Recruiting and Retaining Employees

With all the immediate demands of running a business, it can be tempting to put off the frequently challenging, sometimes unfamiliar tasks related to human resources.

Post that job when you get around to it? Sure. Hope that uncomfortable issue resolves itself? Right. Simply trust that the right person with all of the right skills will magically appear—and will be committed to stay? Of course.

Sorry, but no. Recruiting, hiring, training and retaining employees, the experts say, requires ongoing attention—as well as an understanding that virtually everything a company does will impact who is drawn to work there, and the way employees are valued will impact everything the company does.
“A successful recruitment effort needs to be constant,” advises Greg Canning, operations manager and past human resources manager for Economy Exterminators. “Filling open positions will only happen if work is done every day on recruiting employees.”

As in many industries, it’s a tough time for pest management companies to find qualified, skilled, ready and able employees. The challenges only multiply when those companies are small, without a human resources person devoted to the task.

“Many of our employees need to have not only drivers’ licenses, since they are driving company vehicles, but also good driving records; they need to be clear of criminal charges since they are entering customers’ homes and businesses; they need to have the proper pest credentials from the various regulatory (often state) agencies; and they need to be invested in continuing education in the industry since that is a common requirement of the state regulatory bodies,” Canning said. “When you examine all of these together, you see that the industry really requires a highly skilled person, someone who is safety-conscious, and someone who is not bothered by working around pests.” Finding that combination has become increasingly difficult.

NPMA hopes to help. The organization recently established a Recruitment and Retention Committee to offer resources and support. The 15-member committee includes subject matter experts in HR, recruiting, marketing and pest control and was “handpicked to help drive ideas and provide resources for member companies that will assist with attracting, developing and retaining top talent,” said chair Shay Runion, who is chief HR officer and senior vice president of professional development for Arrow Exterminators, as well as winner of the 2016 Women of Excellence Award and 2018 Atlanta Business Chronicle HR Hero Award.

The committee includes members from a variety of backgrounds and regions, representing companies of varying sizes. So far, they’ve worked on developing new job descriptions, job posting templates and interview question guides, as well as reviewing recruitment videos, creating digital resources for the HR community page on the NPMA website and launching a fresh webinar series. More information can be found at

Positive Hires and Lasting Solutions

Runion said she’s seen a number of recent new trends in recruiting. First and foremost, it’s a candidate-driven market. “In the past, we might have picked a candidate out of several possibilities,” she said. “Today, talent is either picking our company or they aren’t. As a company, you must get creative with your recruiting efforts, and what worked for you a few years ago will not provide a lasting solution for you today.”

In terms of that “lasting solution,” Runion notes that retaining top talent is key to every company’s success.

“We must spend time as a company on our employer value proposition (EVP),” she said. “This is basically the balance of the rewards and benefits that are received by employees in return for their performance at the workplace.” The EVP must become part of strategic planning, she continued, and for every idea implemented in terms of revenue and profit growth, there should also be a benefit for team members. “Whether it is tweaking an insurance plan you offer or changing PTO policies or starting a wellness initiative, making your talent a priority is imperative for retention.”

Showcasing HR Expertise

Committee staff liaison Allison Allen, BCE, who is executive director at QualityPro, said taking part in the effort has been a positive and fun experience. First, part of QualityPro’s mission is to set the standards of excellence for professional pest management companies and their employees through education, training and certification. Many of the standards and resources maintained by QualityPro are related to HR, so there was a natural fit. Allen is excited about learning from the professionals on the committee—and helping others learn from them, too.

“I think our industry is ready to put HR professionals in the limelight and showcase their expertise,” Allen said. “They have the solutions to some of our biggest challenges.”

Allen believes the industry has several elements working in its favor—though the word still needs to spread. Pest management companies increasingly are coming to the table with benefits like flexible hours and take-home vehicles, for example. Also, pest management is a growth industry and has proven itself to be recession-proof.

On the side of retention, Canning said he’s increasingly hearing discussion of “stay interviews,” which are interviews with current employees that attempt to discover what makes them remain.

“A number of well-known pest control companies do these on an annual or semi-annual basis,” he said. “It provides valuable information to the company, as well as provides an opportunity for employees to make themselves heard.”

Runion still runs across the misconception that a company simply won’t be able to find enough talent and will therefore be unable to build a bench for future positions. It is difficult, but it can be done.

“The talent is out there, and they don’t even know who you are or what our industry does,” she said. “We must think creatively, and this is a paradigm shift in the way we have recruited in the past.”

Room for All

The committee members encourage getting involved, asking questions on the human resources section of the community page, responding to survey questions on the new website and honing in on recruiting and retention best practices to improve the industry overall.

“Don’t attempt recruiting haphazardly,” Runion urged. “Your reputation as a company or your employer branding could be hurt through bad recruiting efforts. In other words, treat the candidate like one of your best customers throughout the process, from application to interviews.”

The ultimate concern for today’s workers, after all, has become job satisfaction, Canning said. Applicants may be interviewing companies with the same intensity as the companies that are interviewing them.

The result of that exploration, however, can be a positive and beneficial experience for all.

By Fiona Soltes

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