Training and retaining employees can be crucial to achieving successful service. Clean Cut, a full-service landscaping company, in Austin, Texas, accomplishes both with an innovative "stock card" program. Management trainees use the cards to record the names of experienced employees who take time to help them learn the ropes. After the trainee has been there for 10 months to three years, he or she can attain partnership status and become eligible for profit sharing. But the new partner isn't the only one who benefits. If someone has his or her name on 10% of the new partner's stock cards, every year the company writes him or her a check for an amount equal to 10% of that partner's eligible stock card profit.

"It rewards older employees for passing down their expertise and wisdom to new employees," says Kevin Yeager, Clean Cut's operations manager. "This improves customer service because the newcomers learn how to deal with customers, what to say and what not to say, and how to be proactive on-site. I can testify from my own experience, as a trainee with stock cards to distribute, that others coached me on how to give better service."

As the program has grown, the larger bonuses have gotten people's attention. Workers at all levels see a direct benefit in helping new employees learn and succeed, and annual stock bonuses provide an incentive for veteran employees to stay with the firm. "This, too, improves customer service," adds Yeager. "Seasoned personnel are more knowledgeable, and we maintain continuity in the relationships we have built with clients."

Copyright 1997 G+J USA Publishing