Recruiting game changer: finding purpose

May 14, 2019 -  By
Plow truck and snow (Photo:


Why? Why would someone agree to work at night, in the cold, on call, not knowing if a shift is going to last eight hours or 28 hours? Why do some people fall in love with the snow and ice management industry, while others resent having to work in it to make ends meet over the winter? The “why” question is fundamental to employee engagement, satisfaction, retention and recruiting since we know that highly engaged employees make the best recruiters.

For some of us, the “why” is easy to answer. In my case, I grew up outdoors — all year round. Grand Rapids, Mich., averages 75 inches of snow each winter. Winter months were spent playing ice hockey on backyard rinks or frozen ponds, sledding, making snow forts and engaging in epic snowball fights. The only time I was inside was to change into dry clothes and slam some food before heading back outside.

Not everyone had these experiences growing up. When I began to work professionally as a snow fighter, being outside in the snow was a thrill. The work was challenging and time sensitive. There was a great sense of accomplishment when we performed well — and motivation to improve when we fell short. Knowing that our work was an integral piece of the emergency services puzzle allowed us to take pride in our profession, even though the rest of the population had no clue what was involved in cleaning up a storm while they slept soundly.

For others, the challenge and satisfaction of a job well done has roped them in. They may not have been a dedicated snow fighter in the beginning, but over time, they felt a profound sense of responsibility for creating safe access to homes, office buildings, stores, hospitals, airports, train stations and more. Being on the streets at night with nobody in sight except other snow fighters and friendly public safety officers keeping watch provided a unique experience.

Snow and ice pros enjoy the profits that come from this work, whether they are an hourly employee, a salaried manager or an owner. When properly administered, this is a very profitable business. However, a deeper “why” exists for most. The money is nice, but it’s really a bonus because the work itself has purpose.

If you are not following Simon Sinek on social media, you’re missing out on some good stuff. Sinek hit the scene several years ago with a TED Talk titled, “Start with the why — how great leaders inspire action.” His message is spot on and timely. All of us — and especially the new generation of workers — want to have work that is meaningful. Being able to articulate the “why” to potential employees, and to continually reinforce this message, is absolutely critical for attracting and retaining people today.

The good news is the professional snow and ice management industry truly provides something valuable to society. Not everyone is cut out for it. Not everyone is cut out to be a firefighter either. There is a physical and mental demand that energizes some people and demoralizes others — no question. Ask anyone if they love snow and you will see two very different reactions. Not everyone grew up in Grand Rapids playing outdoor hockey every day. But when there is purpose to our work, things change. Those who once detested snow begin to change, and many eventually fall in love with the industry.

As you are recruiting, are you talking about the “why” or are you only focused on the “what” and “how”? What would happen if your employees — or you — began to have a different outlook about snow and ice services? What if your work began to have a deep sense of meaning? Could this be the game changer you’ve been looking for?

This article is tagged with , and posted in May 2019, Snow & Ice Guide, Snow+Ice Management

About the Author:

Phil Harwood is a Senior Advisor with Tamarisk Business Advisors. Contact him at

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