Labor shortage: SKB’s battle for workers

Photo: SKB IndustriesPhoto: SKB Industries

There has been an industry-wide labor shortage that has affected many landscaping companies across the country, including the Atlanta metro area, this year. But even with such a crippling phenomenon occurring, owner Steve Bell was not going to let these effects push the SKB Industries team down.

“Our team is predominately made up of Hispanic labor and because of recent changes in government rules and regulations, our labor force has significantly decreased, which has slowed down our productivity,” Bell said.

Typically, SKB’s greatest labor need is in early spring when maintenance ramps up then tapers off after leaf season in the fall.  All hands on deck are needed during the spring months to ensure a smooth transition during the off-peak season.

As you can imagine, the effects of not having enough workers during the busy season of spring while still trying to maintain a constant client schedule with new installations coming in every week are stressful. Bell realized that something needed to be done and took action, relying on every member of the SKB team to come together and step up.

In the past, Bell, alongside Nicole Reddam in HR, could have easily put out a “Help Wanted” sign around Lilburn, Georgia, but times have changed and they soon realized that there needed to be a different approach.

“The biggest issue that we face is finding people who want to do hard labor and want to stay past six months,” says Bell, “But we have found a way to recruit individuals and keep our retention rate high.”


Since the start of labor shortage issues, the SKB team has made it a point to focus on incentives for crew workers in order to show appreciation for their hard work and dedication. Hard labor is a field many people don’t want to work in because it is so physically demanding on the body – that’s why it is imperative to make sure your crew feels valued, well taken care of and a part of the overall objective of the business.

Photo: SKB IndustriesPhoto: SKB Industries

Often times, management is so focused on the overall goal of making sure clients are taken care of – trucks are going out when they are supposed to and having enough manpower to support all jobs that need to be completed for the month – they overlook the fact that they aren’t showing enough gratitude to the crew workers.

  1. Show you care by always pumping up the crew before the start of the day
  2. Provide as much support as possible while out on the road
    1. Cold water
    2. Ice
    3. Snacks
    4. Positive, direct reinforcement
    5. Consistent check-ins on the crew’s overall well-being
  3. Provided adequate breaks
  4. Make sure to have end of the day sessions to go over what went right and what can be improved
  5. Have days out of the month where you provide lunch
  6. Engage in conversation and not just the typical hello and goodbye
  7. Plan a day out of each month where you invite the crew to do something outside of work like a BBQ or a picnic
  8. Provided quarterly bonuses if goals are met
  9. Weekly training sessions


Who doesn’t love a good referral? One of the best ways to get more crew members is to go directly to the source, which means asking your current crew to reach out to their friends and family to see if they have experience in landscaping.

  1. Offer employees a referral bonus for bringing in somebody who is skilled in the area of need and stays with the company for at least six months.
  2. Offer the new hire a sign-on bonus once they have completed their six months.

EDITOR’S NOTE: This article was written by Christina Howard with SKB Industries. SKB Industries is an Atlanta-based commercial landscape management company that was founded in 1978.

The Attachments Idea Book
Landscapers use a variety of attachments for doing everything from snow removal to jobsite cleanup, and regardless of how often they are used, every landscaper has a favorite attachment.
Attachments Idea Book Cover