to learn more and understand how you can benefit from the innumerable ways NPMA is reaching job seekers and promoting and protecting this thriving industry.