How Arrow Striping Keeps its Employees Coming Back

Striping contractor sites employee retention focus as key to its success and amount of business each year.

Arrow Striping Inc. is a small Lincoln, NE, contractor striping more than 500 parking lots and as many as 18 airports a year, and as President Sue Rottinghaus explains, the company's workers enable that to happen. She says the company makes a special effort to keep workers coming back because it reduces the time required to train and helps productivity. And their efforts seem to be working.

Heath Whitney, who runs crew operations and scheduling and training, says that for the last three years all of the contractor's 15-person company have returned each year, and that has made a significant impact on the company. For one thing, he hasn't had to spend time training new workers.

"A lot of our crew knows what's going on and understands how to get the job done. Most of them can pretty much do everything, and if they can we let them take the reins on a job, doing layout or whatever they want to try," Whitney says. "That means I can branch off and look at other jobs, check the crews and everything they do, and even run my own crew. It just helps everything go smoother."

But the key is to make the employees want to come back each year. And why do they come back?

"Because it's a great place to work," says Linda Anderson, office manager who has been with the company for seven years. "It's a great place and these are great people to work for."

But there's more to it than that. Here are just a few of the things Arrow Striping does to improve the quality of the work environment and to help retain employees:

  • Workers are laid off as late as possible in the year, usually in December, and are brought back as early as possible in the spring, usually March. Anderson works all winter, and two other employees are brought in part time to get equipment and stencils ready for the next season "because when it hits it usually goes, and usually we're going full speed ahead by the first of May so we don't have time to get things ready then," Rottinghaus says.
  • Paid holidays for everyone, including seasonal workers. "That lets them know we appreciate their time. We want to recognize that," Rottinghaus says.
  • Insurance: paid 100% for longer-term employees and paid on a sliding scale percentage basis for other workers. "Insurance is a benefit that a lot of people want," she says. "Some employees have families and they need insurance; plus we just think it's a good benefit to have."
  • Per Diem paid in advance. Arrow Striping's workers are frequently on the road out of town, and the company makes sure they have a check covering their per diem in their hand before they hit the road.

"They come back maybe because it's a unique job - there's something new every day - but we like to think the job attracts unique individuals who don't like the standard run-of-the-mill jobs," Rottinghaus says. "Our employees are proud of their work , they like to stand back and look at a job and say 'That looks really good,' and that's the kind of person we want to spend each day working with."

To learn the impact retaining workers - and a new approach to management - has had on this top-performing pavement marking contractor check out "Playing to Their Strengths" in the June/July issue of Pavement Maintenance & Reconstruction.