With the number of applicants in the lawn and landscaping labor market seemingly dwindling, you might be feeling hopeless about recruiting new hires. But those companies that have been successful are deploying a multi-targeted approach. For many, this has also included taking advantage of some of the free resources offered through NALP’s Workforce Development and Recruiting Resources. Jennifer Myers, NALP’s senior director of workforce development, says that there is a robust set of tools available free to members.
Myers says that it’s helpful that these resources are organized by the target audience. If you are a landscape professional that is looking to attend a virtual or in-person career day for middle or high school students, for instance, there is information that you can use as part of that effort. There is also information for children (elementary school-age), college students, and even those changing industries.
The latter is important, as lawn and landscaping businesses should remember they’re not just competing against other green industry pros for new hires — but other industries, as well. Being able to attract brand-new people to the field (from other industries) is one way to solve some of the labor challenges you may be facing.
Myers suggests thinking about the things in our industry that might appeal to these “outside” recruits. It’s a career where you get to spend time outdoors, work with people, and make a difference.
“Another recruiting message is to talk about how we are an industry that embraces technology,” Myers says. “The landscaping industry has come so far from what people might believe it is — but we have to get that message out.”
Looking at the “Long Game”
Myers says that it can be incredibly beneficial if landscape professionals are not only focused on short-term recruiting needs but also playing the “long game.” Speaking at career days, community gatherings, charity events, and other such engagements can help young students learn about the profession early on. This benefits the industry as a whole.
Myers says that the NALP recognizes that not every landscape professional knows how to get started with an effort like this — but there’s help there, too.
“We can help show landscape professionals how to find schools in their area and what types of people are best to connect with about being involved in career days or other speaking engagements or participation opportunities,” Myers explains.
In terms of a more immediate need of recruiting new hires, Myers says it’s important to pay attention to what’s working well at other companies — and that’s another area where the NALP can help.
“We want to help landscape professionals to better understand the labor market’s wants and needs,” she says. “It’s no longer just enough to pay more. For the Millennial and Gen Z generations, in particular, they want to find a place where they can enjoy going to work every day. Work/life balance is also really important to them. It’s helpful to really understand what your potential hires are looking for in a career and then communicate the right message to them. How can your company be the best place for them to work?”
Myers adds that it can be helpful to look at your benefits package and see if changes are needed. Do you offer maternity/paternity/partner leave? Do you have paid time off? What do your healthcare benefits look like? These things matter to potential hires.
Getting the Word Out
The NALP has also been instrumental in pushing out the message that the work landscapers do is beneficial — to communities and to the environment. This is something else that hits home with the younger workforce. They want to know that they are part of a greater effort and that the work they do matters. They are also more interested and aware of climate change than previous workforce generations.
“There’s that old misconception that all landscapers do is mow lawns, pull weeds, and dig holes, but we’ve been doing so much work to change that narrative,” shares Myers. “A well-managed lawn and landscape benefit clients by giving them a space to spend time with their friends and family. But it benefits the environment, too. Climate change is often on the mind of young professionals, but many are misinformed. We’ve spent a lot of time getting the facts out there.”
In the grand scheme of things, efforts like these benefit the recruiting efforts of the industry as a whole. The more positive messaging that gets out there, the more likely the industry is to draw in new people.
“There are so many great things about our industry that would appeal to possible recruits,” Myers sums up. “But we all have to make an effort to communicate that message.”