The Top Hiring Mistakes Landscape Companies Make (And What To Do Instead)

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hiring mistakes

Even the best landscape companies have made some pretty terrible hiring mistakes. It’s easy to do when there’s a position that needs to be filled fast. If you’ve ever found yourself onboarding a new team member just to do it all over again only a few months later, know that you’re not alone.

Learning how to hire effectively is a skill. And at McFarlin Stanford, we’ve seen and heard it all while serving as the back office to landscaping companies across the country.

Here are the top five most common hiring mistakes we see landscape companies make, and what we recommend doing in the future to avoid repeating these painful (and expensive) lessons again.

Mistake #1- You’re Not Selling a Position at Your Company in a Way That’s Enticing

When a landscape company is looking for new team members, you can’t just go through the motions. Hiring isn’t a to-do list item. It’s a process.

And just like any good process, you need the right tools and methods to make sure you're vetting the candidates and getting the right person on the team. No matter what role you’re hiring for, it’s important to look at a potential crew member just like you’d look at a prospective customer or client. You've got to sell the opportunity to them.
Market to them. Let them know what's great about working for your company. Most importantly let them know that they’re going to have the tools and the opportunities needed to do a good job. Just like how your customers want to know that your company is going to provide quality work and good service, any candidate worth hiring will want to know the same. Nobody wants to work for a mediocre company. Make sure you communicate that they’ll have exactly what’s needed to do their job and do it well.

Mistake #2- You’re Not Setting Clear Expectations for Your Leaders

Your frontline leaders are the face of your company. The right person can be the ticket to growing your landscape business, but the wrong one can be a huge risk to your organization. Ensuring you’ve hired the right person for the job has a big impact on both your customers and team members.

Everything a frontline leader says and does represents your company. They’re setting the standard for your employees and  acting on behalf of your organization when dealing with clients. Your crew needs a strong leader, and your clients will be thrilled to interact with someone who can carry out their responsibilities professionally and with great customer service.

Something that’s common within the green industry is that the right expectations aren’t set for these leaders when they’re hired. This ends up being extremely frustrating for the new frontline leader, the crew, and the business owner.

How can somebody do a good job if they don’t know what their role is supposed to be? It’s your job to set and share those expectations so they know what their responsibilities and duties are upfront. So the next time you’re hiring, be sure to set the foundation from the get go. Doing anything else is a recipe for disaster.

Mistake #3- You’re Not Teaching Your Frontline Leaders Company Policies

Whether or not you have a company handbook, every good landscape business has at least a few policies in place. But do your leaders know what they are? Probably not.

It’s typical for those policies to direct team members to take their issues to a supervisor for resolution, and it’s even more common that those supervisors have never been briefed on what they can and cannot allow. Can they give someone a day off when they’re ill or a family member’s sick? Does your state have a law around leave? Are there forms that need to be filled out? Can they let someone leave early? When should they ask someone to get a doctor’s note? Can they approve vacation days?

These are the types of policies and procedures frontline supervisors need to know. It’s not fair to expect them to wing it and use their gut for each individual scenario. Far too often these policies are written, but no one takes the time to teach the supervisor what to do. If you haven’t already, get clear on what your policies are and make sure your leaders know them.

Mistake #4- You Think The Hiring Process Ended With The Job Offer

Let’s say you set a solid foundation with the policies we just talked about, and your frontline leader knows what they should be doing. Do they know how they should be doing it?

You need to train your supervisors how to lead. Teach them how to build good relationships with the crew. Help them become more self-aware of who they are and what their strengths are. Show them how to set goals and execute in that direction for their team.

Develop your leaders. Invest in them. Take the time to teach them to lead. A lot of landscape owners are afraid of wasting time and money developing their supervisors because they could leave the company and go work for someone else. But wouldn’t it be so much worse if you don’t invest in them, and they stay?

Mistake #5- You Don’t Know The Difference in Technical Skills and Leadership Skills

Too often, a landscape business owner takes someone off a crew and promotes them to supervisor just to end up watching their rockstar team member fail miserably as a leader. That person may be great at job site installation and maintaining grass, but those skills aren’t what’s needed to manage three foreman.

Just because someone excels at one role, doesn’t mean they’ll be good as a supervisor.

This is the most common mistake landscape business owners make. Promoting your best crew member seems like the logical thing to do, especially since companies are always talking about how important it is to promote from within. But the truth is that your best worker isn’t necessarily cut out to be a leader.

This doesn’t mean you can’t hire from within. It’s just important to recognize and remember that there’s a difference between the technical skills required to perform one job and the leadership skills needed to manage a team. Some of those extraordinary team members will make outstanding supervisors with the right training, but there isn’t enough training in the world to turn the wrong person into the right fit for the job.

Learn How to Hire Effectively

McFarlin Stanford can help you recruit and hire the right people for your growing landscaping company. We’re the back office supporting landscape owners around the country, and we’re ready and eager to help your business next. Contact us to learn about how we can be an instrumental part of taking your landscape company to the next level or better yet- join us for our next live event to learn more about joining one of our ACE Peer Groups.