Tips for building a team culture that motivates employees

Updated Nov 22, 2021

Employees high-fivingMany landscaping business leaders take employee churn as something that “comes with the territory.” But it doesn’t have to be this way. With some attention to your company’s culture, it’s more than possible to inspire and motivate your employees to perform the best work they’re capable of — and to stick with you for the long haul. Here’s how to do it.

Recognize excellence wherever you find it

In an industry as competitive and fast-paced as landscaping, rewarding ongoing excellence might be even more important than in the average business.

For example, some employees are better at thinking outside the box to solve problems, managing their time, or exceeding customer expectations. Every time you call an employee out for one of these A-plus feats of planning, execution, quality or timeliness, that example resonates through the company and demonstrates what’s possible. Sometimes, all it takes is a kindly word or email. Other times might call for something more tangible, like a bonus, a paid day off or a gift card to their favorite restaurant.

Recognizing quality leadership — or simply a clever new approach to solving a client’s problem — empowers that employee to put forth their best work, always. But it also raises the bar for your company as a whole. Employees see that there’s often more than one way to engage with the job, and they pick up new skills and insights, further improving their respect for themselves and the value your team brings to your community.

Provide a path for career development

It’s not a secret that some in the public see landscaping as a dead-end job with no career opportunities, but that belief couldn’t be further from the truth. With the right attention paid to mentorship, career development and personal growth, it’s easier than you think to present your landscaping business as a place where employees can thrive, discover new interests and hone their leadership qualities.

As a leader, you need to communicate this commitment and create opportunities for employees that go beyond earning a paycheck. Here are some ideas:

  • Lay out a progression path: Employees need to know that there’s a worthwhile road ahead. Instead of tying raises to an employee’s time with the company, connect them instead with the accumulation of new skills and the demonstration of new knowledge.
  • Provide mentorship opportunities: Take an interest in employees who show promise as leaders and organizers — and then match them with company veterans to ensure they retain their desire to learn and advance their skills.

You want to take on more — and more complex — jobs. That might mean separating your crew into teams. Investing in the leadership and skill-building of your most committed employees opens doors for them and keeps them interested, but it also increases your company’s reach and capabilities.

Demonstrate your commitment to safety

Safety is a major key to employee satisfaction, motivation and longevity with your company. Employees question your judgment when they see you cutting corners. They’ll have a similar reaction if they’re expected to tackle their work with outdated, broken or unreliable equipment. If your work involves the use of heavy machinery, “conventional wisdom” — such as performing daily safety checks and entering and exiting worksites mindfully — is even more important.

Employees can’t be loyal to a company that doesn’t take safety seriously. If they arrive each day expecting to work in an unsafe environment or with improper tools, don’t be surprised when they start looking for new jobs.

Support and celebrate diversity

The green industry is in the midst of a labor shortage. If you’re looking to create a motivating culture for your team, think of this shortage as an opportunity to create diversity in the workplace. You have a chance to introduce this line of work to people who have been unaware of all its opportunities or people who’ve written it off as an industry that’s “not for people like them.”

This situation was one of the challenges laid out in a recent gathering of the National Association of Landscape Professionals in Virginia. One of the key takeaways was the idea that people are more likely to seek out and commit themselves to companies and industries with teams that either “look like them” or extend a welcoming hand to all. Here are some of the most underrepresented groups of people in landscaping today:

  • Veterans
  • Members of minorities
  • Students
  • Women
  • Ex-felons who have paid their debt to society

Casting a wider net for team members is a great way to insulate yourself against talent shortages. Just as importantly, it’s a way to buoy your employees’ opinions of your company and their commitment to excellent service.

If you need an extra reason to expand your reach during recruiting, according to some studies, companies with gender-diverse and ethnically diverse teams are 15 percent and 33 percent more likely, respectively, to report above-average profits.

Help your team develop a passion for what you do

If you want to make sure your company’s culture inspires and motivates your current team and new hires, try stoking their interest in the big ideas as well as the graceful little touches that make the landscaping industry so vital.

Make green industry periodicals available to your employees so that they can engage in ongoing learning. Encourage team members to visit industry website to see what’s new. You can even propose a team outing to a landscaping or nursery show in your local area, where they can see exciting new techniques and technologies and get a sense of where the business is heading.

There’s probably never been a more exciting time to be involved in landscaping, hardscaping and greenscaping, but it’s up to you to convince your team. You know this is much more than “just a job” — so help your team see the business the way you do, and get them excited about it the way it excites you.

EDITOR’S NOTE: This article was written by Holly Welles. Welles is a freelance writer with an emphasis on home improvement, business and commercial real estate. She regularly contributes to sites like and Porch as well as publishing weekly updates on her own home improvement blog, The Estate Update.

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