When is the right time to hire an HR manager? Email
Written by Colorado Green NOW   
Monday, April 25, 2022 04:00 AM

Colorado Green Now

Zak George, owner of Zak George Landscaping (ZGL), Fort Collins, says “In my opinion, once you cross the 50-employee mark it’s worth having an HR department, if the company has a growth mindset.” He thought it was time in 2019 for his company. But he took his time. He wanted the right fit.

At the time, ZGL had around 30 year-round employees with numbers growing to nearly 80 when including seasonal employees—both H-2B and nationals.

In late 2019, ZGL hired David Curtis as the company’s first HR Manager. “People were probably curious to see how it would work out,” Curtis reflects. “I have a degree in psychology, not HR, and this was a new position at the company. Among other factors, I think Zak hired me because of my experience managing a branch within a large corporation where I often handled the HR functions."

When the pandemic hit not long after Curtis started, the company’s sole focus was the health and safety of their people. That meant both physical health and the emotional health and safety of continuing to have a job. “No one was laid off. In fact, our challenge was to attract people to complete the projects already booked. We were busy with an uptick in residential projects,” he says.

“Screening and interviewing candidates early in the pandemic taught me that I had to adapt,” Curtis recalls. “I needed to update my questions because I was interviewing people from outside the industry.”  

ZGL recruits with Indeed, website and referrals

ZGL’s three-pronged approach for recruiting includes the online service, Indeed, ZGL’s website, and a referral bonus program. The company has used the Indeed recruiting website for several years, but after Curtis came on board, he met with an Indeed representative, learning about the algorithms and how best to use them for maximum site exposure. He also got feedback on job descriptions and word use for posts to be more successful. Curtis makes a point to respond quickly, usually within 24 hours, earning them Indeed’s status of “immediate response employer.” That ranking gives their posts higher priority.

Curtis is a huge fan of driving people to the ZGL website. Seeing snow removal says the company is open for business year-round. Their website also allows candidates to submit resumes and check out their potential manager.

ZGL’s bonus program for employees who refer a candidate who is hired, has also evolved on Curtis’s watch. Employees who were referred, get up-to-speed faster, and have a person they know to help them out.

Curtis changed the hiring tools

The company needed better tools for the hiring process so Curtis and the ZGL team implemented “realistic job previews” --short bullet-point descriptions of positions written by people who are in that role. The job previews—with maybe 3-5 points—state both the pros and cons of the position. The purpose is to be honest and forthcoming with candidates.

Curtis also wanted to make sure interviews became more consistent, so he added more structure with a ‘standard’ set of questions for each position, based on job descriptions he created. In reality, his standard questions change. “I continually monitor their shortcomings as I use them, and hesitate to call any of them ‘final,’” he admits.

Reviews help set career paths

There were no formal performance reviews when Curtis came on board. He added structure started to use them in 2021 for each position in the company. Performance reviews should allow people to be heard, so he now uses “stay” interviews to hear what people say when asked: What keeps you here? Or, what do you like about working here?

ZGL wants to know what challenges team members face and what they see as barriers to success. “We ask what position they would like and how we can work together toward that goal. I have already seen two people move into management roles,” says Curtis

This article is an abridged version. Read the full original article in Colorado Green magazine.