While 2020 has had its share of new challenges due to the pandemic, one major issue continues to affect landscaping contractors year after year: a labor shortage. “The labor pool is not expanding at the same rate as the workload within our industry,” Ewing’s National Strategic Account Manager, Lee Scheer, explained.
According to the National Association of Landscape Professionals (NALP), there are an estimated 300,000 new job openings in the industry each year. If you’re one of the over 500,000 businesses that provides landscaping services in the US and you’re attempting to hire, here are five ideas to help you find new employees during a labor shortage.
Provide Ongoing Education
We’ve talked before about how training and educational opportunities can improve your business. But training also helps with recruitment because it shows your company’s commitment to your employees’ personal growth and career development. Why is this important? It will help you attract those considering a career in the industry, not just those looking for a temporary gig.
“The best way to handle labor issues is to have some type of internal training program coupled with training from manufacturers, associations and distributors,” said Scheer.
"Because the labor pool is so small for landscaping-related workers, you really must have a training mindset," Scheer said. "COVID-19 further reinforces the importance of a training mindset."
With the status of H-2B visas in flux, large companies that depend on seasonal labor are turning to their local communities to find new employees. Pedro Mendoza, an Account Manager at Ewing in Phoenix, AZ, explained that “many of the seasonal workers that had obtained H2-B visas [in Arizona] had to go home for a period of time to renew them, which affected the business and the product of those companies.”
Last year, Landscape Management reported that more landscaping recruiters are using non-traditional ways to build their teams. While there’s no quick fix, getting involved at the local level in one or more of the following ways will put you in direct contact with younger people and those who may be interested in a career in landscaping:
- Apply for NALP’s Landscape Management Apprenticeship Program™
- Get involved with your local landscape associations
- Reach out to local veterans’ groups
- Partner with nurseries or co-ops
- Contact tech schools or schools with horticulture programs
- Volunteer to teach students about how to run a business
- Participate in or lead classes sponsored by the city or municipality
Offer Financial Incentives
If you have room in your budget to provide financial incentives, Landscape Management’s 2019 Industry Pulse mentions several ideas you could consider, including:
- A signing bonus
- Increasing benefits
- Employee referrals
Finding a mix that works for your company and budget is key, and remember to communicate that plan to both existing and potential employees in order to get the most out of it.
Focus on Your Company Culture
At NALP’s 2020 Workforce Summit earlier this year, core values stood out as a recurring theme. When potential employees understand how and why your company operates, you’ll be more likely to attract new hires that line up with your core values, which leads to greater employee retention.
Younger people are especially interested in finding companies with a mission or looking for a place where they can receive coaching for professional growth. “We are getting to a time in the industry where younger generations are interested in landscaping. It is not the same as it was ten years ago. Companies are losing people due to pay and also employees demanding more education in their field,” Mendoza said. For more information about adapting for a younger generation, read our blog here.
Share the Benefits
Consider putting together a recruitment sheet or a packet with a list of the benefits of working for your business. Providing the information up front before hiring will make your company stand out from the pool of other businesses where applicants might be interviewing.
The shortage of quality labor is not an issue the green industry will solve overnight, and there are no quick, easy answers. But by finding what works for your company and sharing that with both existing and potential employees, you’ll be in the best position to attract new hires.