How to hire an employee for your landscaping business in 7 simple steps
You only have so much time in a day. Eventually, there is more lawn care to be done than you have time for—that's when you know it's time to hire an employee for your landscaping business.
However, taking on a new team member can have more benefits beyond easing your workload. It’s a great way to scale your business, offer more services, and bring more organization to your company.
1) How to know if it’s the right time to hire a new lawn care employee
Before you go through the steps of hiring, you must first decide if it's the right time to hire an employee. For example, complete a business health checklist and consider the following questions:
- Are you growing so fast you feel like you’re drowning in work?
- Do you have time to dedicate to training a new employee?
- Does your business provide services that leave customers happy?
- Is there enough cash flow to handle a short-term dip in profits?
- Do you have processes in place to manage and pay an employee?
New hires take time and money to properly onboard. You’ll need to take time away from client work to provide training, and your new employee won’t start at 100% efficiency—so your business should have enough cash reserves to make it through a short-lived profit loss.
But now might be an excellent time to bring in someone new if the business is booming and you need some relief. Or maybe you’re looking to free up time to work on your business instead of in your business.
2) Determine what type of landscaping employee is best
You may have dreamed about the day you’d hire help after starting your lawn care business, and you're ready to take the plunge. But first, you must determine what kind of employee you want to hire. You generally have 3 choices:
- Independent contractor
- Part-time employee
- Full-time employee
An independent contractor is probably the simplest way to get help in your landscape business. It's an excellent choice if you have an unusual uptick in clients, but it may not be the best option for long-term service and support.
A part- or full-time employee can provide consistency for you and your clients by minimizing delays and increasing customer satisfaction. Hiring an employee is also a great option if you're looking to transition out of fieldwork.
Before you go out looking for a candidate, you must be ready to:
- Train and manage a new employee
- Provide them payroll and benefits
- Follow federal and state legal requirements as an employer
But don't worry—we've got you covered. Keep reading to discover the next steps to hiring the best lawn care employee.
3) Find great candidates for your landscaping job
A great employee starts with finding the right candidates. Whether you’re hiring your first employee in California, Alabama, or Maine, you need to post a well-written job description in places it will be seen.
How business owners can write a great job posting
A job description explains the tasks, duties, and responsibilities of a role—including the landscaping equipment used. It not only helps an employee identify the work to be completed and how it should be done, but it also is a great measuring tool to ensure the employee meets expectations.
A well-written job description starts with research. First, identify the tasks you need help with and the skills an applicant might need. Are you looking for administrative skills? Or landscape design expertise? Or experience with landscape maintenance.
Once you have an idea of the job duties you need to fill, review job postings in your area to:
- Discover job titles that are popular with job seekers
- Identify landscape industry keywords and skills
- Compare pay rates to stay competitive
Choose your job title carefully—it's what candidates will see first and how they'll decide whether or not to apply for your open position. You should avoid buzzword titles like “Landscape Wizard,” “Lawn Care Rockstar,” or “Grass Mowing Ninja,” according to Indeed. Job seekers aren't likely to search for those terms, and using them does not give you an advantage over other small business employers.
According to the Society for Human Resources Management, you can also include the pay rate in your job ad. Putting the wage in your job posting can give you a competitive advantage when trying to attract candidates. That's because pay is a top factor job seekers look at before applying for an open position.
Best places to post your job ad to find landscape workers
The key to sourcing great candidates is knowing where to post your job ad. You might hang flyers around town or take out ads in the local paper, but don't forget about advertising your open job position online.
According to a Pew Research Center survey, 54% of Americans look for job information online, and 45% have applied for a job online. Keep in mind that where you post your job depends on the type of employee you're looking to hire. For example, a full-time job seeker may use job sites like:
Someone looking for a part-time role might use:
However, landscaper-specific job sites also exist. The National Association of Landscape Professionals powers LandscapeIndustryCareers.org.
Another option is to take advantage of landscape marketing and post your help-wanted ad on your social media accounts.
4) Choose your top talent
With any luck, you’ll have a stack of resumes and quality candidates. But now comes the hard decisions—after attracting employees to your small business, it’s time to narrow down your applicants:
- Screen resumes for required skills and experience
- Conduct phone interviews
- Schedule in-person interviews
You may be able to weed out a few candidates by checking for spelling errors on the application and comparing the skills and experience to what’s needed to complete the job tasks.
Scheduling phone interviews is another option—it can save time while also allowing you to double-check talents and gain insight into a job seeker’s personality.
After you screen job candidates, choose 3 to 5 to bring in for an interview. You might feel tempted to interview more than that, but too many interviews will only make the decision more difficult.
Many business owners are tempted to set up a time by email. Instead, call your interviewees on the telephone to set up a time—you’ll get to share your excitement about meeting them and gauge their interest, as well.
During the interview, the Small Business Association (SBA) recommends using the STAR method. STAR stands for Situation, Tasks, Actions, Results:
- Situation: For example, ask the candidate to describe a situation where they dealt with an upset coworker or customer.
- Tasks: What tasks were involved? Did they resolve it on their own or get others involved—and why.
- Actions: What actions did they take to resolve the situation?
- Results: What were the results of those actions? Was the problem effectively resolved?
You should also know that several types of questions are off-limits when interviewing landscape employees. According to the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunities Commission (EEOC), you should never ask questions about:
- Race, religion, or ethnicity
- Pregnancy or plans to start a family
There is one exception: If age is a legal requirement for a position or function of the job, you may ask about the applicant’s age. For example, if you’re looking for part-time summer help and hiring your first employee in Georgia, the Georgia Department of Labor has restrictions for minors under the age of 16.
5) Follow legal requirements and labor laws
Business owners must navigate the law and legal requirements at the state and federal levels. Federal regulations are standard—but state requirements vary by location. For example, depending on where you live, you may need a landscaping license to complete some landscaping jobs.
If you don’t already have a tax ID, you’ll need to register with the IRS when hiring an employee. It’s called an Employer Identification Number (EIN), and you can apply for it online and get it the same day.
You may also need to offer benefits to your staff. The Affordable Care Act (ACA) requires some employers to offer health insurance. However, you’re off the hook if you have less than 50 employees. Additionally, the Family and Medical Leave Act mandates you provide up to 12 weeks of leave per year.
6) Determine payroll and recordkeeping best practices
When onboarding your new hire, you’ll need to have a payroll system in place and follow recordkeeping best practices:
- You must keep employment records for 1 yearYou must keep payroll records for 3 years
- If you’re hiring your first employee in Texas, the state minimum wage is $7.25 per hour—the same rate as the federal minimum wage. However, Michigan’s minimum wage is $9.65.
Your payroll system—whether you do it by hand, use software, or outsource to an accountant or payroll company—must account for employment taxes:
- Federal income tax
- Social Security and Medicare taxes
- Additional Medicare tax
- Federal unemployment tax
- Self-employment tax
The IRS has a guide to employment tax due dates, so make sure to add the deadlines to your calendar.
7) Prepare for your lawn care employee’s first day
Finally! You made it through the hiring process! You’re ready to onboard your landscape employee to set them up for success with your company. You should have:
- A meeting point for their first day
- An employee handbook to give them
- A guide to quality standards and customer service protocols
- IRS Forms I-9 and W-4 for them to complete
Now is also a good time to review your onboarding process. Small business owners don’t usually hire very often. Put the lessons you learned, what worked, and what didn't in writing so you can easily reference it the next time you’re looking to hire an employee.
And remember: A new hire can help streamline your business. But you must ensure your business is set up legally and can handle the ongoing expense of payroll and other benefits. You should also consider landscaping insurance to protect you and your company from liability.