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Managing Your Staff


From recruiting and hiring to retaining or terminating, learn proven methods for managing employees in the green industry.

SiteOne March 6, 2018

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All companies, big and small, face the challenge of handling the complexities of employees. From hiring to terminating, here are some proven methods for managing your employees.

Expanding Your Business

Many landscape companies rely on several day laborers to help with trenching, installing pipe and heads, and other routine tasks at residential jobs. But suppose these laborers are not irrigation experts. If you want to expand your business, you have to add a project manager or site foreman who is up-to-date on installation techniques and new products, and can also handle sales calls, estimates, and purchasing.

The Pros and Cons

The idea of having others to help you grow your business is often the first step to success. But you should first consider all of the pros and cons of having employees:

  • Is there enough work to justify another person on the job full-time? Can you forecast the need for this person in the future?
  • Do you have the time necessary to recruit and train a new person?
  • Do you have the tools, equipment, and vehicles necessary to properly furnish the new employee?
  • Where should you look for new employees?
  • Have you considered all of the financial aspects, including salary, insurance, taxes, benefits, etc.?
  • Can one of your existing employees handle more responsibilities?

Promoting from within increases morale. The most important decision is whether this person will add significant income to your business. You might decide that an additional skilled employee will cut down on your workload. However, when you figure in salary, insurance, equipment, and the loss of time needed to train a new employee, you may discover that it would not be a prudent business decision until you can count on a consistent pattern of steady jobs.

Five Rules of Recruiting

Taking the time to locate good employees will often cut down on many of the problems you will encounter later. If you hire the right person now, you can avoid unnecessary training, warnings, employee frustrations, terminations and rehiring. Here are the five rules of recruiting a dependable, competent, long-term employee:

  1. Locate an employee with professional skills and training. The Irrigation Association and local contractor associations often sponsor training programs. Some local colleges may have courses of study in irrigation, irrigation system design, horticulture, turf grass management, etc. and can recommend knowledgeable people.
  2. Carefully review employment history. Long-term employees cut down on costs associated with training, new paperwork, and rehiring. Check all available references. Ask specifics about performance, reliability, and experience.
  3. Note your first impression since it will probably be the same as your customer's. If it's good, this will reflect well on your business.
  4. Interview good candidates at least three times. You'll get a slightly different view each time. If all three are positive, this candidate is probably a winner.
  5. Find someone genuinely interested in your business. Past experience, self-study and general knowledge will produce a more secure, long-term employee.

Locating Qualified Workers

Finding the right person also depends on where you look. While you can follow the general rule of classified advertising, there are better ways to find talented people:

  • Make current employees aware of all job openings with detailed job qualifications, time frame and salary range.
  • Follow up recommendations from your peers in the industry.
  • Advertise through local landscape professional and community associations. These organizations often include individuals who can make good employees. You might also recruit through community colleges. Test out your needs and the employee's skills by first hiring them an as intern, and then later as a full-time employee.

Hiring Employees

The best advice in hiring is to follow the rules and don't cut corners. Properly and completely fill out all necessary payroll paperwork and make the employee fully aware of the job requirements, company guidelines, reporting structure, salary, and benefits. Your accountant or attorney can give you tips on this. The more an employee knows at the start, the more secure they will feel about all aspects of their job. For your protection, have the employee sign a document indicating that they have received all of the necessary paperwork.

Tips on Immigrant Workers

If you are hiring immigrant workers, it is essential that you learn and follow the regulations for their employment. The U.S. Immigration and Naturalization Service (INS) maintains a toll-free number (800-870-3676) where you can order copies of the M274 Handbook and forms.Even if you are careful to follow the guidelines, you cannot always be certain that your employees are doing the same. The INS has been known to conduct all-out raids on established firms with agents and police officers taking workers into custody. Although the contracting firm may be in full compliance, the documentation of their employees may be fraudulent.

Recognition and Training

Now that you've located and hired the ideal employee, it is important to keep them happy and in full support of your company. In addition to adequate pay, bonuses and incentives, there are several other ways you can show employees that you value them and their work.

  • Recognition is an inexpensive, yet highly effective method for improving morale and increasing production. Heartfelt thanks for a job well done, certificates of achievement, increased responsibilities, employee contests, and short notes on special occasions improve the self-worth of the employee.
  • Training is also good for morale, while giving the employee a chance to spread their wings. If you can offer money, or at least time off for professional seminars, college reimbursements, trade show attendance, or even in-house seminars, your employees will appreciate your commitment to them. Distributors like SiteOne offer continuous training programs for professionals and their employees.
  • Family-oriented companies have proven to have more long-term employees. Company events foster a feeling of togetherness and belonging. In-house programs that support the family, such as early-leave days, schedule flexibility and even telephone time, help the employee to better integrate the company into their daily lives.

Termination Suggestions

For those unfortunate times when the employee does not fulfill the requirements of the job, termination is a necessary evil in the course of your management. Again, following the rules is important for legal reasons as well as for the employee.

  • Review the legal issues associated with termination. Put warnings in writing and be detailed about the infraction, its occurrences, and the proper rules. Give the employee a chance to correct the problem with your guidance within a specific time period.
  • Keep the termination time to a minimum by stating the problem calmly and completely and then moving on to the next steps. It is important not to argue with the employee.
  • Have all of the paperwork ready for the employee to sign upon termination. Give the employee paperwork that describes insurance, unemployment, pension funds, and any other issues. Your accountant or attorney can be helpful with these matters.
  • Make short suggestions for alternate employment.
  • Help the employee leave the premises with dignity by allowing them to take personal belongings, say goodbye, and leave quickly and without incident.

Finding, hiring, keeping or terminating employees is all a part of the continuous process of building your business. While there are several difficult steps involved in each area, you can learn how to maximize your effectiveness and make your company stronger as you continue to grow.

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