Mikecutstrees,NewYork: “I was wondering, where does everyone look to find good ground workers? What do you look for in a new employee? Do you interview? Try someone out for a few days? Seems like everyone I hire does well for a little while then fades. What do you do to keep them motivated? I have been giving little incentives like a new pair of gloves, etc., but it doesn’t seem to be helping much. Any advice would be appreciated.”

Lxt,Pennsylvania: “What is your starting wage? Remember, many people mightnot have experience in this field, so if you’re burying them at the start, they wont stay long.

“I always find that a new groundie is more prone to stay if you help them a little, I usually go up and start blitzing only to look down and see their facial expression—watch for this! If they look pissed, and you keep cutting, say goodbye to them. At this point, if you go down to help, slow up and just make it a nice, pleasant pace, chances are they will stay. There has to be the ability to move up, not just in positions, but in wages.

“Start them off at $10 to $12 an hour, if they make it for a week or two, give them a buck raise. May seem expensive, or like your babying them, but it’s better than running help [wanted] ads every other week.”

Mitchell,Victoria,B.C.: “I find wages to be the most influential retention plan. I pay $20 an hour for a ground guy. (I do not need guys full time, mind you.) I always help with cleanup. I save the spar whenever I can, and let them climb and chunk it for fun and more appreciation of what we do.

“I experimented with $12 to $15-per-hour guys, but found I would rather have one motivated guy than two guys with issues. My problem is not ground guys, but finding another climber to help me out. I try to enable my ground guys to climb. Hopefully they will stick around if we can cycle the climbing and ground work, so everyone feels, and is paid, equal.”

Mikecutstrees,NewYork: “I paid my first employee $14 an hour since he had some chain saw experience and had education about trees and forestry. He couldn’t take hot days and couldn’t show up to work on time. My second worker doesn’t have much experience, and I started him at $13 an hour. As far as helping them out, I try to take my time in the tree and if they get backed up chipping, etc., and I’m toward the bottom of the tree, I’ll come down and catch them [up], which is a total pain in the butt. I always help them, and have even done the hard stuff so they could learn more. I try not to yell, but sometimes I don’t know what they are thinking. How do I find someone that works hard and has common sense?”

Tdunk,Pennsylvania: “It took me a couple [of] workers to find some good ones. I found two brothers that are pretty good. They both knew how to runs saws and have common sense, too. I pay them $18 an hour. The younger one, I started to teach him the basics on climbing late in ‘07. I wouldn’t trust him to anything on his own, but if we had an easy day, I’d let him climb, do a little bit of limbing, etc., just minor stuff. I found that if you break the routine once in a while, it works wonders.”

Rftreeman,NorthCarolina: “I have used craigslist a few times to get extra help, and I can tell within the first hour if I’ll ever call them again. I try to find people who have worked outside doing hard labor, and can at least run a chain saw and have enough ass to pull a rope.”

Beowulf343,NewYork: “The outfit I’m with is very lucky. We have several groundies that have been with the company for 15-plus years. In fact, both the groundies on my crew have been in the tree business longer than I have. The owner has a specific plan he follows when hiring a groundie. He looks for a guy in his early 20s, who is married with a kid or two and only has a high school diploma. It sounds bad, but he looks for a guy who needs a job to support his family. These guys will show up for work because they need the job. Then the trick is to give them a wage they can support a family on. Most guys in this position will go to work for one of the manufacturers in the area, so when the owner finds someone he likes, he offers a higher starting wage than the manufacturing companies.

“Another one of his odd questions when looking for someone is whether or not they hunt or fish. He likes someone who does hunt, because odds are they are an outdoorsman. They don’t complain as much about being outside all the time. He offers the guys a competitive wage; a chance to advance, depending on how far they want to go; vacation; and benefits. He pays extra for CDL, first aid/CPR certifications, mechanical knowledge, etc.”

FallenAngel,Pennsylvania: “I’ve always liked to find groundies when they were in their late teens to early 20s. At that age, one can find out whether or not they want to be in our line of work or not. You either like tree care, or you don’t. Patience is not easy, but necessary. Be willing to explain what is going on and the best and safest way to do the job. Praise them for the good they do, and don’t snap out on the little mistakes that will happen. When they mess up, explain what they did wrong, and let them know that it can’t be done again. When interviewing them, search for intelligence and common sense. If they seem slow or just plain ‘duh,’ no go. Let them know that if they stick around for at least a year, if interested, they can start to learn the climbing aspects. I feel a decent starting wage is $12 to $15 with no experience. Twenty seems a little high, but then again, the cost of living for your area should be considered. Start them at $12, and if they do well the first week, give them a dollar raise. You can then give the raises according to their learning and work ethic. You can normally tell within the first three hours if they will work out or not. Always supply good PPE, that’s our responsibility as employers.”

“In Your Own Words” is contributed from the forums at Arboristsite.com. Visit them, and join in the discussions!