Being an employer with a good reputation means a lot in attracting talent. 

The landscape/lawn service industry is anything but homogenous. How do you compare the $2-billion Brickman and ValleyCrest merger, soon to be known as BrightView, with the thousands of one- and two-person mow-blow-go operations? You can’t of course.

Forced to define the “typical” landscape company I would find the task challenging.

From this admission I tiptoe toward gauging the industry employee picture for 2015. I say tiptoe because company size more than anything else dictates employee needs. Obviously, $42.5-million, highly diversified Denison Landscaping in Fort Washington, Maryland, faces a bigger challenge in finding and retaining capable manpower than, say, Bob’s two-truck mowing services in Poediddle, Ohio. (If there is a Bob’s mowing Services in Poediddle, I apologize.)

So, the answer to the question of whether the industry is facing an employee shortfall this season is both “yes” and “no”.

Several company owners I’ve chatted with recently tell me that the only thing they see limiting their growth this year is a lack of dependable employees, especially seasonal workers. But they wouldn’t turn their backs on any candidates showing promise as foremen or account managers. Hallelujah! How many of you wouldn’t celebrate your good fortune?

And the situation could worsen as the “official” U.S. unemployment number of 5.6 percent starting the year continues to fall. This is a far cry from 2009 when unemployment topped 10 percent. Even so, today’s figure remains a full percentage point above the 4.5 percent recorded in 2006, a number that many of us regarded as, essentially, full employment.

So what to do?

Obviously, you want to retain the good employees you already have, and recruit, recruit, recruit. In fact, never stop recruiting. Assuming you find good employees, even if you’re fully staffed, it’s never a bad idea to hire them and get rid of your worst performers. Here are the best ways to attract good trade workers, according to the FMI 2015 Craft Labor Recruiting and Retention Survey Report:

  • Being an employer of choice (good corporate reputation): 23%
  • Internal employee referral program with incentives: 16%
  • Job posting on your company’s website: 9%
  • External referrals: 9%
  • Social network, i.e. Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter, etc.: 8%
  • Association job boards: 8%
  • Online recruiting tools: 8%
  • Local or regional veterans group: 6%
  • Other: 5%
  • Churches and local social groups: 3%
  • Job posting in professional journals: 3%
  • Internships/co-ops: 2%