What Will the Landscape Company of the Future Look Like?

There are three kinds of thinking: inside the box, outside the box and no box.

This according to Michael Hostetler, who specializes in teaching strategy, decision-making, leadership, innovation and change management in the MBA program at Cornell University. He spoke at the National Association of Landscape Professionals’ Leadership Academy, conducted in partnership with Cornell University’s SC Johnson School of Business.

The landscape company of the future looks bright.He challenged the room of approximately 20 landscape professionals to use no box thinking to discuss the landscape company of the future. He defines no box thinking as having no constraints, no limits and no judgement; all ideas are fair game.

The room brainstormed, coming up with the following insights about the landscape company of the future:

  • The speed of data sharing in the digital world will lead to a power shift in the landscape industry where consumers will drive how providers offer services (just-in-time services, sustainability practices, etc.).
  • Robotics will replace human workers due to worker shortages, disinterest, unreliability and fragility.
  • Industry consolidation will increase, which will increase the size of dominant players and put pressure on profitability.
  • Land degradation, water shortages and climate zone shifts will impact the choice of plants, and how landscapes are designed and maintained.
  • Ground and equipment sensors, self-driving equipment, robots and analytics will reshape landscape work and shift production from labor-intensive activities to monitoring and problem intervention.
  • Landscape companies will need to change the skills they hire for, including information technology, customer relationship management, data analytics, finance, brand management, civil engineers, landscape architects, botanists and arborists, to remain relevant.
  • Landscape companies will need to offer integrated services, either through acquisition, internal growth or strategic alliances.
  • Travel will increase the spread of pests and plant diseases, which will impact landscape and design and management practices.
  • Landscape companies will need to better understand their customers and the segments they serve.
  • Landscape companies should lead technological innovations and education for the industry.

The landscape companies of today will look totally and completely different in 10 years, the group deduced. They said: “Those who can adapt, think with no bounds and redefine themselves will be the ones who survive.” -Nicole Wisniewski

Top 5 Requests from the Workforce of the Future

After Hostetler and the Leadership Academy attendees brainstormed the future of the industry, he brought in a panel of students from a variety of Cornell schools, including hospitality, information technology, engineering and labor relations. He asked them if the roughly 20 landscape businesses in the room were to hire them, what benefits or perks would they rank as most important.

These are the top five themes that rose above the rest; use these ideas when strategizing your landscape company of the future:

  1. Company culture trumps everything. They want a culture in which they feel valued, listened to, and have access to the people making decisions. Top down leadership is not something these future professionals seemed open to.
  2. They want a clear career path and access to peers who they can exchange ideas with and connect with as a support network as they advance in their careers.
  3. Future workers want an environment that values and promotes teamwork and camaraderie.
  4. They want to feel a part of a “bigger purpose” and to feel like their job has meaning.
  5. Compensation is important; but not as important as all of the above.

Learn more about NALP’s Leadership Academy.

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