Providing continuing education for your employees calls for investment from your company. To make sure your efforts are worth it, work with your team to select training that is relevant and interesting to them.
Companies like Fine Earth Landscape, Inc. and Green Lawn Fertilizing/Green Pest Solutions have been paying for their employees’ continuing education from the start.
“It shows them you really care about helping them become better at what they do,” says Hafner, LIC, president of Fine Earth.
Josh Flynn, CEO of Seabreeze Property Services, based in Portland, Maine, adds that often these educational events come with a break from the normal rigor of the job and can be seen as a little bit of a vacation at times, lifting employee morale.
What Employees Care About
While you know what matters to your business, one option is to allow your staff to select what educational courses they’d like to attend. Hafner says sometimes they’ll have employees take the initiative and ask if they can attend a certain class. Other times the company will select the course if it helps with training within the field crews, safety or operational crews.
Hafner says their staff is most interested in topics like safety, industry techniques, design classes and ‘what’s the next big thing.’ Flynn says his employees are interested in anything that makes them better.
“It certainly varies but it’s awesome when a light bulb goes off or someone really grabs hold of a new idea or tactic that they learned at a conference/seminar and it immediately impacts the team,” Flynn says.
Flynn says if an employee brings an idea to the table, they make sure the suggestion is mutually beneficial and has a decent return. He says they want to make sure that the information and experience gathered will bring immediate impact to the team.
“We run a smaller program throughout the year where we provide stipends for any landscaping/business/leadership development books or manuals can be purchased each month for furthering education, just something to keep minds active,” Flynn says. “Some people take us up on it, I wish everyone did.”
At Green Lawn Fertilizing, employees are very involved in choosing the courses they want to attend. Alex Wolfington, senior vice president of business development for Green Lawn Fertilizing/Green Pest Solutions says they make it a priority to make it happen if a team member comes to their manager with an educational opportunity.
“Not everyone feels as if they can come forward to management with learning opportunities, so we also make sure we are proactive in presenting opportunities to our team members as well,” Wolfington says.
Green Lawn Fertilizing also sends out a company survey every fall and they learned their employees were interested in more cross-training.
“Our team members are most interested in educational opportunities that will provide self-development and help propel them in their areas of interest,” Wolfington says. “For some, that means focusing on the technical side of our industry (sales, customer service, agronomics), for others it means preparing for a role as a support specialist (human resources, finance, administration, etc.), or developing themselves for future opportunities to be a people leader.”
Some of the industry educational programs Green Lawn pursues include NALP’s Landscape Industry Certified Lawn Care Manager course, Rutgers Turfgrass Management Course, ISA Certified Arborist, ELEVATE and more.
“Some of the best educational opportunities we have provided our team members is through networking at events,” Wolfington says. “Learning with and from our industry peers has been beneficial in our growth. We have a map of the U.S. right as you walk into our headquarters with all the places we have visited in order to learn. There are over thirty pins on that map currently with many more to come.”