7 Landscape Trends for 2016
Labor Crisis Continues for Landscapers
The landscape industry contributes 30% of their revenue to wages in 2015 (IBIS World). With that in mind, the biggest limit in the industry is the lack of labor/quality employees. Owners can no longer rely on temporary foreign workers due to ongoing government intervention which has disabled the ability to rely on this labor force. The quality of work has never been more important in a hyper-competitive environment that is fighting for employees that attain multi-skilled attributes. Lawn & Landscape has reported that 56% of companies have open positions in the industry, contributing to the issue of employment.
The skills gap with youth employment remains a large concern and the ability to retain key employees is a top priority. With 53.7% of businesses considered to be micro with less than four employees, owners must ensure that their hiring process is efficient (IBIS World). Many managers look for 3 key things when deciding to hire:
- Quality of Work
- Customer Service
- Relationship with person
Creating a process to attain, train, retain, and entertain staff employees can open the door to building a team for the long term. To attract and retain employees, companies must give a reason beyond compensation to be an attractive place to work. The culture and environment can solidify a common understanding between the hierarchies of a business. As a result, allowing employees voices to be heard can go a long way as one accommodates the needs of their workforce.
As the trend of labor struggles continues, the ability to onboard and train new employees is essential to the quality of a landscaping business. Putting strategies in place to bring on summer students, part-time workers, or 3-month contracts can mitigate the room for error on jobs. Looking further down the road, the struggle for quality employees looks to continue as we move into 2016.
More Recruitment and Retention Programs for Landscapers
With compensation alone not being enough to retain employees, owners are now investing in recruitment and retention programs to help solve labor issues.
When looking at recruitment strategies, owners should be looking all year long:
- Understand the roles that are needed, some may require different tactics for recruitment.
- One must sell their company, use social networks as described above as a recruiting tactic to showcase the workplace as welcoming and attractive.
- Companies should use regional, provincial, and national trade associations specific to the industry to gain further resources to find existing workers in the industry.
Looking at retention programs, owners in the landscape industry are looking at multiple ways to keep their employees. Here are a few ideas that are being implemented today:
- Rewards: Landscapers are giving incentives to their employees, gift cards to coffee shops, nights out for dinner, and other ways to remind them that their work is impactful in the field. This will further motivate workers to deliver quality jobs along with building personal relationships with owners.
- Small wins: Companies with successful retention programs have short-term, attainable milestones, for their employees. Long term goals are great, but creating little milestones will turn employee perspective from “were never going to get there” and into “we could actually do this.”
- Constant Reviews: Successful landscape companies have one on one reviews with employees to keep them informed and heard by their manager or owner. Keep in mind that these reviews are not dictated by a checklist and are lead just as much by the employee as the employer; this is an opportunity for both parties to talk about the present and future of the company.
- Don’t be Afraid to Change: Companies adapt to accommodate their employees to keep them happy. Policies around operations are being created as a collective group. They readdress and reiterate decisions to ensure complaints are addressed.
Landscaping Businesses are Going Mobile
Mobile has inevitably become a part of everyone’s business. With 8 out of 10 contractors using a smartphone for work (IBIS World), owners are looking to optimize mobile tools for their business. Mobile opens the door to various opportunities to improve operations, communication, lead generation, and marketing.
Creating a mobile friendly environment has been beneficial for landscapers. The ability to communicate internally, schedule on the go, and collect payments through mobile devices has accelerated the workflow for landscapers. As a result, this has made businesses more efficient and profitable. Mobile service software has changed the way landscapers do business, moving past text messages, google maps, and calling on the go. This is especially important for workers in landscaping with flexible schedules, various details for jobs, and moving from property to property on a daily basis.
The technological landscape is rising for the industry, with owners having to catch up and make sense of all the noise. Breaking through the clutter and taking the time to find the right programs, software, and tools for your company will contribute to the success of your business for the long term.
Many landscape companies today are currently going through mobile options to help their business. For example, some questions they ask themselves are as follows:
- Do I need mobile tools for my business?
- Are my employees already using their cell phones in the field?
- How much time will it take to set it up?
- Does the benefit outweigh the cost?
By looking at the trends in the industry, the main question landscapers are now asking themselves is: When and how should I implement mobile into my business? The industry has moved past ‘if’ they should, and is now geared towards testing different mobile tools for their internal operations.
