By Amy Snyder
Over the past five years, growth in the housing and property markets has led to an increased demand for landscaping services. While the increase is a great boon for the landscape and snow removal industries, finding employees to fill those jobs is a challenge. Finding team members who are not only a good fit for your organization but are also interested in committing to a long-term career with you can be challenging.
One method we’ve adopted is to approach every hire we make as if we are hiring for life. As with any partnership, there are certain qualities that will help ensure its longevity, providing benefits and opportunities for both parties along the way.
Align goals and values
Ensuring that both parties have the same core values and objectives from the outset is critical to long-term success. It’s important that both people are on the same page about what they value and the direction they are heading. When hiring, talk with candidates about their long-term goals and sift through past work history, digging into why certain jobs didn’t work out and why others did so that you get a better feel for whether this job - and your organization - is a good fit.
Consider generational differences
The millennial generation (those born between 1980 and 2000) are an important factor to consider in the workforce. Adapting to the wants and needs of this group may help ensure the long-term viability of employers going forward. Millennials are looking for a career that includes rapid progression, is varied and interesting and provides constant feedback. They seek flexibility in their schedules, expect to have the use of a variety of digital technology, and want to feel that their work is worthwhile and that their efforts are appreciated.
As an employer this necessitates playing to your company’s strengths in those areas - being tuned into providing feedback (both good and bad to enable upward mobility); providing tools like smartphones, laptops, social media platforms and mobile phone apps that enable easy access to information; sharing information across all levels; creating opportunities to say thank you; and enabling opportunities for charitable giving.
Once you’ve determined that your goals and values align, then you have to begin building the foundation. This is the “getting to know you” phase of the relationship and involves a big investment of time and resources on both sides. It’s when both parties start learning what makes each other tick, what capabilities each side has, and how they will use those skills for mutual benefit as they continue to learn and grow. Both parties are working on sharing their knowledge and listening intently to what the other side values and expects in return. It’s this continual investment in one another that helps to develop the foundation of trust that is critical for longevity.
Strong lines of communication are another crucial aspect of this evolving relationship. An ongoing dialogue that includes a mix of both personal and professional insight, as well as positive reinforcement and constructive criticism, increases the chance of success.
Communication can mean one-on-one conversations over lunch, a company newsletter, or even an email announcing a key business win or drawing attention to a safety issue. To ensure a two-way dialogue, consider a town hall meeting format with groups where individual team members can ask questions or share their ideas after a briefing on the status of the company.
Opportunities for discussion also can occur at evaluations, where both parties should be able to speak openly about what they think is going well and where there are areas for improvement.
Connect with a greater good
One of the biggest factors affecting employee happiness is knowing that they work for a company that shares their values. A company with a philanthropic culture provides the type of shared value system that keeps employees productive, enthusiastic and loyal.
Involving employees in an event or a cause that enables them to work side-by-side with other team members, managers and even those who are the recipients of the help, provides a unique opportunity for team building. It can help remind team members how their special skills and elbow grease - as well as the collective help of the team - can have a direct benefit for others who are in need.
When employees are given an opportunity to work and make an impact in their communities, the result can be increased morale, a shared pride in the company’s role in the community and greater job satisfaction.
Don’t give up
With any relationship, there are ups and downs to be weathered. There may be differences of opinion that create tensions or conflicts over expectations, but by talking it out - sometimes even with the use of a third party - you may be able to find a creative solution. Sometimes an issue can be solved by finding another position within your organization with a different supervisor or job expectation.
In other cases, more serious issues such as addiction, challenging finances or poor health may crop up. By using employee assistance programs, going that extra mile to provide financial counseling, loans or legal advice, or even enabling a more flexible work schedule, you may ensure that your relationship stays on track for the long term.
The short answer is to help your team members whenever you can. When successful, not only will you assist someone with overcoming a personal challenge, but you will have the unexpected plus of a committed employee who is grateful for the support received.\
Contributions and milestones
Finally, don’t take the other person for granted. It’s easy to do as we get deeply engrossed in our day-to-day lives. It is important to find reasons to appreciate them and their contributions and to celebrate significant milestones. It may mean a thank-you note and a bonus for a job well done or an award given at a yearly banquet to recognize performance. It can be as simple as a local happy hour, or as elaborate as a limo tour visiting career milestones with family and coworkers to celebrate an employee’s 20 years of service. While some of these festivities can be impromptu, it’s also important to schedule others. By building them into your work culture and scheduling them in advance, they will be less likely to fall by the wayside when busy schedules intervene.
There is no guarantee that every person you hire will be with you for the long haul. But by focusing on key areas like goals and values, communication, commitment and appreciation, you increase the odds that new team members will become long-term partners in your organization and may choose to be with your company permanently.
State of the Industry insights
- Impact issues: 25%. Respondents who stated recruiting reliable workers was the single trend that would have the most impact on their snow and ice operations this season. That is nearly half of those who said it was the biggest challenge last season. The next closest challenge was weather-related: 22% are concerned with shifts in winter storm patterns.
- Sub it out: 55%. Respondents who hire subcontractors with their own equipment to help service sites. Establishing relationships with reliable subcontractors you can trust is one way to look at easing labor issues.
Amy Snyder is director of public relations for Ruppert Landscape, based in Maryland. Learn more at www.ruppertlandscape.com.