Finish strong with employee engagement

Justin White
CEO of K&D Landscaping

As a leader, I strive to provide positive feedback for my team to inspire and motivate, but sometimes reality ends up the opposite. Demanding deadlines and busy schedules can often limit us to spot-checking work and only pointing out the problems. This perception of constant focus on obstacles and issues can lead your team to burnout, feeling unappreciated and a sense of defeat. Is it not your intent to have them feel like their work is never good enough? Neither is mine. I’d like to share beneficial ways to boost positive employee engagement and improve your chances of success for the future.

A helpful exercise to kick off and combat the burnout is an “all-hands” meeting. No matter how the year went, there are always bright spots to point out and areas to praise your team. Holding an all-hands company event is a great way to celebrate your current success and build momentum for the next year. Make it a fun excuse to bring your team back to the yard early, provide lunch and ignite company culture.

The process is simple: gather all together for at least an hour, thank everyone for the last year, and explain that the reason for today is to celebrate the positives. Do this by documenting your “wins” over the last year. What are your wins? They can be big or small, between coworkers or part of projects, products, reviews from clients, new customers, etc.

I find that by having your team split up into smaller groups that they then share with the entire team, you help boost engagement from those employees who are either too shy or humble to brag about themselves in front of a whole team. This leads to greater participation and insight on the company. As the spokesperson for each group shares their list, write these down on a large white board or flip chart for everyone to see. As the list grows, you and your team will start to realize how many things went right to lead you where you are today.

Your team will feel excited after this event, but don't let the momentum die out and return to criticism. Use this opportunity to highlight these wins in future newsletters, company announcements and random acts of appreciation, (as you should have enough ammunition to last you several months!) until your next all-hands.

Regardless of how well your business is running, there is always clarity to be defined on future expectations. If you can celebrate the wins this year, while also increasing the clearness of roles for each team member, you will see an improvement in many key areas including positive employee engagement. After doing an all-hands exercise with your team, you should gain better insight into what is working (or not working) in your business.

From here, increasing clarity on future expectations can come in the form of creating a clear vision for the next year, developing more palpable job descriptions for your teams, and generating a better distinction between roles to reduce overlap (reducing overlap does not mean removing cross-training). If you are an owner-operator and wearing seven hats at once, this might seem like a waste of time. But after developing these job descriptions, you may discover that it’s time to restructure and hire some help.

The vision of the company will also help you identify who and when your next hire will be. Being able to redefine the roles of your team members helps them understand their connection in the workflow and the expectations of their position, giving you a successful future.

After reading this, hopefully you’re excited to host your own all-hands with your team, so follow through! Don't let busywork get in the way of creating real change in your organization — get your calendar out and schedule an afternoon to celebrate your wins and increase clarity for your team.

Raise the bar is a monthly column by Justin White, CEO of K&D Landscaping, written to help improve professionalism in the green industry. Contact Justin at

November 2022
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