Unfortunately for us, 2022 has brought incredibly challenging economic conditions of high inflation and the continuation of labor shortages.
Our team is small but mighty, but our maintenance team in particular consists of only seven team members in the field. So last October, right before the peak of leaf season when we lost four maintenance team members in one month, we had no choice but to shut down our landscape construction division and devote all of our resources to maintenance.
Winter provided the down time we needed to hire team members and train them to our standards.
We hired two maintenance team members in January, one in February and two in March. For varied reasons, all five of those team members are no longer here.
One moved to Olympia for personal/family reasons. One had very poor attendance, was repeatedly late and, at the end, did not show up at all. One moved back to his hometown, also for personal/family reasons. The two hired in March who had never before worked professionally in this industry, decided it wasn’t for them.
Sometimes I got a two-week notice; sometimes I did not. Yet again, we’ve had to pull human resources from our landscape construction division in order to fulfill our maintenance schedule.
Even after all of the aforementioned losses, just this week, we were put in the position of having no other choice than to terminate an employee. And I learned on Monday that another is moving back to his home state.
After two hard years of all things Covid-related, this is by far the hardest time.
I am exhausting all resources to hire employees, but I cannot hire and train them quickly enough for the scheduling demands of this anxiety-inducing, wildly unprecedented moment in which every industry is in the same predicament of lacking an employee pool to hire from.
Restaurants are opting to close for lunch or dinner or take an extra day off. We’re also making hard decisions about how to move forward. Colby and I are fighters, and so we will fight to make things work. But even so, we cannot perform as if it is “business as usual” when it is not.
So what does this mean for our clients?
For our maintenance clients:
- It means that there will likely be weeks when we show up on a different day of the week, as opposed to the consistency you’ve come to expect from us.
- It means that we may have to prioritize high visibility areas in your landscape, at the expense of other areas in your landscape. This would be done temporarily, until we’re fully staffed. And once we’re fully staffed we will move as quickly as we can to get your entire site back in great shape.
- It means that you might see me at your site from time to time, QA’ing and doing what I can to provide additional labor.
- It does not mean that we will lower the standards of the type of employees we hire.
For our construction clients:
- It means that even when we’re able to provide a timeframe for a start date, that timeframe is “set in jello,” so to speak.
- It means that the projected timeline for your project will likely be longer, due to the uncertainty of our labor.
- It means that you will see Colby on your project, sometimes in the role of owner/foreman, but also in the roles of laborer and equipment operator.
- It does not mean that we will cut corners on your project.
For our potential clients (people waiting on a bid appointment or an estimate to be sent):
- It means we’re taking much longer to get bids sent off, primarily because Colby is our estimator and working in the field as a laborer much more than he’s had to in previous years.
- It means that we’re setting up fewer bid appointments and setting them up further out on the calendar.
Because we’ve never been in this position before, and because we’re managing uncertainty, most of the details of how things will work for us schedule-wise are to be determined. We’re waking up each day and making the best decisions we can for that day, based on our available human resources.
And if we’re scrappy enough, there’s always the possibility that you don’t even notice a change in our service or quality.
It brings some small sense of relief to know that we are not the only landscaping company experiencing this labor shortage. We’re friends with other small business owners in our community, and it’s not just our industry but all industries experiencing this same problem.
This situation cannot last forever and so we must be nimble and flexible with the necessary changes to get us through to the other side of this madness.
Thanks for your understanding.
Thanks for reading our blog. Northwest Construction & Landscape, LLC is a Kitsap County landscaping company that offers landscaping, decorative concrete and lawn maintenance services to homes and businesses across Kitsap and Pierce counties.