Getting The Best From Your Staff

In case you haven’t already noticed, there is a skills shortage in the landscaping industry. In these difficult labour conditions, any boss worth their salt is no doubt asking, ‘How can I attract and retain good employees?’ Your staff are probably your businesses’ greatest asset but your staff have a choice. They choose you as much as you choose them.

The first way to get and keep good staff is obvious: you pay them extra. Have you ever heard the expression, ‘Pay peanuts and get monkeys?’ Unfortunately, this is never more true than when there is a shortage of good workers. While paying award wages is all very well, good employees will know that they can likely earn more from another business. Hiring employees is at least partially about supply and demand. Even the best workers don’t work for the pure love of the work; we all have to eat. If you can afford to pay good employees even a little extra it helps to let them know that you pay them as much as you can afford. It is also false economy to allow high staff turnover to occur in your business. There are many hidden costs to your business in having to constantly hire new staff, from training and induction to business downtime and slower productivity rates.

This principle applies to apprentices too. It is tempting to believe that apprentices don’t offer your business very much when they first start out and to a certain extent this is true. Taking on an apprentice is an investment in the future but, for the best apprentices, it is definitely an investment worth making. With the right care, instruction and a little financial generosity you can build a great working relationship and a lot of good will. Remember, everyone has to start somewhere and it is difficult to work hard and live on $12 an hour when you can earn significantly more as a bartender or even flipping burgers. Consider too, that apprentices also have a lot of expenses, from fuel for their cars to clothing, equipment and study costs.

But what else can you do when paying extra isn’t really an option?

One of the best ways you can retain staff is to let them know you value their work and contribution to your business. Everyone wants to feel valued and, again, you can get a lot of loyalty from workers when they know you are loyal to them. These days, many businesses have high staff turnovers and when workers feel insecure in their work tenure, they feel that they have to look out for themselves. This attitude changes when your staff can see a future for themselves in your business and know that you do too. Find ways to let them know you notice their attention to detail, their willingness to go the extra mile, their outstanding client liaison skills or their excellent attitude to their work. A quiet word, a pat on the back or a small gift can do wonders for staff morale.

Similarly, investing in the skills of your workers is a win-win. No one likes to feel static in their career and many of the best employees are ambitious and relish the opportunity to grow. This is a great asset to your business and finding ways to expand the skills and experience of your contractors has many benefits. Many Generation Y employees report much higher levels of satisfaction in their work when they are learning and expanding their skill sets.

Find out which areas of landscaping most interest them and, wherever possible, give them a chance to show you what they can do. Providing these opportunities also lets your staff know that you respect their skills and their contributions. Many young people are brimming with enthusiasm and keen to test themselves so you may be pleasantly surprised by what they achieve and the value you can unlock.

For older employees, take the time to find out what they value most in their working conditions. Money is definitely not the only consideration for good workers when they think about their employment. In the modern economy, many families are struggling to juggle two working parents with outside commitments such as school and after-hours childcare. You might find that a little added flexibility may be just what your employees would value most. Employers who recognise the need for work-life balance are often richly rewarded by their employees.

Both younger and older employees are also much more satisfied if you can help them feel invested in your business. Mentoring between more and less experienced workers helps to make both ends of the spectrum feel more valued individually and invested in the business. Additionally, giving your workers chances to contribute to the direction of the business and listening to great ideas about areas for expansion develops a sense of investment. Perhaps there are new trends to consider in design or environmental practices, maybe green walls and roofs are becoming more popular in the areas you work. Even the best bosses don’t think of everything and can’t be everywhere.

Listening to your employees is also a wonderful way to create a team attitude in your business. Nurturing a culture of growth and collaborative effort can make for a much better working environment for everyone. Some of the best businesses feel like a close-knit family, which can go a long way towards keeping your employees happy. Everyone is much more enthused about working with a great group of people and this aspect of work can be more important to many employees than simply earning top dollar. Make time to have regular work and social events to build rapport and a sense of fun within your team. Chat to your employees about what is happening in their lives outside of work and even small efforts can make a big difference. Celebrating birthdays is a good example but don’t stop there. Is someone engaged or expecting a baby? Is your foreman buying their first home? Is someone having a tough time and could use a little extra support or a few words of encouragement? You don’t have to go crazy but remember, work is a big part of our lives but it isn’t everything. The closer the team the less likely workers will feel dissatisfied and look to other options.

These suggestions can sound like a lot of work to bosses, especially in a smaller business where there is a lot of administration to handle. But having a great team can save time and make you more money in the long run. Happy employees are more productive, work better with your clients and stay with companies for much longer. Fortunately for Members of the LNA Master Landscapers Association, there are also a lot of resources and services that have been specifically developed to make hiring, retaining and managing staff easier for landscaping businesses.

First, are you looking to hire a new apprentice or an experienced qualified landscape contractor? The LNA can help with that. When it comes to finding great new apprentices, we attend careers expos, TAFE events and field many calls from young people looking to start a career in landscaping. We can help to match your business with would-be apprentices who are a great fit for your organisation. The LNA can also assist you with information about smoothly managing the apprenticeship process, from government rebates through to award wages and entitlements. For businesses seeking to employ excellent qualified contractors, either permanently or short term, the LNA offers a Positions Vacant service where members can advertise free of charge to find the right employees in their area.

What about all that paperwork involved in hiring and managing staff? The LNA has you covered here too. Our exclusive Members Resources are designed to make your human resources needs easier. We have developed a range of materials from templates to instruction videos. There are letters of offer, contracts, codes of conduct and social media policies, performance warnings, carer’s leave information and much more. We also have resources on bullying, discrimination, complaints, WHS, apprentice entitlements, award wages, sexual harassment and National Employment Standards, just to name a few.

Putting in a little time and effort with your staff will pay dividends in the future. With the LNA on board to help you hire and retain excellent staff, your business will be in great shape. The LNA and you: supporting your business to thrive.

Call the friendly LNA team on (02) 9630 4844 today

If you would like more information about joining the LNA, visit the website at

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