5 Ideas and Resources to Overcome Landscape Worker Shortages

Landscape worker shortages

The landscaping industry is at a tricky juncture. The demand for plant materials is increasing while the number of trained and available landscape workers is decreasing. In fact, as per HindSite Software, 92% of green industry businesses are reporting that landscape worker shortages are making it more challenging to find employees. But finding landscape workers is half the battle. You need to retain them as well.

During the pandemic, we saw the Department of Homeland Security deem landscaping an essential service to support Public Works and Infrastructure Support Services. There will always be a fundamental need for our industry.

So then why are we experiencing landscape worker shortages?  Two reasons:

  • Low unemployment rates: A low unemployment rate means we’re all competing for high-quality workers among the same batch of available landscape laborers.
  • Decreased Interest in Horticulture: We’re not attracting enough new applicants to sustain the number of workers our industry depends on.

Whatever the reason for the dwindling numbers, your business needs more employees on hand to get the job done. Here are 5 ideas to overcome landscape worker shortages:


1. Optimize Your Wages and Bonus Structure

Money talks! The competition is fierce and as per the new report by GoMaterials, the average minimum pay is reaching $15 across multiple states. The pool of available workers is also limited. Use financial incentives to attract and retain employees with advanced landscaping skills.

Increase Wages

Don’t lose current and potential workers to other landscaping businesses offering higher wages. Though it might temporarily seem like a thorn in your side, your business could benefit from cutting costs elsewhere to pay your landscape workers more.

If your policy for wage increases depends on how long landscape workers have been with your company, consider offering them sooner. By decreasing the timespan between raises, employees feel like they’re achieving more with you in less time.

Improve Your Bonus Structure

Perhaps you’ve already increased wages and still want to keep your employees financially motivated. Creating a bonus program provides a great addition or alternative to one-time wage increases.

●     Target-based Bonuses

Consider offering wages when certain targets are met as well. Give employees something to work towards. Targets should be clearly defined with explicitly stated ways to achieve them.

For example, if your target is ‘improve customer satisfaction”, develop a way to measure current satisfaction, outline things your team should implement to improve it and then develop a measurement that confirms whether the objective has been met. In this example, a customer survey will go a long way!

●     Unscheduled Bonuses  

Give bonuses out randomly. Does this sound too ‘New Age’? Well, it is, and it isn’t. A variable reinforcement schedule is known to be the most effective way to reinforce behavior . In layman’s terms, the behavior you want to reinforce is a good work ethic. By giving out bonuses randomly, employees maintain a steady work ethic throughout the year.

You make up for the costs of these bonuses by avoiding the churn. In the current labor market, that is actually saving you the cost of finding, training, and motivating employees.


2. Hire Temporary Landscape Workers to fill the Gaps

There are so many unpredictable factors in the landscaping industry: extreme weather, logistics issues, plant shortages, etc. The one thing we can predict is the ability of skilled workers to do a good job. But perhaps some landscaping skills are more important than others for your business? If so, it might be a good idea to hire some temporary landscape workers who may not have all the skills but can be guided by your permanent staff.

Don’t neglect proper safety training if you go with temporary workers. These workers lack traditional landscaping skills and knowledge. Proper safety routines and workplace hazard training will need to be repeated and highlighted for everyone’s best interests.

The gig economy is alive and well! Look into online platforms like GigSmart, and Get Workers, which connect businesses with local workers interested in temporary work. You’ll weed out the bad fits, and for all you know, you may even transition some of these workers into permanent employees.


3. Diversify your Hiring Network

Connect with different types of companies at green industry events to diversify your network of applicants. Expanding your hiring network out of your comfort zone opens you up to a new batch of potential employees. One way to diversify the hires is by recruiting more women for your landscaping company.

You’re missing out on half of the available labor force if you keep overlooking female hires in favor of male ones! Are women not applying? Open the door to them on your landscaping crew by scouting them. All it takes is for one woman in your team to inspire more applicants to consider you as a potential employer.


4. Start a Landscape Worker Referral Program

Presumably, you like and respect your landscaping employees. There’s a good chance they know people who would be similarly great fits for your company. Let your employees refer workers to you and compensate them for it!

This was a success at a series of companies, including at Borst Landscape and Design. The premise is straightforward. Referrals are given to employees who bring in new workers after a month of employment with the company. If that new worker stays for three months, an additional bonus is given to the employee who referred them! It’s an effective way to maintain the company culture and fill the landscaping labor shortage gaps in your company!

The above policy worked for Borst Landscape and Design. Play around with the numbers and the time worked between bonuses until you find something that works for you.


5. Additional Resources to Overcome Landscape Worker Shortages

Take a look at these additional resources to guide you when hiring landscape workers:

To summarize, the landscaping industry spends enough time adjusting to stressful, last-minute situations. You only have so many hours in a day, and so many areas to devote your time and energy.

In a pinch, GoMaterials will outsource the search, price comparison, quality assurance, and logistics for your plant needs. We’ll take care of wholesale plant sourcing so that you can focus on the labor shortage in your company.


Have you implemented any creative initiatives to find landscape workers? Let us know on social media!

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