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Throwback Thursday: May 1990

May 1, 2014 -  By

cover: May 1990

To the workers, especially those of younger generations, it’s just a summer job. To the business owner, it’s sometimes seen as an opportunity for those workers to prove themselves in the industry, providing somewhat of a shoo-in into leadership roles later on.

The trouble nowadays, among other things, is those younger generations aren’t as interested in working outdoors—this has been hashed out time and time again. But in 1990, they were pining for the chance to earn some extra cash in the summer, and there wasn’t much constraining them to do so (i.e. computers, TV, phones, etc.).

The cover story from the May 1990 issue of Landscape Management gives a glimpse at those good times.

“At this time of year, when landscapers across the country are gearing up for summer, thousands of young people will seek some of the many opportunities open to them in the Green Industry,” wrote then-Managing Editor Will Perry, who authored the story, titled “Finding (and keeping) season help.”

He called on industry consultants and professionals who know how to do it right in terms of hiring and retaining seasonal employees.

Ed Wandtke, senior associate member of All-Green Management Associates, was quick to note employers should be on the lookout for laborers before May, having them hired before the start of the busy season.

“Most often the ideal time to meet those kids is in the fall,” he said. “If you can bring them on board part time or even for a few days in the off-season, you get a good test of their abilities and give them an idea of what the work is like.”

Wandtke added the best method of recruitment is referrals from current employees, and suggested business owners offer those employees $50 if you hire their referral, an additional $50 if their referral sticks around 90 days and, maybe, $100 if they complete an entire season.

Another means of recruitment is through advertising. Wandtke cautions to be strategic with ad placements, though, saying local churches are better than newspapers, for instance.

Michael McKinley, another consultant, weighed in on retaining those seasonal employees. A key way to do so is by keeping in contact with them in the off-season, he says, suggesting inviting them to holiday parties or winter planning meetings.

Tom Lied shared his methods for creating a workplace environment that exudes a sense of career opportunity for student workers.

“Give them a wide range of experience and let them test their enjoyment of the industry instead of having to dig holes all day,” said the president of Lied’s Landscape Design & Development. “The students who might be looking for a career in our industry come to us to test their aptitude for the work and their enjoyment of it. They ought to be handled differently and, quite frankly, too often they’re not. They’re taken advantage of.”

To that end, McKinley adds employers need to attentive to whether a student has potential to stick around in the industry—an easy way to tell is if they progress quickly.

Once you peg someone as having that potential, the next step is to notify them about it. McKinley said that doesn’t always have to be in the form putting more money into their paycheck.

Have a manager pull them aside and simply say “good job,” he said.

“Or better yet, write them a note and send it to their home. Nobody gets letters like that. It’s as easy as ‘Dear John, thank for the good work.’ You’ll blow people’s eyes out!”

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About the Author:

Former Associate Editor Sarah Pfledderer is a West Coast-based contributing editor for Landscape Management.

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