View Full Version : Where are the decent employees?

07-03-2001, 11:27 PM
The number one problem with this industry has got to be labor. Since it's seasonal (snowplowing excepted) your always having to replace workers annually. Plus unless you're in business for yourself, or in a really big company, if you're a young guy you're not gonna work in this field for long.

We find it ridiculously difficult to find and retain good employees. The biggest problem is finding guys who've got what it takes to do the job. Young guys (in general) seem not to understand that work is called "work" for a reason. My dad works these pansies under the table everyday and he's 55.

I can't even count high enough to list the number of "1 day wonders" we've had over the years. They show up for work, move slower than molasses uphill in january, are all thumbs, can't understand how to follow simple directions, and bail on us before the day's done. Or if they somehow last the day, they either don't come back or we can them. Then there are the dozens and dozens of guys who call about the job, I call them back and say come in Monday at 7:30. Then they don't show up, no call, nothin'.

What the hell's the matter with these wusses? The only crew I can count on is me, my dad, and my partner. That's it. We use the best pieces of equipment we can for the job, but you still need bodies to operate 'em.

Is it like this for the rest of you guys?

BTW we pay $11/hr for guys who know what they're doing, which isn't bad money for young guys in these parts. So it 'aint the cash, it's the lack of intestinal fortitude.

GreenQuest Lawn
07-04-2001, 01:22 AM
Target the "hungry" people (as we call them). People with families, Lots of bills, ect. Also I would rather hire an older person than a young kid. Seems in this day and age young people(and not everyone) do not have the work ethic as 10+ yrs ago.

the first questions people seem to ask today is

1 how much money
2 how hard do I have to work
3 What time is lunch
4 what time do I get to go home
5 when do I get paid
6 When do I get a raise

These are all things I have heard working with the many, many people that were in my crew when I worked for another LC

I am teaching my 9 yr old good work ethics.

John Allin
07-04-2001, 02:16 PM
You guys are not alone.... it happens everywhere and not just in our industry. This topic is Major when our industry gatherings occur. As much as this hurts to hear... alot of this can be avoided in the interview process (assuming they show up for the interview)... we extol the benefits we offer, the career goals that they can achieve if they stick around, the fact that we are agressively growing and that opportunities abound for them if they stick it out.

Unfortunately, the turnover still persists, although at the foreman level that turnover is dramatically reduced (at least in our operation), although with foreman status comes increased benefits.

Front line turnover is still high... we don't have the answer's you seek, but we too are working at it.

Good luck.

07-04-2001, 03:58 PM
JA - good to hear from you. Must be having a great season...

I have to agree with John, in that the interview process is the best way to weed out the bad ones.

If they are a minute late for the interview without an earth-shattering reason, I don't hire them. If they are 10 minutes late, I leave, and let them figure out what happened.

If they ask GQL's questions # 2,3,4,6, they don't get the job. I like when they ask how many hours they are going to get. Q's 1&5 are appropriate questions for some point in the interview.

I also give them a wheelbarrow test. 400# of versa-Lok block in a wheelbarrow. They have to wheel it to a certain point in the yard, turn and come back. No makey, no jobby. I always wheel it there and back first, to sahow them it can be done. I was surprised at how many of the bad candidates this helped me to eliminate. The cocky ones sitting slack in the chair, seeming disinterested. Also touched few if any tools in their lives...I almost chuckle when they get that wheelbarrow to the end, try to turn amd it starts to dump. They do what they can to hold it up, but it's 400#. You aren't going to stop that from going over. Then those same kids are now pretty sheepish and can't get out of the interview fast enough.

I'll interview 10-20 people to hire one.

dan deutekom
07-04-2001, 06:18 PM
This buisness will always be plagued with high turn over in the entry level of employment. By the time a person makes foreman status he has proved himself and has learned what this industry is like. Landscaping is hard heavy work with lousy hours and not a fantastic pay. I agree 11.00 per hour isn't bad, but most landscapers don't pay overtime, or have benefits or regular year round work. When you compare this to the other industries that hire at the same or better wages, with regular hours, benefits and lighter physical work it only stands to reason that a lot of people would rather go there. It takes a speacial type of person to be a landscaper but they are out there you just have to find them and when you do, be good to them.

