Recruiting 911

Features - Labor

Filling empty seats at your snow ops is a full-time job. Here’s the low down on how to foster a successful employee recruitment program.

We’re nearing summer’s endpoint and all I’m hearing from around the industry is a cacophony of professional contractors repeating the mantra: “I cannot find enough people to staff my needs.” Sound familiar? I’m guessing you’ve uttered this same phrase at some point this summer, if not throughout the first half of 2021.?Likewise, it’s not unusual for me to lend counsel to contractors who relay scenarios that sound like this: “I just hired four people and three left after two days, and the fourth never showed up.” Yes, as an industry (both white and green) we find ourselves in quite the labor pickle, frustrated not only by the lack of qualified candidates, but the enormous time, energy and costs with hiring, training, and retaining new workers.

In today’s economic environment the search for employees is a 24/7 job and for many business owners and managers the situation has become critical. Here are some ideas and suggestions to assist you in fostering a successful employee recruitment program.

Seed Sowing.

You must always be sowing seeds to cultivate potential candidates. Therefore, I recommend the pursuit of hungry, humble, smart, and physical people.

Great Training.

People strive to better themselves and you can offer that by providing training that imparts real-world skills, such as heavy machinery operation. Your training and coaching should offer the ability to enter at the ground floor and ascend to the next level. Now, many business leaders fear investing in individuals who will only take those new-found skills to another employer (or competitor). While that is a risk, you’re investment has an equal chance of fostering not only loyalty, but a clear path for promotion and success that retains talent for the long term.


You may not know this but your snow and ice management company is a living small business laboratory and this is very appealing for students who have their sights set on being an entrepreneur. The very same challenges you experience everyday in operating and maintaining your business are invaluable real-world lessons to college interns.

To get started, identify two or three local colleges or universities and work with them to set up the internship program at your company. Not only can they assist in what is expect of an internship, but they can funnel you qualified student candidates – individuals who really want to learn. In addition, networking with local schools is a good way to access fresh talent and future hires. 

Job Postings.

As you’re well aware, help-wanted classifieds are nearly extinct in today’s business environment. Employment searches – whether seeking a job or doing the hiring – for the most part begins and ends online. And this starts with your website. Through photos and testimonials, make sure your website accurately reflects the scope of your operations and your commitment to excellence. And if you want an edge of your competition, get creative with videos that reflect your company’s passion for the industry. Remember, in today’s economic environment there’s not much difference between seeking clients and recruiting talent. So always put your best digital foot forward. ?

And while you’re at it, keep tabs on what your competitors are doing on their websites to recruit new talent to their ops. You may learn some important lessons.

Non-Industry Folks.

Start to think outside the box about potential sources for job candidates and you’ll begin to realize other allied industries could provide a link to those seeking jobs or new employment opportunities. Here are a few ideas that may prove to become your greatest pool for potential candidates. Always work your network.?

    Church job boards 
    Flea markets 
    Sporting events 
    Other service-oriented businesses

Businesses have used headhunters – professional firms who seek out talent for their clients – for decades and with much success. However, I suggest employing a recruiter when filling account manager and upper-management positions. Likewise, seek a recruiter who has experience with or focuses solely on the snow and landscape industries.


Establish an incentive program that pays a finder’s fee to existing team members who recruit viable candidates who are then hired. For example:

    For Laborers $500 - $750 
    Crew Leader $750 - $1,000
    Account Managers $1,000 - $1,500 

Sources. Remember to tap friendly customers and vendors about potential available talent. In this business environment everyone has staffing issues, so it’s not a sign of weakness to ask a client if there’s anyone looking for an employment opportunity who may be a good fit for your company. And one day, perhaps they’ll reach out to you to return the favor. Likewise, visit every retail nursery, garden center and big-box store in your market. These are great places to scout out candidates and referrals.

Industry Events.

This doesn’t need to be said, but never leave the house or office without an ample supply of business cards. And this goes for attending industry events, whether they’re trade shows or local association mixers. Industry events are great opportunities to not only get a feel for who’s open to a job opportunity, but also to get the word out that you’re hiring. Try to gather as many business cards from potential recruits as you hand out.

Remember, while we are in an extremely difficult hiring environment, this won’t last forever. That said, recruiting employees isn’t a full-time job. It’s an all-time job. Now get out there and grab your snow ops some talent. 

Fred Haskett coaches green and white industry owners as Head Harvester with the Harvest Landscape Consulting Group. He is also a frequent Snow Magazine contributor.