Employee retention is an industry-wide issue. But Tony Batallan, director of operations for Property Works — along with his brother Jason, company president — have come up with a solution that works for them. Recognizing that employee turnover is expensive, the brothers put systems in place that would help prevent it by giving employees a path to earn more money. It’s been paying off for the company, which is headquartered in West Palm Beach, Florida and focuses largely on commercial and government maintenance.

“The philosophy of a lot of small business owners is to wait until someone complains to increase their salary,” says Jason. “And when that happens, they increase it as minimally as they think they can get away with — maybe another 50 cents an hour. But that doesn’t work. It’s not a long-term solution.”

Tony says that Property Works recognized that they needed to get a structure in place that would set up specific ways that employees could earn more money — as well as become motivated to keep going.

“When you come to work for us as a laborer, you start at $10,” Tony says. “If you’re still with us 90 days later, you get a raise. If you’re still with us six months later, you get paid holidays and two sick days — something that is virtually unheard of for laborers. After that, every year we do a review and if they’re doing well, they get a yearly raise. It’s all about keeping our employees engaged.”

Tony says that effort to keep them engaged also includes a “list of things they can do to earn more money.” That includes things like taking English classes, getting a CDL, or earning certifications. Not only does the company reimburse the employee for the cost of the class, but they also give them a raise.

The brothers say that this effort has paid off and it has been worth the investment on their part. You really can’t go wrong when you invest in good people, they add.

“The question is not only ‘How do I find good people?’ but it’s also, ‘How do I keep them?’” Tony says. “If you find good people, you need to allow them to earn good money if they stay with you. All of our account managers have a salary and a commission so that the more they work, the more they make. If they make a lot, that says we’re doing well. We encourage them to make more money because everyone wins.”

But when businesses are scared to pay their employees well, it hurts everyone, Tony adds. “The employees aren’t motivated, the quality of their work goes down, and you can’t retain good workers,” he says. “That’s why it’s worth investing in good people.”

Our Like a Boss series highlights some common business challenges landscape professionals face and how they conquer them. Discuss your biggest business challenges on LawnSite’s Business Management forum.