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Managing Your Landscape Crew – How to Better Motivate Your Young Workers

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Business Advice

It’s been said a lot, studied a lot, and if you’ve hired under-30 workers, you’ve seen it a lot. This younger generation is different. Generations going back years have always seen the differences in the way they were raised compared to the current generation, but perhaps none more so than now.

It’s been said a lot, studied a lot, and if you’ve hired under-30 workers, you’ve seen it a lot. This younger generation is different. Generations going back years have always seen the differences in the way they were raised compared to the current generation, but perhaps none more so than now.

So how do you deal with this generation in your company and on a jobsite?  The fact is, they’re here and they’re not going anywhere – and you’re going to depend on them for results.  You have a simple choice:

You can continue to do things ‘your way’ and they’ll do things ‘their way’ and you can fight it out while your business suffers.
You and your foremen can learn to manage and motivate differently so you can get more out of the people you have.

It’s critical that owners and even more importantly that your foremen, are taught to get the most out of the people that you have.  Wishing for the old days and complaining that this generation doesn’t work like you worked isn’t going to change a thing, but here’s a few tips that might:

Be Honest in Your Interview/Hiring

Start off on the right foot. This generation works so they can have fun. If you expect long hours, weekend work and hard labor – be straight up at the beginning. If you misrepresent their job before they start, they’ll get frustrated, they’ll resent their job and your company, and they’ll underperform until they quit or are terminated.

Engage Them from Day One

Throw them headfirst on day one. Give them responsibilities, but be realistic. Make them the VP of Trailer Operations or VP of Jobsite Cleanups and their job is to keep both neat and organized. Let them know they will be held responsible and be clear about the standards. A checklist and/or regular evaluations are key – don’t expect them to ‘know’ what you want if you don’t tell them.

Don’t tolerate helplessness. This generation is more likely to ask you questions they can figure out for themselves. Don’t feed into this, stomp it out. Force them to sort it out for themselves. Ask them questions that force them to answer their own questions. Click here to read more about power questions.  

Be a Bull When it Comes to Company Systems

Bulls  don’ t mess around. They know one way – head down, horns up and straight forward. You need to be the same with company systems and procedures. If you dance around your rules or take them lightly, your younger workers will have absolutely no respect for them. They have short attention spans and they’ve been pre-wired since the age of 2 to filter out useless information even when its directed right at them. They’ve grown up with 1,000 commercials a day spouting what comes out of the other end of the bull. Don’t let your words get lost in that filter. Be ultra serious about your systems and expectations.

Imagine your life depended on your employees following systems? You simply couldn’t put up with workers who don’t. It’s not that you can’t get better respect for your systems, it’s that you don’t try hard enough. Click here and read the “Me, Myself and I” section of the article for a nice lesson served up cold by a firefighting crew.

Short Attention Spans Need Short Term Goals

This generation gets information in quick doses. From commercials to video games to YouTube and Facebook/Twitter… information comes fast, they deal with it, then it’s out of sight, out of mind. Give your goals and expectations the same way.

3 quick meetings a day will help:

AM Meeting – Set the goals, review what’s missing/needed (materials, equipment, info, etc.)

After Lunch Meeting – Review the goals – are we on track, has anything changed?

PM Meeting – Did we hit the goals? What’s needed for tomorrow? Recognize hard work or give constructive criticism. It’s one or the other, but don’t be fake either way.

Use the Daily Meetings to Coach/Develop Future Superstars

Gone are the days of  the ‘mindless laborer’, and that’s not necessarily a bad thing. Young workers today like to understand the who/what/when/where and why’s. They want goals, and a clear direction on where they were going. They get bored with tasks with no objective or no feedback. After all, most spent more time on video games than TV – where every screen has a goal, a score, and a way to advance (‘level up’). All of this is good for your business – but you have to give it to them.  Give them a task, explain how to do it and why its done that way. Expect questions and answer them without being insulting. Give them the results (their score) at the end of each day and each job. Are we on track or falling behind?  Where is their job taking them? Can they advance/level up in your company?  How?

Ask for feedback in the meetings. What could have made your job faster/easier today?  Explain why you’re doing your work in that order? Show me how you inspected that equipment before use? The secret to success in almost any business or any role is simple:  be the best teacher. If you’re good at your job, but you can teach people to do it as well or better than you, you’re indispensable and you’ll make far more money in your career and/or in your own company.

Sub-Par Performers Only Win in Golf

Be quick to pull the trigger on those that are hurting, rather than helping your productivity. Their attitudes and work ethic will spread like cancer through your company. This generation in particular will resent the fact that under-performers are rewarded just about the same as good performers and they will lower their standards to meet the lowest acceptable level of performance. Sooner than later – the lowest level of performance becomes your company standard while you shake your head saying, ‘I just can’t find good people.’ It’s been said that all employers get the employees they deserve. Keeping poor performers is the easy way, and the lazy way.  Great companies and great foremen face the tougher challenges head on and deal with hard issues the right way. And that’s exactly what makes them great.

Landscape Management Network (LMN) is business management and estimating software build by and for landscape contractors. The systems in LMN were built by some of the top companies in North America and are now available to be customized for your company for less than you spend on cable TV. Check out LMN here and build yourself a better landscape business. 

Additional Reading:

Incentive Systems for Landscape Foremen (Goals + Bonuses)

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