Landscapers Using Social Networks as a Business Tool
Owners within the landscape industry are beginning to experiment with the potential of social networks supporting their business operations. With low barriers of entry in the landscaping industry, competition is always high. Landscapers are beginning to experiment with social media to see if additional online exposure can give their business an edge. As a result, in 2015, 60% of landscapers are on Facebook alone (IBIS World).
What are landscapers doing through social networks? Mainly they are solidifying their credibility, interacting with customers, showcasing their work, and gaining reviews for their services on popular online channels like Yelp. Many enjoy taking pictures of their completed work and posting it through the three main social media channels for landscapers: Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, and Instagram.
Consumers look to the internet to validate their purchasing decisions. With landscaping, it is no different, and having places for them to land is important. Whether that be a Yelp review, your personal website, or your social media channels, a company should have content that is ready to impress. In addition, using jobs in the field as an opportunity to connect through social media can be beneficial. It will keep a company top of mind when they refer services to friends and family. Furthermore, requesting an online review after a job is done in the field can help a landscaper control the inflow of positive reviews that they can receive.
The Economy and Landscape Prices Continue to Correlate
Along with the economy, a boost in construction activity and investment in household maintenance has allowed landscapers to boost prices. The industry is seeing 63% of landscapers charging more for services now than they did 3 years ago (Lawn & Landscape). In addition, an increase in prices inevitably gives larger profit margins to owners.
Pricing is crucial. Negotiation has become commonplace and strategies vary when raising prices. For an in-depth look at these strategies, take a look at Lawn & Landscape’s take on the issue in their state of the industry report.
Landscapers rely upon redesigns of garden areas and maintenance of commercial and residential properties that are created directly from the demand of construction. In addition, you compete with the Do-It-Yourself (DIY) attitude that consumers leverage when negotiating prices.
A New Generation of Owners for Landscaping
The landscaping industry is being welcomed by a new generation of owners. With 25% of contractors looking to sell in the next 10 years (Lawn & Landscape), there is a major shift happening in ownership. With young leaders coming into the industry, they hope to put a strategy in place for long term stability.
With a younger leadership core, the industry will see an investment in innovation and technology to improve services, staff training, and revenue growth. The use of software in the field, mobile technology, and marketing tools to compete in an industry with large amounts of competition will be essential. Youth will learn from their predecessors and use it as leverage to assimilate new ideas and technologies into the industry. These leaders will lean on resources outside of their control to organize their businesses into a position of success.
Success factors in the industry look to remain, but the way in which they are implemented by young leaders will change. Having a high prior success rate to attain referrals, and testimonials are vital to company stability in the industry. Leaders will continue to focus on uptime and efficiency like the generations before them.
Yet, the pace in which work will need to be completed will rise thanks to new ownership. The demand and expectations will increase as customers are hand picking the services through reliable sources either in person or online. The time spent on administration, paper filing and manual invoicing will restrict companies to expand and survive. New owners are searching for secure automation and digital organization. These tools must be trusted to shift the next generation of owners to being focused on business development.
Customer Experience at the Forefront for Landscape Contractors
Looking at the year ahead, the customer experience will become 10 times more important than before. The clutter of service offerings continue, and competition that is hyper-targeted to geographic regions remains. Companies now view customer experience as an investment in strategic operations for growth and stability.
For homeowners, 69% perceive landscape installation as expensive (IBIS World). This creates a challenge for owners to deliver work that is worth the price that they set. On the other hand, 86% of homeowners enjoy outside space and 77% take personal pride in that space (IBIS World). Although this helps attaining work, it adds to the increased expectation of homeowners being given high quality results. In general, the industry does well in this regard, where 75% of these customers say that the work has increased the value of their home (IBIS World). Moving forward, the importance of a high prior success rate along with a positive customer experience enables a company to gain an advantage as a top of mind service provider in their region.
With the “age of the customer” approaching, owners need to be more cognizant of their customers. They must move past price and into the whole experience to add loyal customers in hope of further referrals. These referral rates and satisfaction ratings have a larger impact due to the online community growing within the industry. In summary, the work being completed, and the experience that the customer is exposed to, can be shared on a much larger scale than ever before. As a result, landscapers are putting customer experience at the front line of their business operations.