Should I hire mid-level managers with no green-industry experience?

Read Time

5 minutes


Kim Oswalt


Dec 8, 2021

Should I hire mid-level managers with no green-industry experience?

What requirements did you include in your last job posting?

When it comes to hiring midlevel employees, landscape businesses tend to require at least a few years of industry experience. The green industry isn’t alone in this, but the nature of the labor market makes finding these workers especially difficult.

That’s why landscape companies often decide to hire internally when looking to fill managerial roles—promoting a high-performing crew member, for example.

The problem with this approach to adding managers is that the skill sets are often wildly different. The things that made an employee a great arborist might not make them a great supervisor.

(And when you want to retain your best workers, it’s impossible to overstate the importance of quality supervision—as they say, people leave managers, not jobs.)

This doesn’t mean landscape business owners can’t promote internally, or that quality employees can never move between roles. With the right training and disposition, that arborist just might turn out to be one of the best managers on your team.

Often, though, you need to look outside your own walls to find top talent. And that’s difficult when the pool of potential employees is limited and competitive.

So what’s the solution?

You want managers who can do their job well with minimal oversight and—ideally—be happy at your company for at least a few years. (If turnover is a problem for you, check out our free ebook on recruitment and retention for landscape businesses.)

If promoting internally or only recruiting managers from other landscape companies is holding you back, perhaps it’s time to consider opening your jobs up to a wider pool of applicants. Removing the industry experience requirement from your job listings gives you instant access to people with the skills you need, who just haven’t worked in landscaping yet.

Is it risky to hire outside the landscape industry?

We tend to think people who have worked in our industry before will turn out to be better employees. After all, they already know the terminology, understand the services, and can jump in immediately.


While there are certainly benefits to hiring people from inside the green industry, it’s not as scary as you might think to bring on skilled workers from other fields.

In fact, employees who are new to landscaping can bring additional perspectives and ideas that make them even more valuable to your company.

An important caveat to this approach is that it definitely won’t work for all your job postings. For many midlevel and senior roles (landscape architecture and design, for example), a background or degree is necessary for success. For midlevel managers, though, specialized, industry-specific knowledge isn’t usually required, and most of what’s needed can be picked up in no time.

What should I include in my job postings?

Good managers share some core, non-industry-specific skills.

To broaden your labor pool, focus on qualities the best candidates for managerial roles share, no matter what field they’re from.

Soft skills like communication, conflict resolution, and problem solving translate easily between industries and often mean the difference between good and bad supervisors. The best managers are also self-motivated, adaptable, quick-to-learn, and trustworthy.

In your recruiting strategy, make sure to include these types of skills in the open positions you post on your careers page, social media, LinkedIn, and other job sites. As you evaluate resumes during the hiring process, look for examples that reflect excellent soft skills in addition to technical competence.

As you create or rework your job descriptions, think about the key tasks to be accomplished by a particular role. Will the new landscape employee do a lot of project management? Data analysis? Budgeting? Report building? Performance reviews?

Once you know what activities they’ll be responsible for day-to-day, you can work backward to identify the types of skills that lead to success in those areas.

How can I turn outsiders into insiders?

One of the biggest challenges landscape contractors see to hiring outside the industry is the learning curve.

Business owners are afraid of hiring someone, then having to wait around for months while the new employee learns the ropes. A full-time staff member is a serious investment, and it’s understandable to want to see fast returns.

The good news is that, with the right systems and processes in place, midlevel managers from any sector can hit the ground running almost immediately.

Here’s some tips for preparing your landscape business to turn outsiders into insiders:

  • Create a training kit
  • Use a business management system
  • Assign online classes
  • Encourage questions
  • Create a buddy system

Create a training kit

A good onboarding package can be used for every new hire and adapted to fit the candidate’s experience and role.

If you don’t have an official training process (or it isn’t well documented), this is a great time to create one. (For tips on how to conduct good trainings, see this article.)

In addition to information about your company, add resources that provide background knowledge about the green industry. This could be something original created by your team, or it could be compiled from existing content online—like that offered by the National Association of Landscape Professionals (NALP).

Use a business management system

Using an end-to-end business management system like Aspire is one of the easiest ways to broaden your hiring pool.

User-friendly, cloud-based software that lets you manage every corner of your business (from estimating and scheduling to purchasing, invoicing, reporting, and job costing) gives new managers instant access to the tools they need.

With the ability to create templates, bidding kits, and dashboards, Aspire allows landscape contractors to set up a customized system any employee can use with ease.

Assign online classes

Online courses like those offered by Greenius provide another excellent method to introduce new hires to the world of landscaping.

With Greenius, you can choose from over 50 courses (in English and Spanish) on equipment, supervision, and health and safety. Administrators can assign specific courses to specific employees and even require job applicants to complete certain courses as a condition of hiring.

Encourage questions

To help all employees be successful, create a company culture where asking questions isn’t just accepted—it’s rewarded.

While this benefits your entire organization, it’s particularly helpful for new team members working to conquer the learning curve.

To help foster this kind of environment, talk about past mistakes, times when questions weren’t asked that should’ve been, and situations where asking for clarification had a positive impact.

Create a buddy system

Lots of companies are adopting buddy systems that pair new hires with existing employees.

The idea is to give new team members a safe, easy method to ask questions they might not want to ask their supervisor. It’s also a great way to help employees build relationships with colleagues from the very beginning.

These examples can help you bring new hires from outside the landscaping world up to speed quickly, allowing you to expand your recruiting efforts to a much broader pool of job seekers year-round.

In a competitive job market, opening up the requirements in your listings can help you get a greater number of high-quality applicants.

You just have to put the right tools and systems in place first.

Want more hiring tips for the lawn care and landscape industry? Download our free ebook, Level up your HR efforts, below.

Download white paper

See what Aspire can do for you
Schedule your free demo today
Aspire-Hero-Homepage-Product-Mockup-Dashboard 2 Schedule Demo
twitter-share-icon facebook-share-icon linkedin-share-icon