How Jake's Designs cut employee turnover Email
Written by Lyn Dean   
Tuesday, June 25, 2019 04:30 AM

Jake Harris, Jake's DesignsWhat if prospective employees sought out your company? Could that even be a possibility? Five years ago, Jake Harris, owner at Jake’s Designs, Colorado Springs was struggling to attract and keep good people—a common challenge within the industry. He wondered how he could make his company the best place to work in Colorado Springs and attract and retain good people.

Harris is committed to creating a culture that is kind and respectful. His mom, a key role mod-el, had a successful business for 39 years. “She knew how to make people feel valued and loved,” he says. “I want our clients to feel that way about our company.” He knew that if he wanted his customers to feel good about the company, then he had to start with his employees.

Weekly Absolute Badass award
To recognize and reward employees who go above and beyond to serve customers, Harris implemented the AB program—a weekly award of $100 cash in the form of a 100-dollar bill. Anyone from among the 20-24 employees–from new hires to foreman and managers–is eligible for the award. When the program was founded three years ago, AB stood for “atta boy” for going “above and beyond.” AB has since been nicknamed “absolute badass.”

One day when presenting the award, Harris says, “I let the employee know they were an absolute badass in my mind and it just kind of stuck!”

How does the program work? All employees are encouraged to participate by nominating a fellow employee or someone on their team who went above and beyond for the customer or a fellow employee. The nomination is about anything someone did that stands out and helps the company improve. On paper, employees write the name of someone and a brief description of the observed AB activity, then deposit the paper into a company mail-box created for the award. Each Friday morning, Harris looks through the current week’s batch of papers and determines the award recipient.”

I reach into my wallet and pull out $100 in cash, giving it to the person and providing verbal recognition in front of the crew,” he says. “It boosts employees to get a cash bonus in this way, but the recognition is just as import-ant.” He adds that consistency is key to the success of the program.

Harris also wants us to know that the $100 is from his own pocket, not from the business. He is careful to recognize people throughout the company in different positions, and yes, a person can win the award more than once. Anyone can nominate someone. For example, people on crews can nominate project managers, and they do. Through this program, Harris believes he is developing a company culture that celebrates teamwork and helping others.

Is it working?
“Since the program started, we’ve had great people advance to foremen and managers,” says Harris. “Our upper level positions have low turnover. Entry-level retention rate has tripled from five years ago when people might stay only three weeks before moving on.” Harris notes that even if an entry level person does not win the award, they know the company respects and appreciates the people.

Spreading the word
The culture of appreciation at Jake’s Designs is slowly spreading outward. “At our all-company staff meetings, held about every two months, we talk about how to spread the word,” says Harris. For example, when upper level employees are getting materials from various suppliers, they tell suppliers and clerks how happy they are to work at Jake’s Designs. In addition to the AB program, Harris also has put in place other employee benefits such as company-matched individual retirement account (IRA) contributions after two years with the company.

The AB 100-dollar bill also spreads the word in a tangible way—by being seen. “When someone on a crew offers to buy a round for friends at the end of the week and then pays with a 100-dollar bill, the friends notice and ask about it. Our employee gets to say his boss gave it to him for winning this week’s absolute badass award.”

“So far, getting the word out seems to be working,” says Harris. “We have not had to run a lot of ads to get good people. I want to hire good people and then get out of the way. I also learned from my mom to enjoy the ride and not just focus on the end goal.”

Is the company’s success with employees translating to the “warm, fuzzy feeling” Harris wants for his customers? “Our main goal on every job is to put out a great product, of course, but in the end, we must ensure that the client is wild about the experience we gave them in working with us,” says Harris. He admits if the experience isn’t good, it doesn’t matter how good the work looks. Every employee is made aware of this. “And yes, we have had unhappy customers in the past, and I think everyone has at one point or another.” Harris believes these situations were caused by either poor communication or miscommunication.

When this happens, Harris calls an on-site meeting with the project manager and the client. “We talk openly and work through whatever issues there were. This is effective because it shows the customer, we really do care. Most of the time we all walk away feeling great about the resolution that was reached. It’s simple!”

Harris adds that the company’s online reviews speak for themselves.

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Review top OSHA citations during National Safety Month
Denver green buildings ordinance is finalized
Changes on the horizon for Welby Gardens
Certification testing tests limits