Iowa contractor takes aim at employee retention and safety with hefty monthly bonus checks

Marcia Doyle Headshot
Jeff Pettiecord and Nick Wylie with J. Pettiecord, Des Moines, Iowa.Jeff Pettiecord and Nick Wylie with J. Pettiecord, Des Moines, Iowa.

Although still in its early days, a program implemented by J. Pettiecord, Des Moines, Iowa, in September is already having a positive effect.

Called the SAAP Monthly Bonus—which stands for Safety, Availability, Attitude and Production—the program rewards employees that meet a few requirements at the end of each month with a bonus check equal to $2 per hour for each hour an employee works that month. For example, if an employee averages 50 hours a week, then his or her bonus check would be around $450 that month.

The goal of the bonus program is multifaceted for J. Pettiecord, which specializes in tree and land clearing, environmental construction and remediation and 24-hour spill response. “Employee retention is a big part of this program,” says owner Jeff Pettiecord, one of 12 finalists for Equipment World’s 2015 Contractor of the Year program. “We also wanted to put some real meat into our safety program. (The company currently has a .77 experience modification rate.) Adds Nick Wylie, Pettiecord’s executive vice president: “There’s such a shortage of people, we wanted an extra way to lure new employees.”

To qualify for the extra $2 bonus—which has no impact on an employee’s base pay—an employee must:

  • Not break anything. Any quibbles about who’s at fault are resolved by the company’s safety committee, which does not include Jeff and Nick, although they can serve as tie breakers. And if an employee breaks something and doesn’t fess up, they lose their chance at a bonus for 6 months.
  • Wear proper PPE for all work tasks and always work in a safe manner. Employees cannot have any safety complaints from supervisors or clients, nor have any accident of “any kind.”
  • No traffic violations or DOT citations that could have been found during a morning walk through. Appeals go through the safety committee.
  • Answer their phones at all times for emergencies. Emergency response is a key market for Pettiecord, so employees must answer their phones, although they may not have to come in. If an employee is called three or more times in a month and doesn’t come in, he or she will lose their bonus.

Other aspects of the bonus include not missing a call for snow removal, not having any supervisor or customer complains and coming to work with a positive attitude. “We want this bonus to be portrayed as something they earned,” Nick says. Adds Jeff: “I’d much rather reward them for being productive than paying for a broken part.”

Jeff reports the response so far has been what the two envisioned. “We’ve only had one person who didn’t get their bonus for a month,” he reports. “We’re ecstatic if everyone gets it.”