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Web Extra: How The Greenery sweetens the deal with employee incentives

September 12, 2018 -  By
Employees of The Greenery. | Photo provided by The Greenery

Employees of The Greenery. (Photo provided by The Greenery)

How South Carolina-based landscape company The Greenery is diversifying its recruitment efforts to attract labor.

Hilton Head Island is known as a picturesque community located on the South Carolina coast. It takes a serious labor force to maintain the residences and resorts on the island and in the surrounding area.

The Greenery employs 806 full-time workers and does not use the H-2B visa program. The company’s CEO, Lee Edwards, and his team are diligent about finding new ways to seek out and find new talent. One major draw is the fact that the company is employee-owned and the company’s success is shared with employees via a stock ownership plan.

“Every year it seems like we’re trying to come up with something else to solve the labor problem,” Edwards says.

“There’s no one silver bullet for successful recruiting,” adds COO Bill Davoli. “But those that relied on H-2B as the silver bullet are suffering. Those of us that have diversified our recruiting are fine.”

Here are some of the initiatives The Greenery is using to recruit workers:

Company transport

Hilton Head Island is a relatively small island which covers 42 square miles, and because of its size and high housing costs, workers often live off the island.

The Greenery owns eight transport vans, which pick up employees from their homes and bring them to work. Employees pay $5 per day for the transportation option, which is cost-effective for them in many cases, since some commute from as far 70 miles away.

Edwards estimates that approximately 100 employees use the company transportation. In addition to convenience and cost, the shared transport cuts down on the traffic in and out of Hilton Head Island, which can be severe in the mornings and late afternoons.

Employee referral program

The company has always had a referral program, according to Edwards. The former program paid employees who referred a new hire $50 every 30 days of the new hire’s employment for a total of $150 after three months.

Now, the current program pays $500 total, over a period of six months. The employee receives $50 at time of hiring, $100 after two months, $150 after three months and $200 after the hire has been with the company for six months.

“Generally, people want to work with good people,” says Edwards, noting that the new hire still has to undergo the typical pre-hire drug testing and background check.

College recruitment and internship programs

Jerry Ashmore, The Greenery’s director of workforce development and safety, visits several colleges each year to fill the company’s three or four summer internship slots.

Many interns come from major schools in the region, such as Auburn University, Virginia Tech University, Clemson University, University of Georgia and North Carolina State University, but the company also has had success recruiting from agricultural schools and turf programs including State University of New York-Cobleskill in upstate New York.

According to Edwards, the intern program has paid off in providing loyal employees. Three former interns came back to the company and have now been regional or branch managers for more than 10 years, and one former intern from Clemson is now going on 30 years with The Greenery.

Community outreach

Aside from transportation, employee referrals and college recruitment, military groups and local churches are avenues that the company is pursuing to find good people. Edwards explains that there’s a big military presence in Beaufort County, and The Greenery is looking to hire veterans retiring from active duty.

The Greenery also has looked into work release programs for people looking to reintegrate into the community after being released from prison. The company hasn’t been able to find a system of finding suitable labor from that option yet.

Davoli is optimistic about these recruitment strategies and is eager to keep brainstorming solutions to find good workers.

“Don’t get me wrong…labor is difficult,” he says. “But it’s not a hindrance to success at The Greenery.”

This article is tagged with , and posted in LM Web Extras, Mowing+Maintenance
Abby Hart

About the Author:

Abby Hart is the former senior editor of Landscape Management. A native Clevelander, she spent 10 years in Chicago, where she was operations manager of a global hospitality consultancy. She also worked as managing editor of Illumine, a health and wellness magazine; and a marketing specialist for B2B publications. Abby has a degree in journalism from Boston University’s College of Communication.

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