Aardvark Sweeping Services President Carl Barton says one innovation that has helped Aardvark Sweeping's bottom line is creating an entry level position, which it calls "porter," that enables the company to evaluate prospects before spending too much time and money training them.
"We spent a lot of money going through people before," he says. "We were bleeding on our training process, so having an entry level position has really saved us money while screening some of the unacceptable people out."
He says the original hiring and training process involved two weeks of riding with a driver, training on all the aspects of the job and working through a training sheet that lists all the elements of the job.
"After the two weeks, once the driver is adept at each element on the training sheet, we would send him out on a route and he just learns through repetition," Barton says. "There is some on-the-job training that's required because you just can't learn it all by watching, so we might start him out expecting only 200 or 250 minutes a shift. But it's still productive so he could work through all the jobs on his route and learn himself. But it ended up being about 30 days before we would make a final decision on that employee."
Barton decided that Aardvark was taking too long and investing too much money in people who ultimately did not work out, so they came up with an approach to short-cut the training and decision-making process and save a little money at the same time.
About four years ago Aardvark started a "porter program" that functions both to speed parking lot sweeping on retail jobs and also to act as an inexpensive and less risky screening phase for new employees. The program, which now includes four porters and four pickup trucks, is used on four dense sweeping routes where the work is heavy enough and the properties condensed enough to justify the porter. Under this program new employees are hired as porters and are given a truck and sent out on their own with a route sheet to hand pick grassy areas and gardens, change bags in trash cans, and do other similar types of work that a sweeper driver would otherwise have to stop and exit his truck to do - all before the sweeper gets to the property.
"It's an entry level position and we can actually have them out there doing it on their own within two days. It also involves different liability issues because they're driving a pickup instead of a sweeper," Barton says. "But while they're out there we watch them like a hawk. Are they staying awake? Are they working at a good pace? Are they missing or skipping any areas? Are they doing all the things that property requires them to do?
"If they're doing it the way we expect then we know we might have someone we can train to be a productive driver for us. If they're not doing what we need, if it looks like they aren't someone who is going to work out for us, we haven't spent as much money on training them and that's money we have saved. We can now know in usually three or four days whether we've got someone we want to work with or not."
For more on how Aardvark Sweeping Service builds its business and develops its employees by stressing safety, quality, and 400 billable minutes a shift read the article "Minute by Minute" in the October/November issue of Pavement Maintenance & Reconstruction.