Labor Issues in the Green Industry

April 19, 2022

We had a great panel discussion at our Dinner Meeting on January 18, 2022. Together, the panelists had over 100 years of experience in the Green Industry. We discussed the lack of help, increasing employee wages, and how to find new employees and keep current ones.

NHLA would like to thank all of our panelists for their time and expertise: Greg Herring from The Herring Group, a landscape consulting firm; Thomas Morin, owner of Morin’s Landscaping, Inc.; Andrew Pelkey, co-owner and COO of North Point Outdoors; and George Pellettieri, owner of Pellettieri Associates, Inc. NHLA would also like to thank Jim Moreau from Northeast Turf & Irrigation for moderating the panel discussion. Finally, NHLA thanks all of the members that attended. It was a very successful night.
As you all know one of the challenges all employers are facing now is an acute labor shortage. We all know how difficult, if not discouraging, it can be to find and keep the right people to do the demanding work we do each day. Some say, people don’t want to work anymore, especially in jobs that require hard physical labor. Others say that workers are out there, but we just don’t know how to reach them and inspire them to do the work we find personally satisfying and rewarding. There’s something special about creating, designing, and building beautiful landscapes to make our clients happy. We explored the challenges we all face, no matter the size of our company.

We want to share some of the outcomes and ideas from the meeting.

Biggest concerns or challenges regarding their workforce:
• The uncertainty of the H2B program and the changes in the laws.
• We have more work than we can handle with our current staff.
• The retention of employees and rising salaries.
• Be careful not to overlook current staff who are doing really well for the company, before hiring new staff.

Biggest frustration with employees:
• The lack of commitment.
• Common courtesy towards others.
• Time and effort into training, only to have them leave the next day.

COVID impact on hiring:
• It has had little impact; it has been sliding for the past 5-10 years.
• Staff dealing with childcare and remote learning.
• The flexibility to accommodate family schedules.

How wages impact companies?
• Significant wage increases.
• Work around schedules.
• Margins have to stay the same, double-edged sword.
• Unfortunately wage increases are not stopping any time soon.

Where can we look for help?
• The H2B Visa program works well; however, you need to be able to justify the cost. It’s not for everyone. Currently there is a lottery system and prevailing wages.
• Placing signs on telephone poles.
• Contacting family and friends.
• Hiring for experience versus degrees.
• Facebook
• Cold calls

Successful ways for finding and keeping productive employees:
• Employees have a purpose, such as volunteerism. “I can make a difference!”
• Career paths
• Incentives programs
• Profit sharing

How can NHLA help?
• Health insurance
• Employee Assistance Programs
• Education programs
• Learn Everywhere program

Overall, it was a great discussion! The board will plan future meetings and events to meet your needs. Please contact any board member with your ideas. We are here for you!

— by Pam Moreau, NHLA Business Manager

 

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