07-04-2001, 09:02 PM
Dan - "most landscapers don't pay overtime" - are the laws in Canada more lax than the US when it comes to OT?

In the US, you have 3 options: Pay OT for every hour over 8 per day, or every hour over 40 per week, or every hour over 80 per two weeks. Not paying OT is not an option. I'd find myself in a heap of trouble with the DOL or some thing if I didn't pay OT.

07-04-2001, 09:56 PM
Seeing my employers headaches in the day-to-day running of the welding company I work at, I often say to myself "I don't ever want employees................"

The welding business, particularly the kind of work we do (a mix of structural steel, miscellaneous metals & mobile welding & repair) is similar to landscaping in some respects: physically demanding, hours are often open-ended (2 examples: yesterday I went out to a local asphalt plant, they needed some repair work done right away on one of the track links on their o-l-d D-8. Started at 11:00 am, worked through till it was done at 2:30 pm & took lunch then. Today I got back at 6:45 this evening, an "emergency repair" was needed out at one of the nearby gravel pits (got the message from our office when I checked the phone at lunchtime, was working on a joists/metal deck roof). One of their "Eucs" (rock truck) decided to shed a wheel, required a bit of arc-air & welding to sew things back up. When they call, they don't mind paying the $ but they want you to stay 'till it's done. As well, hard-facing on the crusher is usually a Saturday job - pretty hard to weld in the crusher while it's crushin'!) & being able to think is a definite plus. So the turnover is there, plus with fewer people getting into the trade to start with there just aren't as many good people out there as we'd like. For the most part, those that are any good already HAVE jobs. Plus it's not the kind of trade you learn in a few weeks.

I'm quite happy where I'm working now (just remind me if you happen to catch me on a bad day! ;) ) and I currently have a "fringe benefit" of the custom paint job on "my" welding truck which I take home each night, but that had to be earned! A lot of people these days seem to think they should get that right off the start.

One of my employer's problems has always been getting people who can drive! Some had licenses & lost 'em, others have 'em but their driving record is spotty enough the insurance co. says "extra $ for them to be on the list".

Then there's the "equipment (lack of) care" factor. Not even going to GO there..................

Stonehenge: I'm not 100% up to speed on labour laws here vs the US, but I think part of what Dan was referring to is the fact that part-time & seasonal workers (at least here in Ontario) fall under a different set of rules than "regular" employees with regard to OT. In my field, we're OT after 88 hrs in a 2-week pay period, while some of the aggregate companies crusher crews ("seasonal") don't see OT until around 60 hrs in a week.

I think everyone here has good ideas: the interview process is important, and I like Stonehenge's "test". We have a similar idea, but geared towards reading a (simple) drawing & fabbing a (simple) part based on that info. Interesting how many ways a drawing can be interpreted................ And definitely, when you DO find someone good be good to them. Perhaps "be fair to them" is a better way of putting it.

Here's an idea for the ones who think everything should be handed to 'em: send them off for a few years truckin'! I did 3-1/2 years of THAT, makes me appreciate the job I have now................

07-04-2001, 10:07 PM
I hear the eqpt care issue - I bought a new rototiller yesterday and went to the yard to assemble it and test it today. When I opened the drawers on the ratchet set, I had to spend 20-30 minutes draining and drying what looked like a pint of water from the drawers. Someone must've left it out in the rain or something...

dan deutekom
07-04-2001, 10:07 PM
The laws in Ontario have a loop hole that lets landscapers get away with not paying for statutory holidays, and overtime. Most of the landscapers fall under the catagory of horticultural type workers or sod layers which have very little benefits. I don't know how landscape construction can be considered as time sensitive (as in perishable material) but most companies get away with it. Farming, growing nurseries, domestic help and several other catagories fall in this loophole to various degrees:mad:

