Attracting and Retaining Quality Landscape Employees
We’ve all been there. There are plenty of requests for work coming in, but as more jobs pile up, we reach a tipping point where we don’t have enough time in our schedule to add this extra work. This leaves us with only two options: try to hire more crews; or leave the job for someone else to take. The latter is not any landscape business owner’s ideal situation.
I won’t sit here telling you that hiring is easy; we all know there’s a difference between filling the role, and finding proficient, skilled people. I also won’t sugar-coat it; the landscape industry continues to be an unpopular career path for new graduates, and many are not pursuing post-secondary channels to enhance their skills and learn a specialty trade.
To truly find successful, career-oriented hires at the top of their field, you should be strategic and proactive in the way you hire. It can’t be expected that posting ads online in late winter will be enough to fill your crews for the year. It’s not just a competition with other landscaping companies to hire top talent, but many other trades as well. Job candidates need to view the industry as an attractive, long-term career path or it will be inevitable that they look to see if the grass is greener in other industries.
Attracting and maintaining a top-calibre team is not a challenge you should only focus on in the spring. This challenge must be tackled year-round, incorporating many different strategies to attract, retain, and review the success of your new hires and existing team members.
Let’s face it, posting on your company website that you’re hiring just won’t cut it anymore. Employees can be hired through schools, industry associations, online channels, and although there have been significant challenges recently, H2B workers as well.
Industry Associations: If you’re not a member of your local or federal landscape associations, you’re missing out on a great hiring opportunity. These associations share the common goal of supporting the success of the landscape industry and the contractors within it. They likely have a Careers page where you can post your listing, or they may even be able to recommend a few potential hires.
Post-Secondary Schools: DynaSCAPE Design is taught in over 100 landscape design programs throughout the USA and Canada. Many of our clients leverage these programs to hire DynaSCAPE-trained designers as soon as they’ve graduated. The same can be done with the horticulture and landscape technician programs in your area. Many of these graduates are fresh out of school (unemployed), eager to join the industry, and have already been trained by professionals. The instructors may even be able to identify which students excelled during the school year.
High Schools: For many teenagers, the landscape industry is seen as a dirty job with a lot of hard, manual labor rather than a glamorous career. Many high schools don’t have programs that focus on horticulture or landscaping, sometimes leading them to overlook the career altogether. By talking to these students early you can help to clarify what a landscape professional does (more than grass cutting and plant install), clarify salary and benefits expectations for trained professionals, and offer summer jobs to get them interested early.
Promote Online: If you’re not already promoting your job openings online, you need to be. Your website and social media channels are constantly being looked at by people who are interested in your company. Handing out resumes is a thing of the past. Job postings are now found online, and resumes are submitted digitally. You should make it as easy as possible for candidates to apply to your company by having a careers section on your website which outlines available jobs, and by posting on social media when you’re actively seeking new roles. You can “promote” these social media posts to target local viewers who are interested in landscaping. Keep in mind you’ll have a better selection if you’re hiring and training in the off-season.
Recruit Year-Round: Run a hiring campaign year-round. Even if you’re not planning to fill the role immediately, you never know when the right candidate is going to be searching for a new career. By searching year-round, you’ll have a great pool of candidates to select from when you’re ready to hire, and have a better chance of finding the best fit for the open positions.
Offer Cutting-Edge Technology: Crew members want to work for companies that make them more productive on the job and reduce strain. Make sure your team is equipped with the right equipment for the job. Whether that’s equipment for lifting pavers, top of the line mowers, safety equipment, or being able to track their time and job cost through a mobile app, rather than filling out piles of paperwork.
Prove That You’re A Winning Company: Let’s face it, employees want to know they’ll have job security within a growing organization. When you’re hiring, promote your success, how long you’ve been in the industry, and your position. As much as you’re interviewing them, they’re also making sure that you’re also a fit. When promoting the job opening or interviewing, celebrate your companies’ successes and strong culture.
With all of the time and investment spent on attracting the right talent, the next step in the process is to keep team members energized coming into work every day. It’s important to avoid a situation where your employees feel complacent and are happy with business as usual. So how can you do this?
Onboarding – Retaining an employee starts the day after they’re hired. The first three months in a job can be a turbulent time. Having a refined onboarding process gives employees a great first impression and helps them to feel more comfortable in their role more quickly. At the end of the onboarding, discuss with them how the process went and find ways to improve it.
Continuing Education – Some of your employees will be more motivated to expand their skills and become more experienced in their craft. Help support and provide avenues for expanding employees’ landscaping or business knowledge if they’re driven to pursue it.
Provide a Career Path – One of the big concerns we discussed earlier in attracting employees is the landscape industry being seen as a job, not a career. Career-oriented employees want to be able to see and map out their road to success. Make this process easy for them. Document ways that employees can enhance their skills and take on more responsibility, which results in promotions and pay increases.
Automation in the Workplace – Good employees get tired of inefficiencies. Take a look at your internal systems. Are they optimized to avoid double entry and to streamline the process? Eventually, this becomes draining on team members, where they feel their time could be better utilized. Implement integrated systems, such as DynaSCAPE Design & Manage360, so that your team can save time using cutting edge technology.
Compensation – Your team members must be paid competitive wages. That’s the bare minimum. Above that, think of ways that you can be flexible with vacation time, flex hours, or even employee appreciation incentives to better fit your employees. By leveraging systems like DS|Manage360, you can report on your crew’s installation times, salesperson close rate, and other key employee metrics, which can be then used to provide performance-based bonuses.
Keep Employees Busy Year-Round – A big focus in retaining good team members is the ability to keep them occupied (and earning an income) year-round. The seasonality of the industry can be one of the biggest challenges, with many team members wondering where they’ll be working when the season ends. Offering services such as snow clearing, renovations, and holiday lighting install can help to keep team members busy during the slower months.
The Process is Never Complete – Don’t think of the hiring process as something that happens in the spring or just needs to be focused on once a year. You should talk to past hires and find ways to improve the experience for future employees coming in. The hiring process should continue to be molded and developed over time, based on what you find to be most successful.