Hiring Series for Landscapers: How To Retain Your Best Employees In Any Economy

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Business Advice

Is employee churn an issue for your landscaping business? You wouldn’t be alone. It’s a common problem for many business owners, especially those without an effective and consistent hiring and recruiting system. If you don’t have an effective hiring system in place, then you’re going to want to read the first two articles in this series after this one. The first article will help you understand why you can’t find good talent, and the second article will give you 3 crucial tips for find & recruit awesome employees.

Once you’ve put in the hard work on building that effective hiring system, it makes all the sense in the world to implement a retention system, so you don’t lose your amazing employees to competition, resentment, lack of leadership, or any other reasons. But if you’re going to make a big, fat, upfront investment into attracting top talent to your team, you better make sure you have the tools and know-how to help them thrive within your company, so they are excited to stick around for the long term.

There are so many ways to influence retention in your landscaping business. You’ve undoubtedly thought about bonuses, incentive programs, teambuilding, and skills training. But there are two foundational building blocks that most landscapers don’t think about when it comes to retention, because at first glance, they seem disjointed. If you’ve hired top talent, you can bet the farm that they’re expecting good leadership and craving a role that helps them develop their best strengths. For strong candidates, these things heavily influence their job satisfaction, and therefore, their longevity.


Building Block #1 – a Clear and Relevant Employment Agreement

Yep, paperwork. One of the key factors in avoiding conflict and creating success is the ability to establish clear expectations – and for your staff, that starts with the employment agreement. You probably already have employment agreements in place with each of your staff (ahem… right?). But do your employment agreements contain a detailed outline of each staff member’s role, with clear deliverables that they are responsible for on an annual, quarterly, or monthly basis? We know this isn’t rocket science, but if your employment agreements aren’t doing their job, you might still be hearing things like this:

  • “I didn’t know that was expected of me.”
  • “I thought that was someone else’s job?”
  • “I didn’t know I had to do that.”
  • “I didn’t think that was important.”
  • “I didn’t think it really needed to be done that way.”

An Employment Agreement is so much more than a contract. Sure, it outlines the basics like how much someone gets paid, what vacation they are entitled to, and how they must request a sick day. But that agreement should also highlight exactly what is expected of the person you’ve hired and how they’re going to achieve it. If you’ve hired top talent for the right role, those expectations should get them excited. These expectations can be clearly summarized in the form of Deliverables and Accountabilities.

Employee Deliverables

Let’s define deliverables as “the clear, measurable, and tangible result that an employee must deliver for the company.” In short, a deliverable is a goal. This is the reason you’ve brought them onto your team. You want them to be responsible for some chunk of the company’s success, and you want to make sure that these deliverables are clearly defined.

Here are some pro tips for developing the right deliverables, and including them on the Employment Agreement:

  • Make them Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Relevant, and Time-bound (SMART).
  • Keep them short and sweet. You should have anywhere from 1-5. Some examples could be total hours produced, average quality ratings, total sales booked, total sales produced, gross margin percentage, or employee experience rating.
  • Ensure the employee has a very high level of control over the deliverable. For example, a jobsite manager can control gross margin on their assigned jobs (their handling material usage and productivity), but probably not your net profit (they aren’t setting the price).
  • Ensure deliverables encourage teamwork and don’t break team unity. For example, don’t assign deliverables to a Project Manager that might encourage them to hoard good employees and resources from their colleagues. Consider a mixture of team and individual deliverables to help keep your whole team on track.

Here are three key recruiting tips Breakthrough Academy teaches its own members when building out their own winning teams you can start using right away.

Employee Accountabilities

These are defined as “the detailed list of activities an employee is responsible for, broken down by the various aspects of their role and directly influenced by their deliverables.” Simply put, these are the tasks that the employee is responsible for doing.

Here are some pro tips for including accountabilities on the Employment Agreement:

  • Make it an exhaustive list. It should detail every task an employee is expected to do and, when applicable, the standard to which you want it done. This leaves no room for question marks around what that employee is responsible for.
  • Ensure there is no ambiguity in your description of tasks – make them specific.
  • List accountabilities directly under the deliverables they relate to, so it’s clear to the employee how each task relates to their goals. Doing this helps your staff see the “why” behind each task they are responsible for.
  • If you can’t figure out which deliverable an accountability fits under, consider whether or not they should actually be responsible for that task.

Here’s an example of the deliverables listed in an example Project Manager Employment Agreement from Breakthrough Academy.

Building Block #2 – Regular Performance Management Meetings

Now that you’ve got clear Employment Agreements for each of your staff – they should know exactly what’s expected of them. But when the rubber meets the road, even top performers experience challenges or get bored without growth and development. In addition, you now have to work with each other, and no matter what happens, it will be key that you maintain a positive working relationship consistently.

Your best bet for helping your employees thrive on a continual basis, and for maintaining a strong, leadership relationship, is a regular performance management meeting with your key staff (the ones who work directly beneath your leadership). Pick a cadence that makes sense for how their role affects your overall business – weekly, bi-weekly, monthly. Within some regular timeframe, you want to meet your staff to provide the direction, support and accountability necessary for them to thrive in their role.

And trust us, this will do wonders for building a great working relationship. Our friends at Breakthrough Academy use a 30-60 minute meeting called a “Goal Setting & Review Meeting” (GSR) to accomplish this, and here’s how they run it:

  • Check-In & Rapport. How is the person doing? Focus on continuing to grow a personal relationship.
  • Review Goals from Previous Period. Did they hit or miss goals from the previous period? What were the key drivers or restrainers that caused them to hit or miss their goals? What did they learn? What needs to change?
  • Set Goals and Problem Solve. What goals are they setting for the upcoming time-period (hint: these should trend towards their annual deliverables)? Spend time providing tips, tactics and perspectives to your employee – help them, giving them necessary direction and support.
  • Administrative Items. Close the meeting covering major administrative items. Make sure you answer all outstanding questions they have.
example of a GSR dashboard for a Production Manager, provided by Breakthrough Academy.

Here’s an example of a GSR dashboard for a Production Manager, provided by Breakthrough Academy.

We’re Going to Help You Build Your Hiring System

It’s simply a fact that you cannot accomplish everything all on your own. The growth of your company is directly tethered to the type of people you have working with you. You’ll need qualified people – key people – who are good at what they do. You’ll need top talent, and you’ll need them to stick around, regardless of how good or bad the economy is doing. Without them, your goals may be delayed, or even worse, never achieved. Having strong Employment Agreements and regular Performance Management Meetings are two great ways to keep your best people engaged & fulfilled, helping them to grow and develop along the way at your company.

If you want help in attracting and hiring Rockstar staff, be sure to join our live webinar on Thursday, March 26th from 12 – 1:30 pm EST. Breakthrough Academy will walk you through the methods they teach their own members in finding and hiring great employees. They’ll also give you free templates and resources to use, so you can focus on finding and hiring the amazing new employees you’ll need to.

Live Webinar

How to Attract & Hire Rockstar Staff

Benji Carlson, Assessment Specialist from Breakthrough Academy

Mar 26, 2020 12:00 PM – 1:00 PM EDT

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