07-05-2001, 12:12 AM
You guys need some "foreign labor". I have been dealing with the same employment issues you guys mentioned for years. Just this year I have gone through 3 white men.... they either were careless or stop showing up! About 2 weeks ago after my guy stopped showing up and me working 13 hours a day, 7 days a week to stay on top of my work I hired a mexican guy. He speaks not a word of english but let me tell you... hes the best dam worker ive ever had! I show him how to do something once.... and hes perfect. He's extremly motivated and very willing to learn. I think it all comes back to the point that he has repsonsibility... He came to America about 3 months ago for opertunity and he sure as hell acheiving it! He has a wife and 4 kids back in Mexico to support. He dosnt drive but me picking him up every day is a small price to pay for an employee who is repsonsible, does a great job, very hard worker and i can trust! I think the key to hiring at this point is finding someone who depends on the income from you to survive.... a 22 year old still living at home aint gonna bust his ass..... for what? My guy does the work of about 3 white men and is very greatful to have the job.... I have to force him to eat lunch evryday.... he dosnt want to stop working!

07-05-2001, 01:02 AM
This problem is everywhere not just landscaping. These boys come out of 13 years of public schooling wiht everything being handed to them and then all of the sudden they are throw into the real world and it scares them.

Had an 19 y.o. show up at a jobsite a while back. Said he was a carpenter and would like to work for me. (he was currently a pizza delivery driver)

His demands:
$18/hr 40 hours per week min. rain or shine.
5 weeks paid vacation
health, dental, and eye insurance.
company vehicle.
profit sharing plan.

I told him I leave him with KC my foreman and check back after lunch to see what he was worth. Came back. Kids gone. Left after an hour. Called him at home to see what happened. He said KC wanted him to work and it was hot out so he left. I told him he could stop by and we would cut him a check for $10 and he had the balls to ask me if I could drive over and give it to him.

07-05-2001, 06:37 PM
Stonehenge: As far as overtime up here, when we get a weekday holiday (like Canada Day) we ask our employees if they want to work or not. For regular pay. We won't pay overtime. If they agree, then it's ok as far as revenue canada (our IRS) is concerned. Same goes for overtime. We let 'em know when they've hit 44hrs for the week. If they want to work extra hours for regular pay, no problem. If they'd rather go home, not problem either.

You know what my theory is on the lack of work ethic for young guys? Video games. I'm only 31, but when I was a kid we got 13 channels on TV and had to physically get up and turn the dial to change it from Six Million Dollar Man to Barney Miller. Our video games were Pong and that crappy shooting range game with the fake cowboy gun.

We didn't care 'cause we were never inside anyway. Every day I would run home from school, grab my hockey stick (Proud Canadian that I am) and run over to my buddies house to play road hockey 'till supper. Then I'd run home again. Depending on the time of year, I'd tune in a ball game or hockey game if one was on then hit the sack.

Today's kids are all fat and pimply and sit for hours in front of video games downstairs in the basement. No wonder they don't want to work.

We don't schedule formal interviews, instead I call each prospect up on the phone "interview" them for about 5 minutes. One of the questions I always ask is what sports they play. If they don't play any then chances are pretty good they'll be uncoordinated and weak. After I've narrowed it down to a couple guys I'll tell them to come in for a day 'cause I gotta see them in action to tell if they'll be able to do it or not.

That's the best I can do interview-wise when I'm also working in the field every day. No time for hand holding, throw 'em into the fire first day and see if they can stand the heat.

Unfortunately most can't.

dan deutekom
07-05-2001, 07:06 PM
I always look at a mans hands when I interview them. You can always tell a real working man by his hands

07-05-2001, 10:14 PM
This is the downside of an economy where unemployment rates are under 2 per cent. The ones without any job are jobless for a reason (see above posted experiences) and the rest are looking to improve upon their present positions, hence the inquiries about vacation, salary rate, etc.

