How To Find, Hire and Retain Seasonal Workers


Question: How To Find, Hire and Retain Seasonal Employees (Seasonal Workers) for your Lawn Care, Landscape, Tree Care or Irrigation Service Company.

Brett asks… the question is about hiring employees and keeping them during the off-season. Is question is: for a small company, where can I find talented and motivated employees? I have had the worst of luck so far, and the quality of work is causing me to worry more about the men in the field and growing the company. I feel like a babysitter and I don’t know where to turn. Also, how do you retain quality employees with a long off-season?

I would start with looking at the best employees that you’ve had. Of those that you have now or you’ve in the past, who are the ones that you wish you could have five more or 10 more of? Then, of those employees, think about what’s unique about them. Here’s what I mean by this. Where do they live? Do they go to church? If so, where do they go to church? Where do they shop? Where do they cash their checks? What are they interested in? What is it that you can identify about this group that there’s some commonality?

As an example, if you were to figure out that some of my very best guys live on a certain part of town in this apartment complex, for example, or maybe they live in this general area and most of them shop at Wal-Mart in this general area, well, this is an example. It’s not a perfect example, but it’s an example of now how you start thinking about this. If that’s where they gather and that’s where they are, you have to go to them. You have to go to them and advertise. You have to go them and ask people that you run across: hey, are you looking for work? Your job is to figure out who you want first, where they are, and then go get them.

You can’t just put it out on Craigslist generally and hope they come to you. You’ve got to go find them. First, you have to identify, as I’ve probably said three times here, where are they?

I used to be a partner in a cleaning company, and we were cleaning all over the country. We’d take over a property. Someone would fly to that area, and we’d be taking over a big property that we would clean every night, all year long. We would have someone go find people to staff that property. They would have to fly in and they’d have to find 3 to 10 to 20 people, and they’d have to find them within a couple of days. We would go to McDonald’s, Wal-Mart, different places, and we would say, do you have anybody that’s looking for work? Do you have a family member, a friend, anybody that needs work? If so, here’s an opportunity.

By going and proactively asking and talking to people, we would put together a group of people that from that group, we’d try them out and eventually hire some number of the people. That concept can be used at exactly the same way here, except you’re not having to fly somewhere and do it. You know your local market. You can ask your guys questions and figure out the commonalities, and then you go find them, and you go talk to them; you go advertise to them; and you also should consider your vendors, your vendors that you buy things from. They know the people in the industry. Maybe you can find people from them, through them. You need to get out and go to these people.

As to the question of retention, and clearly to get the best people you’ve got to pay … you’ve got to price your work correctly so that you can pay above average wages, and you’ve got to take really good care of them. If you think about taking care of clients and getting clients to spread the word about you, well, you have to do great things and have great customer service. The same is true for your team. If you want your team to go out and tell other people they should come work for you, you’ve got to be good to your team. You have to create a culture and an environment where people want to work for you and they go out and tell their friends, hey, you should come and work here. This is a great company.

Those are all factors that go into the success of hiring people and getting people to come and work for you. Maybe you need to offer bonuses. If you’ll find someone that I hire, I’ll give you X amount of money in cash.

As to retention, there is no easy magic bullet here. You could get involved in H-2B visa which that program has its own set of problems, and then you can bring seasonal workers into the country for nine months a year, but there are challenges with that. You either have to find somewhere for your people to go work at another company that provides offseason work or off-seasonal work that corresponds with yours so that when you’re done with your team, they can go work for someone else and then come back to you. That’s not an easy undertaking.

An alternative might be that you expand your business into services that will keep you somewhat busy through the winter. Maybe at least for it brings in enough work that you can keep your core team, 50%, 60% of your employees together and that only 40% are at risk year after year. Maybe for those that go get another job in the winter, you go back to them in the next year wherever they’re working and you offer them a $400 bonus to come back to you.

There’s really no great answer when it comes to seasonal employees and having to lay them all for some amount of time and then get them back. There’s just really no magic bullet here. It comes down to being creative. It’s one of the big challenges of the business.

I gave several examples. How could you apply those examples and to be successful here? Good luck.


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