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2020 Industry Pulse: Despite the news, an amazing year

December 14, 2020 -  By , , and

The high and low of labor

Landscape companies explain how they’ve retained their best workers, despite the difficulties encompassing 2020

By Sarah Webb | LM Associate Editor

Labor continues to be a challenge for landscape companies, according to the results of the 2020 LM Industry Pulse survey.

In fact, one respondent says, “Today’s workforce is changing big time. Even employees that have been with me for three to four years have a hard time showing up to work. Money and bonuses do not motivate them anymore. The 18- to 30-year-old workforce has no motivation and high expectations.”

Still, several companies are trying new recruitment and retention practices, resulting in low employee turnover and high employee satisfaction.

Bringing on more hands

To help recruit new employees, New Castle Lawn & Landscape in Birdsboro, Pa., implemented an employee referral program this year.

New Castle facility, trucks and crews (Photo: New Castle Lawn & Landscape)

Photo: New Castle Lawn & Landscape

The referring employee receives a $100 bonus if the new employee has stayed on after 60 days, $300 when the new employee has stayed for six months and $800 when the new employee has stayed on for 18 months, according to co-owner Brad Stephenson.

GreenScape, a maintenance, hardscape and irrigation firm in Bartlett, Tenn., advertises in local English and Spanish daily newspapers and with radio spots to attract new crew members, according to President Kathryn Hetzler.

For upper and middle management, GreenScape says its summer internship program has worked wonders, with several current employees who worked with the company during the summers as interns returning full time once they obtained their degree.

Diversity and inclusion

A minority- and women-owned business, GreenScape says it has been cognizant of promoting diversity since its founding.

“A company can have all the proper information in their employee manual and educational training sessions for employees, but unless you live it as part of your corporate structure, it’s not really going to be inclusive,” says Hetzler, noting that when she started in the irrigation industry in the ’90s, she was one of the only women she knew of in the field.

To promote diversity in its ranks, New Castle converted all its documentation into Spanish, including its website and company newsletters. Additionally, a translator attends company meetings to relay important information.

“We are finding that people are feeling like part of the team, especially now that everything is bilingual,” Stephenson says. “It definitely eliminates communication issues.”

A steady ship

GreenScape and New Castle Lawn & Landscape both have tried to act as a steadying force for employees in the midst of the coronavirus pandemic.

“Lack of communication can lead to uncertainty, which can affect motivation,” Hetzler says. “Our goal is to make sure our employees are well informed about not only safety adjustments, but to reinforce during these uncertain times GreenScape is here to help.”

Taking this a step further, when the pandemic started to take hold in March, New Castle’s Stephenson recorded and emailed out daily video recorded messages about protecting employees’ mindsets and getting their life organized.

“He would give a shoutout to all of the team members, just saying ‘we’re going to get through this,’ and offering encouragement because there was a lot of uncertainty,” says Stacey Carmello, sales manager for New Castle. “People’s fear subsided and they were like, ‘hey, we’re just going to keep doing a good job.’ The communication from leadership down during the whole period has been incredible.”

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