HR topics headline Lawn Care Summit

January 30, 2014 -  By

Despite frigid temperatures and some travel difficulties courtesy of Winter Storm Leon, the show went on in Nashville, Tenn., where about about 200 lawn care professionals and suppliers gathered Jan. 27-29 for the Lawn Care Summit 2014.

The fifth annual event, which focuses on the chemical- and fertilizer-application side of the industry, was co-hosted by the Professional Landcare Network (PLANET) and the National Pest Management Association (NPMA).

The meeting featured a mix of technical and business presentations, including two general sessions, both of which focused on HR issues: training and a multigenerational workforce.

Out-training the competition

During the first general session, Craig Goodwin, an employee training expert with Rollins, Orkin’s parent company, presented “How to Out-Train Your Competition.”

Business owners should think of training as an investment rather than an expense, he said, because investing in training can yield value for a company.

“You can take time out to train today or clean up performance issues later,” Goodwin said.

Among the common training delivery methods, Goodwin emphasized the effectiveness of job aids for tasks that have to be completed with 100 percent accuracy. An example of a job aid is a performance card or checklist that can be used each time a task is performed on the job. These are one of the most cost effective delivery methods because there’s no instructor required and they improve accuracy dramatically, he said.

Goodwin also shared a few tips for making training stick. For one, it’s important that managers become “champions of learning,” he said. A few ways to do so include:

  • Debriefing employees after training;
  • Answering employees’ questions;
  • Reviewing performance expectations;
  • Linking training to company objectives and goals;
  • Giving real-world examples;
  • Providing opportunities to perform tasks;
  • Identifying role models in the company; and
  • Giving feedback/recognition.

On internal role models and feedback Goodwin noted: “‘Do as I say, not as I do’ doesn’t work with children or adults.”

Time also is of the essence: “Training is not like a fine wine; it doesn’t get better with age,” he said. “If people don’t use the competencies they were just trained on, they’ll soon be lost. It’s ‘use it or lose it.'”

Engaging a changing workforce

Day two’s general session, “Engaging a Changing Workforce,” offered insight about generational issues in the workplace from Mary Kausch of HR Etc.

Engagement is a human resources buzzword, Kausch said, but she noted many employers aren’t exactly sure what it means. Her definition: “The extent to which employees are motivated to contribute to the company’s successes and are willing to apply discretionary effort to accomplish tasks important to the achievement of company goals.”

Companies need to focus on engagement to attract and retain workers, which is becoming increasingly important as the baby boomer generation retires, she said. Understanding generational differences is vital to this process.

Kausch offered the following workplace communication styles to take into consideration to appeal to each generation’s values.

Veteran/silent generation (born between 1900 and 1945):

  • Warm and personal
  • Courteous and respectful
  • “Say what you mean, mean what you say.”

Baby boomer generation (born between 1946 and 1964):

  • Personal communication
  • Fresh and innovative
  • Concise and customized
  • Diplomatic

Generation X (born between 1965-1980):

  • Truthful and factual
  • Efficient and direct
  • Independence
  • Technology

Millennials/generation Y (born between 1981-1999):

  • Multimedia
  • Clear and quick
  • Participative
  • Answer “the why”

Finally, Kausch emphasized the importance of using generational generalities not to stereotype people, but to become better listeners and better managers and to get better results for everyone.

Marisa Palmieri

About the Author:

Marisa Palmieri is an experienced Green Industry editor who's won numerous awards for her coverage of the landscape and golf course markets from the Turf & Ornamental Communicators Association (TOCA), the Press Club of Cleveland and the American Society of Business Publication Editors (ASBPE). In 2007, ASBPE named her a Young Leader. She graduated with a Bachelor of Science in Journalism, cum laude, from Ohio University’s Scripps School of Journalism.

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