How companies on the LM150 list tackle labor woes

July 12, 2023 -  By
Help wanted sign (Photo: iStock.com/MCCAIG)

Photo: iStock.com/MCCAIG

We asked companies on our LM150 to share recruitment and retention tactics the operation deploys. Here are some of the responses:

“Sebert has actively expanded our recruitment and training program, offering internships, scholarships, competitive wages and benefits to all our employees. Additionally, Sebert has entered into our second season utilizing our seasonal employees as temporary labor for our clients experiencing labor shortages during our slow (winter) months. This program has been extremely successful and doubled our participation in 2022-23 with our workers while enhancing our client relations with our work staff. We have been able to provide our seasonal workers with full-time opportunities while employed under the Sebert organization.” — Laura Birtas, marketing and customer experience administrator for Sebert Landscape, No. 50

 

“Throughout the year together the management and corporate and support teams, read and discuss leadership books, commit time to volunteer projects and enjoy a barbecue and a fun beach day.” — Jackie Ishimaru-Gachina, president and CEO of Gachina Landscape Management, No. 80

 

“With a large portion of our team who are Spanish speaking, we have continued our commitment to providing communication tools and training in Spanish. We translate every communication tool we use into Spanish (our newsletter, video messaging, online training) and recently began offering a leadership training class conducted entirely in Spanish. These classes help participants identify the strengths and the obstacles that hinder their growth and create goals and action plans to advance their careers. We invest significantly in our people development initiatives. We provide our team with the knowledge and skills they need to grow, take on more, earn more and move up. We do that through a number of avenues including safety, skills and management training programs, hosting employee appreciation events, communicating with employees through our newsletter and Ruppert video series (we call RLTV), providing constructive feedback with regular performance evaluations, and recognizing performance excellence and employee milestones.” — Amy Snyder, director of public relations for Ruppert Landscape, No. 13

 

“There have been rapid escalations of wages in Florida over the past three years due to competition from other industries, inflation and state minimum wage increases. It is imperative to stay ahead of this with systematic adjustments to the pay scale. We have a pay scale for each position with a skills tree that defines the minimum skills required for each position and our criteria for evaluating where an individual falls within the pay scale. This gives employees transparency and the ability to manage their career path. We strive to communicate openly and honestly with employees, promote from within, offer great benefits, provide year-round hours, share our values and work one-on-one with employees to keep them moving up and keep them engaged.”  — Timothee Sallin, co-CEO of Cherrylake, No. 144

 

“We look at everyone as a team member and work hard to put people in the best position and with the team that will yield the highest success for all. In turn, our employee retention has been extremely high for our industry, and everyone enjoys working together!” — Scott Needham, president of ProQual Landscaping, No. 117

 

“The labor shortage has been one of our most challenging issues for the past few years. In addition, we have faced the challenge of increasing our contract pricing to absorb the current inflation jump while still executing world-class service. To combat these issues, we must invest in both employee and client retention. Education has always been one of our core values. We believe we must invest in our employees’ personal and professional growth, knowing that education breeds passion. We established a two-year partnership with a Corporate Educational Company to provide leadership training, upskilling and coaching for our entire team.” — Judi Celano, director of business development for Caretaker Landscape and Tree Management, No. 75

 

“Our recruiting is focused on brand exposure through every possible platform, from college campus visits to career fairs. Our motto is that we are always hiring top talent. We develop and retain top talent through investing in continuing education, supporting the well-being of each employee, financial incentives and constantly focusing on how to grow the business.” — Rachelle Folsom, director of marketing and business development for Lifescape Colorado, No. 97

 

“We keep our calendar full with fun company paid events including a family fun day at Hershey Park, a Philadelphia Eagles tailgate, a company golf outing and a holiday party which includes us giving away tens of thousands of dollars of prizes in a raffle. This is in addition to our quarterly branch events which have included ax throwing, escape rooms, baseball games go cart racing and much more. Additionally, we have dozens of charity events people can volunteer for to give back to the community while having a lot of fun with the team. We recruit by promoting that same culture which helps us retain our staff. Our team members love working here, so recruiting becomes easier by them referring their family and friends to join our team. We gave away a brand-new Ford F150 pickup truck to our safety contest winner and two trips to Disney World to our top reviewed technicians.” — Ben Schloss, director of marketing for Green Lawn Fertilizing, No. 107

