“I can’t find people.”

Multimillion-dollar landscaper and green industry consultant Marty Grunder says he constantly hears landscape professionals say this. But the true issue is finding good people, Grunder says. The economy has improved and the pool of candidates looking for jobs has narrowed. That makes it harder than ever to find quality workers. But they’re out there; here are some key ways to find them — and keep them.

Find your people

Before doing anything to bring in new hires, Grunder suggests first looking within your company to ensure it’s a “great place to work.” It’s a waste of time and effort to bring in people who are only going to leave. Plus, when your company is a place where people like coming to work, they’ll share that with their friends.

The answer to being a great place to work comes down to culture. Grunder says there are three key things to look at when examining your company culture.

  1. Vision: This would be your ideal state. Does your team know where you’re going? Do you have a clear destination? This is private information, not to be shared but to be reflected upon.
  2. Mission: What do you do daily to achieve your vision? This one is public. Create your mission statement and share it so that your team can know where they’re headed.
  3. Core values: These are the beliefs and behaviors that are needed to achieve your vision. Grunder says the core values at Grunder Landscaping include quality, leadership, teamwork and profitability.

Once you feel that your company culture is solid and you run a business where people want to work, there are a number of places to look for new hires. Don’t just try one possible way; try many.

“Among other things, go back to your community,” Grunder says. “Talk to the kids who are part of your community. You just may convince a young person that this is a career. When you talk to kids, pass out your information – it promotes your business.”

Even going into schools and talking to young kids can be beneficial, says Grunder. You’re doing a service to the industry and introducing them to the field. But they also may pass your company information along to their parents.

Grunder also suggests the following additional ways to seek out new hires:

  • Social media.
  • Your website (just make sure it’s user friendly).
  • Post signs on your trucks and at your office.
  • Go to job fairs.
  • Speak and teach.
  • Offer internships as a test drive for people who may be able to stay on in the future.
  • Ask former team members.
  • Hold open houses.
  • Consider H-2B, work programs and temporary workers.
  • Have a QR code on your trucks that leads to a video about your hiring possibilities.

Having a recruiting plan is also important. You should have a good sense of what it is that you’re looking for in an ideal hire. “Do you have a profile of that person in place?” Grunder asks. “In order to find that ideal team member, you must have some sense of what it is that you’re seeking out.”

Also, let your team members know that you’re actively seeking new hires and involve them in the process. Oftentimes, your team may already know good people and can play a key role in bringing them into the business. Grunder recommends rewarding team members for bringing in new hires with the chance to make more depending how long they stay with the company. That encourages them to not just bring in people but to bring in good people who are the right fit with your company. Grunder also suggests having a budget in place for recruiting efforts.

Keep your people

Now that you’ve found and hired some good people, how do you keep them? Well, first you must work to continuously maintain that positive company culture that made people want to come work for you in the first place. That’s not an area where you can become complacent. You must constantly analyze your company culture, Grunder suggests.

Training is also key to retaining good people. Grunder says you must “understand and believe that training is an investment, not an expense.”

“Great companies are those that would rather train an employee and have them leave than not train them and have them stay,” Grunder says. “Why? Because great companies realize the benefits of strengthening their team members on the fundamentals — all the time. They know the huge dividends they’ll gain from that. Training should be part of your culture. It’s a commitment to excellence.”

Grunder says that cross training is also important. That’s a great way to ensure the business is always running at its best. Train employees to fill another’s shoes when they’re sick or out so that there’s never any downtime in the business. When training, Grunder says that you should be a “teacher, not a presenter.” While a presenter just “dumps information,” a teacher is engaged and working hands-on with the team.

“You also need to get excited about training – make it creative, fun and engaging,” Grunder says. “And don’t delegate training to another person — like a consultant. That’s a distraction. You should really be training your own people. That’s not a job to delegate to outside sources.”

Go the extra mile

In addition to training your people and making them valuable assets of the team, you must also recognize your people for what they do, Grunder says. You must follow through on promises and keep them engaged.

“Do what you said you would do after you hire someone,” Grunder says. “Offer them challenging work and help them feel like they’re on the inside — because they are. Give them meaningful work. Offer tangible employee benefits. Provide company vehicles, unforms and expense accounts.”

All of those things make people feel like an important part of the company and, in turn, committed to staying on board.

Here’s how Grunder makes Grunder Landscaping employees feel valuable:

  • Bonuses
  • Recognizing a team member of the month
  • Client referral programs
  • Scorecards
  • Grunder Bucks (given for a job well-done or for good attendance)
  • English/Spanish classes

Having more than one way of showing appreciation and incentivizing employees is important because everyone is different, Grunder says, citing a study from Harvard Business School that showed what motivates one employee might not motivate another.

“Some of our guys don’t care about Grunder Bucks, while others love it,” Grunder says. “You must find what works for you. We also ask potential hires for their favorite restaurant when they fill something out for us when first getting hired. They often forget about it but we look like a hero when the time rolls around to express our appreciation and we buy them a gift card there.”

While everyone is very focused on “exit interviews,” Grunder also suggests hosting “stay interviews.”

He says that instead of being so concerned about why people are already leaving, business owners should be concerned about why they might leave. And what would help them stay?

In a stay interview, Grunder suggests asking questions like:

  • What would ever make you think about leaving us?
  • When you wake up and don’t feel like coming to work, what is it that makes you feel that way?
  • What makes you feel fulfilled?

At the end of the day, people want to feel valued and they want to feel as though they are part of something special. By continuously focusing on company culture and remembering to be grateful for the good people you have, you’ll be able to retain them.

“We often get distracted and we take people for granted,” Grunder says. “Quit doing that. Close your eyes and imagine how important your people are. They help make your business what it is. Don’t lose sight of that.”