07-06-2001, 01:09 AM
Id have to disagree, i dont think the problem is video games, and we only had 4 channels when i was a kid. There are good employees out there but you have to just get lucky to find them i think. Mine are great, but had many bad ones before them. Most of the questions people talked about asking in an interview are close to the ones you would ask while doing an estimate for a new customer.

07-11-2001, 01:55 AM
get mexican

i am going to for next year even if i have to get H2b workers

07-12-2001, 12:27 AM
Ive seen both American and Hispanic good and bad

It rained today real hard, Hispanic helper said no work today?!..
I said dont worry the skies will clear up, (and they did in 2 hours)just hang loose stay in the garages and clean up, sharpen this and that etc,, theres plenty of things to do

He decided to go home instead,,,, haaa wait till he shows up tomorrow

hes on my scrap page now

07-12-2001, 10:39 PM
I have the same luck as everyone here finding good prospects, but once I find one I know how to keep him/her. I offer health insurance, retirement, paid vacation, I give yearly bonuses, and I trat them fair. I make sure to tell them when they have done well. I challenge their minds and their backs. I admit when I sctrew up. And, I cut them some slack when they screw up and work to fix it the next time.
I was really struggling three years ago with this issue, but then I decided to change my attitude. A good guy is more valuable than anything else in this business so I'll do whatever it takes to get and keep them. Once I have them my quality consistency and reliability all improve. Then I can raise my prices. I'm one of the more expensive landscapers in our area, and the price is increasing all the time.

07-21-2001, 02:32 AM
Your problem is why I now work by myself at the age of 38. The people I used were so slow I almost worked harder with them than without. It just didn't pay. I am self-motivated, so I do the work (not bragging, just true) of at least two "employee types". When you factor in decent pay, insurance, etc, it's just not worth the hassles. In my humble opinion, the only people who make money hiring others to do this kind of work are:

1. hiring relatives or friends, and have a good setup
2. paying low wages to alien workers doing simple tasks
3. paying people "off the books" illegally
4. hiring illegal aliens (see both of above)
5. cutting corners with quality, not keeping promises to customers, (charging for weekly mows, coming every 10 days or so, etc, etc)
6. hiring in an area with a generally poor economy where there is still a demand for this type of job.

I gross $300/day alone. I gross $390/day with a helper. Helper costs me $100. I lose $10 for their "help".

I hire two guys to do a route. They gross $300/day. They cost me $220/day. I make $80...MINUS callbacks for poor job, no-shows, etc. I'd have to have 4 crews running to replace my income from working alone. If I wanted to sit in an office and deal with hassles, I'd have my old corporate job still.

The only solution I can think of would be to hire someone REALLY good and motivated and pay for performance. That means paying a guy $35,000 a year if he works hard enough. I doubt this hypothetical employee would be easy to find. Motivated people usually wind up working for themselves.

It may be anti PC to say so, but I believe immigrant workers are not suited for fast-paced mow/blow/go type mowing. Their work pace and desire for social interaction at work aren't compatible with this type of service. Laying sod, sure, but mowing a lawn in 15 minutes and driving to the next job, over and over again...no. I routinely beat 3 man crews in side-by-side mowing in neighborhoods. I have to work harder to do this, never wasting a motion, and it means I can't work 12 hours a day, but I don't think immigrants are the solution people think they are. They will become 'infected" with the lazy ways of Americans soon enough, and then what will happen?

Oh yeah. YOu can thank modern media and television for the lack of people willing to "get dirty" and work nowadays. You're seen as a failure if you have to do something besides work with computers. Most yuppie parents wouldn't LET their boy mow lawns.

I have a college degree and was even a Mensa member, but you should see the looks I get from people when they find out what I do for a living. It's like I have leprosy. No wonder nobody "good" wants to work in this field. Americans respect only money. Unfortunately, the immigration wave took the feet right out from under domestic workers in this field who would be averaging $20/hour otherwise (it's simple supply and demand for labor, folks) I bet a few more good applicants would show up for that kind of money.