 

“To retain team members, we have multiple appreciation events around the year, the largest being our 100-day dash celebration. The 100-day dash is the nickname we give the first 100 days of the spring season, our busiest time of year, and concludes with a large celebration at the company headquarters. Additionally, each month I host a dinner at my home for employees who joined the company during the current month. This allows for everyone in the org chart to have face-to-face time with me outside of a business context. I get time to gain insight on what truly matters to my team. We have found that by keeping a constant finger on the pulse and being responsive when new team member needs arise, we’re continually able to retain over 95 percent of team members year-over-year.” — John Munie, president of Focal Pointe Outdoor Solutions, No. 116

 

“We created our industry’s first-ever online LMS training program which consists of 22 learning modules. With this program we can take a young man or young woman with no irrigation experience and train them to become a certified Conserva Irrigation technician in as little as 30-60 days. This has allowed us to widen the recruiting nets and look outside our industry for talent. Now we can hire based on the most important human aspects (work ethic, culture fit, coachability) and train the skill sets necessary. This is a game-changer. We sell our ability to train and develop employees and help them build a career. We deploy standard recruiting methods (post jobs on Indeed and similar resources) but also deploy shoe leather tactics of simply speaking with other good folks at big box stores, gas stations, etc. Referrals are big as well. We retain through culture, culture, culture. Culture eats strategy for breakfast. We have also made available a system-wide payroll, HR and benefits package through Paychex.” — Russ Jundt, president and founder of Conserva Irrigation, No. 91

 

“Last year we overhauled our entire talent strategy plan. We rewrote job descriptions and created career paths through the organization with pay band levels and requirements for advancements. The system was rolled out late last year and is in place to help with employee retention to help ensure that people see a career here and a path to get to where they want to be in the organization. We are an ESOP company and employee ownership helps as both a recruiting and retention tool. We recruit through career fairs, college visits, and online postings but many of our associates come from internal referrals. We have a referral bonus program offering $1,000 for anyone who refers a new hire.” — Larry Ryan, president of Ryan Lawn & Tree, No. 40

 

“We recruit mainly via word of mouth, and our retention comes down to our culture. We foster the development of our employees and act quickly to reward hard work not only financially, but with increased training, responsibility and autonomy from our managers. It starts with building a great team at the top and allowing that winning mindset to filter through the organization.” — Joe Calland, CEO of Genesis Landscape Solutions, No. 124

 

“Everyone is a recruiter here. We offer bonus for any hires that come from our existing crew members. This has been very successful. We also offer quarterly training and cookouts to have some social time with all the workers. We have some employees that have been here 27 years!” — Brandon Gurley, partner with North American Lawn & Landscape, No. 139

 

“We have invested in branch recruiters to support and amplify the efforts of our human resources and operations management teams. Between the combined efforts of our recruiting team, HR team and operations teams, our staffing challenges have been drastically improved from what we dealt with in 2021. We continually invest in our teams and maintain a culture of building leaders from within to fulfil many of the hiring needs for our rapidly growing organization.” — Kurt Bland, president of Bland Landscaping Co., No. 52

 

“Most of our workforce is referred by existing team members. We have an aggressive retention program that includes a summer deep sea fishing trip, purchasing everyone a pair of work boots every spring and company engagement events. We also have a culture of developing career paths for our people, so they can see how they can make and become more without having to leave our organization.” — Bryan Stoltz, CEO of Winterberry, No. 112

 

“We continue to grow our focus on being visible in high schools, vocational schools and state-based colleges to promote the industry and show career paths.” — Annabelle Weisgerber, marketing manager for Environmental Management Inc., No. 43

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Christina Herrick

About the Author:

Christina Herrick is the editor of Landscape Management magazine. Known for her immersive approach to travel from coast to coast in her previous stint as senior editor of American Fruit Grower Magazine, she uses social media (Twitter/Instagram @EditorHerrick) to share her experiences on the road with her audience. Herrick has a degree in journalism from Ohio Northern University. She can be reached at cherrick@northcoastmedia.net.

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