It may not feel like it depending on your area, but spring is definitely upon us. And pretty soon we will (hopefully) be swamped with work, and our crews will be busy taking care of our growing client base. One thing that we probably still have time for this year is prepping our crews for the upcoming season.
In this article, I explain the importance of employee development and training, and you will learn a few tips for how to train and retain one of your most important assets: your employees.
When I ask fellow landscapers and gardeners what their biggest challenge is, I often find that one of the most popular answers is, simply put: labor.
The unfortunate truth is that careers in horticulture are not the most popular in the world, but there is a silver lining. Landscaping as a whole is a growing industry, and if we as professionals can attract and retain good labor, then we can focus on running the rest of our business. But how exactly do we attract the right people, create an enriching work environment, continue to train our crew, and retain them?
Look for help in the right places
I’ve found that finding good labor can be extremely challenging, but my best success stories have always come from the same places. Be cautious about hiring family and friends, or at least hire to your discretion. As suggested by LawnStarter, typically when you want to scale your business, you’ll want to keep social and professional life separate for best practice.
In short, what I have found to be invaluable is the power of word of mouth. My favorite employee of all time came from just asking around and talking to other people in the industry to see if they knew of anyone looking for work. I have had similar success reaching out to local nurseries and other landscape professionals. If you have a college or university nearby, try reaching out to the relevant departments, be it horticulture, botany, or landscape design.
Create an enriching work environment
One thing that the millennial generation is becoming known for is the value they place on quality work life. It’s no longer simply about a paycheck, and statistics have shown that the upcoming generation wants more out of a job.
As an employer, one way that you can support this is making sure that you support a quality work atmosphere. Finding meaning in work is an increasingly popular idea, so supporting things like volunteer days, staff parties, and even a fun, alternative work space are just some ways that you can contribute.
Provide growth and development opportunities
Training is an essential part of maintaining a good team of employees. This can be achieved through sponsoring educational conferences or offering to reimburse a portion of coursework related to your field.
Rewarding employees who acquire additional credentials is another way to make sure you are incentivizing the right things, while investing in your workers. It is important to let your labor know that you value them becoming a certified arborist or maintaining their pesticide applicator license, for instance.
Hold weekly or monthly meetings
Touching base with your employees on a regular basis is crucial to running a good business. Put regularly scheduled meetings on the calendar now; this is the only way to get ahead of the game.
Staff meetings are a great way to provide additional internal training and support and discuss important changes or issues that arise as the season progresses. Start now by going over all of the upcoming projects, new clients, new equipment, or new policies within your business.
Empower your workers
One of the hardest things that business owners struggle with when facing a growing business is letting go. Don’t be afraid to delegate work out to your employees. After all, that’s why you have them.
By trusting your staff with something that is normally outside of their comfort range, you not only challenge them in new ways, but you show them that you are confident in their abilities. This builds their confidence and experience, which will provide you with more valuable employees in the long run.
EDITOR’S NOTE: This article was written by Scott McDermott. McDermott is a landscape designer, ISA certified arborist, and NOFA accredited in organic land care. He is the owner of McDermott Landscapes, where he designs residential gardens throughout New England area.