No stones unturned

No stones unturned

Departments - Cream of the Crop

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July 5, 2019

Cream of the Crop features a rotating panel from the Harvest Group, a landscape business consulting company.

Ask any landscaper to identify his/her primary human resources problem and you will instantaneously hear “recruitment,” “staffing,” “finding people,” etc. With a brisk national economy and a historically low unemployment rate, that problem will likely remain for a while.

Landscapers must shift their resolution strategies away from the traditional singular recruitment focus to a more comprehensive and simultaneous approach incorporating internal, external and technological initiatives.


Prior to implementing the three phases, it is imperative that this recruitment approach be predicated on standard management fundamentals to promote success: (1) Identify who is accountable for the recruitment program, (2) define recruitment success, (3) establish recruitment goals (e.g., position, branch, company), (4) develop a recruitment program budget, (5) align the recruitment plan with other programs (e.g., compensation, on-boarding, training, succession planning) and (6) develop recruitment metrics and track them weekly.

In sum, treat recruitment in the same formal fashion that other company programs (e.g., IT, sales, equipment) are considered.


Internal recruitment methods remain the most effective tactic in securing new employees. While a full-time recruiter is obviously preferred, most companies have not yet chosen this option despite their complaints about labor shortages. In-house recruiters should receive base pay compensation, as well as placement pay for each new hire brought into the company and a bonus for ensuring that monthly staffing goals are consistently maintained.

Most companies have an under-performing employee referral program. Typically, these companies do not offer a lucrative incentive to motivate employees to recruit new candidates; no specific company manager is accountable for this program; and executives offer only rhetorical support in place of actual value (e.g., increased employee pay, better training, improving the company culture). In general, successful employee referral programs offer employees a $600 bonus for each new foreman brought into the company. Realizing that employee retention – not recruitment – is the ultimate goal, astute companies divide the referral bonus payout across three timeframes: $100 at the date of hire, $200 after the employee has been on the job for 90 days, and the remaining $300 after six months of employment.

Within the context of business acumen, if the employees are not providing a steady flow of applicants each week, the bonus is clearly insufficient, in much the same way a sales commission plan or enhancement bonus plan would similarly fail.


Building upon internal recruitment efforts, companies must also broaden their scope to incorporate vendors, agencies and customers to attract candidates. Stimulated by consistent executive and managerial contact, external sources should be contacted regularly on a bi-weekly basis, provided with recruitment materials (e.g., job descriptions, job applications, career ladder, training program), and rewarded with gift cards, additional business, discounts, public recognition and on-site partnership appreciation events. In much the same way that marketing efforts precede sales, external recruitment partners contribute to overall staffing success.

Companies must also consider the use of an external contract recruiter or an independent contractor (i.e., 1099) to accelerate recruitment efforts. These individuals are paid exclusively on a headcount-add basis, with a backloaded bonus for satisfying new-hire retention thresholds.).


Companies must extend their internal and external recruitment efforts with constant technological impact. Whether it is a weekly refresh of the company website, a bilingual option home page, semi-weekly social media posts, online recruitment videos, consistent analytical focus of SEO efforts, employee testimonials and cell phone-friendly recruitment applications, technology must be used more often and be managed more rigorously. In closing, recruitment is likely to remain a concern for landscapers well into the future. To address that worry, it is suggested they interconnect internal, external, and technological initiatives as a key initiative to help them achieve their company goals in a sustainable manner.

Contact Steve Cesare at