4 Minute Read

Employee onboarding is a critical (but often neglected) aspect of managing a landscape business.

Your approach to training new crew members and office staff sets the foundation for the remainder of those relationships. Using their first few days well can help you keep employees longer, which benefits them and your company.

Before jumping into some of the key steps for successful onboarding, here’s a few things to keep in mind:

  1. Onboarding starts before Day One
  2. Employee training should be structured, but not “one size fits all”
  3. While the pace changes, training is ongoing

Onboarding starts before Day One

Many companies see an employee’s first day at work as the start of the onboarding process. To be successful, though, onboarding should start much earlier—as soon as the employee is hired.

Think about a time you started a new job. Did you know where to go on your first day? What time to arrive? How to dress and what to bring with you (or leave behind)? If so, it’s because someone gave you that important information before you were officially employed by the company.

To set crew members and office staff up for success, landscape businesses need to prepare well. Whether you have a dedicated human resource manager, consultant, or other administrator, taking the time to create a thorough onboarding program can help ensure employees start their tenure with your company feeling confident and prepared, instead of anxious and uncertain.

Employee training should be structured, but not “one size fits all”

Having onboarding procedures helps maintain a consistent, reliable approach. While this kind of structure is helpful, it’s important not to become too rigid.

The goal should be helping new staff feel comfortable and empowered, not just checking items off a to-do list. Try to stay flexible and consider each employee’s unique needs. Maybe a new account manager needs extra time to read up on estimating best practices. Or a crew member can only work part-time for the first three weeks while he wraps up another commitment.

Structure is great, but it should be used to serve the needs of your team—not the other way around.

While the pace changes, training is ongoing

Finally, training shouldn’t stop when the onboarding process is officially complete. Prioritizing professional development for your staff and crew members keeps them engaged and increases productivity.

This can take many different forms—from safety seminars or management training to college programs or online courses like those offered through LinkedIn Learning, Coursera, or Greenius.

Tools like Greenius can also make getting new workers up to speed a lot easier. You could even consider building some of their courses into your training process for employees to complete during their first few weeks.

With those three guidelines out of the way, it’s time to see how we can create an onboarding program that boosts employee retention.

Create a training roadmap

A training roadmap helps standardize your onboarding processes. If you don’t already have one, take some time to put together a list of everything that needs to happen for new employees. If you already have a training manual or similar document, consider reviewing it to make sure it includes some of the best practices below.

To get started, think through everything new employees need (computer access, internet accounts, phone, email, desk space, name badge, business cards, etc.). Then, make a list of important information they’ll need to know (like printer codes or instructions for operating certain equipment). Next, write down any special activities and meetings that need to happen within their first few weeks. Finally, combine all those data points in a “roadmap” that can be used to direct the process and assign responsibility for key tasks (like printing business cards or setting up an email account).

For help creating an onboarding checklist, check out some of the free templates from Smartsheet, Process Street, or HR Cloud.

Conduct regular check-ins

There’s nothing worse than starting a new job and immediately feeling like you’re stranded on an island.

Holding daily check-ins with a new staff member may feel excessive, but it can help smooth the transition and improve accountability. Whether the person checking in is their manager, a buddy, or an HR representative, it’s important to have someone who regularly sits down with new employees to see how things are going, answer questions, and provide direction.

Use time wisely

It’s easy for managers to get caught up with other tasks and unintentionally leave new employees twiddling their thumbs—or struggling through work they’re not adequately prepared for.

To prevent this, make sure anyone who supervises crews or office staff plans detailed schedules for new employees. Schedules can include unsupervised time, but they should also involve meetings with relevant colleagues, watching training material, or taking on specific projects. Start with small assignments, providing constant feedback as they gradually transition to full job responsibilities.

Implement a buddy system

A buddy system is just what it sounds like. It pairs a new employee with a current employee, fostering relationships that help the newcomer feel more at home.

Staff may feel more comfortable talking to a peer than they would talking to a supervisor—especially one they don’t know yet. When it’s done well, a buddy system can forge strong bonds between employees, helping them stay personally connected to your company.

Generally, a buddy should be from the same department or work in a similar area. (Crew members could be buddies, for example, but probably wouldn’t want to be buddies for a new accounting employee.)

Explain the “how” and the “why”

Onboarding can be filled with a lot of how-tos, and it should be. After all, you need to know the specifics of when to show up, how to access certain programs or use specific pieces of equipment, where to clock in and out, where to park, etc.

But those things, while necessary, aren’t all that inspirational.

What’s inspirational—and will draw new staff members in—is your company’s story. They should know a bit about who you are as a business and what makes you unique from the interview process, but take it a step further. They’re part of the team now, so help them feel like it. Show how the work you do is important because it improves people’s lives, makes the world more beautiful, creates safe spaces for families, or provides opportunities for staff to learn and grow.

When it comes to training, don’t focus so much on the “how” that you neglect the “why.”

Make it fun

Last but not least, don’t forget to have some fun with your employees! They’re going to spend a lot of time on the job, so setting a friendly tone early on can help.

You could take them to lunch during their first week, throw an office happy hour to welcome them, or send a surprise gift to their house when they accept the job. Whatever you choose, taking the time to get to know them as person as well as a staff member can improve the quality of your working relationship.

 

Investing in good training practices pays off with happier, more productive, more engaged employees. And when they stick around longer, it saves you time and resources that would otherwise have to be invested in training someone new.

For more advice on upping your landscape company’s HR game, download our free ebook below.

Download white paper