Water Well Journal

February 2021

Water Well Journal

Issue link: https://read.dmtmag.com/i/1330849

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Page 30 of 59

Workforce Development in the Water Well Industry Part 3 of 3. How to retain employees. By Mike Price As each company knows, the lifeblood of the water well industry depends on the next generation learning the skilled trade and making it their profession. The specialized industry has long been known for its welcoming and close-knit family feel. That's why conference trade shows at the state and national levels resemble family reunions. The familial culture, working in breathtaking locations, and other industry traits help attract and retain employees. "I think the biggest thing is you got to treat employees like they're not employees, but like they're part of the business, part of the family, and constantly check up on all of them," says Buddy Sebastian, vice president/general manager of Sebastian & Sons Well Drilling Inc. in Springport, Michigan. "Be aware of their concerns. Family is a big issue nowa- days, so you work around family issues with those employees. Make sure their compensation package is up to date with what's going on in the job marketplace with insurances and offering any other kind of benefits you can is always a plus. What's good for one person might not necessarily be the key item for another person, so you almost have to tailor each employee's situation individually." Several drillers at Partridge Well Drilling Co. Inc. in Jack- sonville, Florida, have worked at the company for more than 20 years. Its longest tenured driller is at nearly 35 years. The company offers health insurance, a 401K, bonus programs, and vacation/paid time off. "I believe one of the many reasons we have long-term employees is that we are very flexible with time off," says Na- tional Ground Water Association President Merritt Partridge, vice president of Partridge Well Drilling. "It's rare that we say no to an employee when he or she asks for time off. "We also offer some professional development activities; however, the goal is not primarily to retain an employee but rather increase their growth and potential." David Traut, MGWC, CVCLD, stresses retention begins with ensuring the employee enjoys the craft. Next, Traut says both the employee and their spouse or significant other must appreciate all that comes with the job. "In the drilling industry, there's going to be late nights, early mornings; some days you're going to come home wet, some days you're going to come home cold, and so they're going to have to deal with it," says Traut, vice president of Mark J. Traut Wells Inc. in Waite Park, Minnesota. Like others in the industry, Traut has an open-door policy to ensure feedback is welcome at any time. At a minimum, Traut's 55 or so employees each have at least one sit-down interview during the year. Traut wants to know what they're thinking and where they want to go in the future. "If it's a newer younger person, they may have multiple sit-downs because different people progress at different rates," says Traut, who serves on the NGWA Board of Directors. "We need to know what they understand, where they need help. "If this person comes from the demographic who switches jobs every five years, I need to get him up to speed as fast as possible to be as efficient as possible because five years down the road he might decide on a career change. I don't want to spend three years training a person and then replacing him in five." Three Keys Devoted to the water well industry for decades, NGWA Past President John Pitz, NGWAF, says it will take three keys for the industry to attract and retain its next generation of employees: • A competitive wage to attract the new employee and financially reward them for their hard work • An opportunity to help grow the business while allowing them to express themselves, which will motivate the employee • The younger generation's attitude on life has changed and must be accounted for. "The younger people—and people in general—want to be able to enjoy life," says Pitz, who served as NGWA presi- dent in 2012 and is president of the consulting business, N.L. Pitz Inc. in Batavia, Illinois. "That's one of the most difficult things for our industry because just the nature of it—some- times we have to work weekends, late in the night, or early in the morning. To grow, we need to realize they need to be the exception, not the normal operating procedure. "So, as I look at attracting young groundwater professionals, that's exactly what we need to make them—a professional. Get them involved, find a way that we can use their skills." Pitz, the recipient of NGWA's most prestigious award, the 2020 Ross L. Oliver Award for outstanding contributions to the groundwater industry, helped create the NGWA Drilling Cost Calculator and NGWA Pump Installation Calculator (www.NGWA.org/Bookstore) nearly 10 years ago. These calculators, in a Microsoft Excel spreadsheet for- mat, assist water well contractors in understanding the cost of running their business. Among other things, it lets business owners know if they can offer competitive wages for their employees. facebook.com/WaterWellJournal WWJ February 2021 n 29 HOW TO RETAIN EMPLOYEES continues on page 30

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