Building Your Superstar Workforce
Fall 2010

It may seem unconventional to most contractors, but right now is the best time to be hiring. While most landscape companies are reporting the need to lay-off staff as workloads decrease, now may be the best time to look for talented and dedicated employees.

As the available workforce continues to grow, with not only landscape companies, but also many different industries laying off workers, there is an ample supply of quality candidates to help you build your superstar workforce. Doing so now could help you to go further once more jobs start coming in.

Right now is the best time for contractors to start dipping into that deep labour pool to find the employees that can help them grow their businesses. Individuals from all industries are hungry for their next employment opportunity.

“There are two types of economies that we deal with,” explains consultant and former contractor Tony Bass. “In economy No. 1 it’s easy to get work. In economy No. 2 it’s easy to get people. Owners should now be thinking about building the best workforce that they have ever had in their company’s history.”

While now is an especially good time to be looking, contractors should be constantly evaluating their staff to be sure they are cut out for the job. “This is the time more than ever for you to evaluate your team and ask yourself the hard questions about individual performance and individual productivity,” says Bass.


To build your workforce, you need to know what to look for in a potential employee. While some might think already having the necessary skills is a green light to hire, you may want to stop and think more about the individual’s personality. “You are probably going to be looking for things like past work history and skills,” says Bass. “The reality is that skills are something that can be trained and taught. What you really want to look for is attitude and aptitudes.”

Using a resumé or application in your search for a new employee is great for gathering basic information, but won’t expose much about the applicant’s attitude toward work and learning. “You should never evaluate people based on their resumé alone because resumés are designed to hide flaws and make people look good,” explains Bass.

Asking the right questions during a phone or in-person interview can help in digging deep and learning about skill sets, as well as attitude. “Simple questions can reveal a lot about people,” says Bass. “Ask about the things your company does and the things you will need your people to do. Just looking at how people respond to this basic skills test can give you a great deal of insight rather than if you were looking at a resumé or application only.”

During the interview, study not only the applicant’s answers, but also their attitude. Individuals with a positive attitude, who are smiling happily during the interview, will usually make a better workforce than those who are negative.

A short phone interview before bringing the candidate in for a live interview can save time. Bass suggests giving them just five minutes over the phone to answer a few questions that could rule them out right away. Ask them why they would like to work as a landscaper, what gets them excited about work, or what makes them a top seller, if they are being considered for a sales position.

In their answers, look for positive responses about a job well-done and a sense of accomplishment. “With remarkable consistency, people who love the outdoors and look back at their work at the end of the day with satisfaction would likely be good people in the field,” says Bass.


Beyond a resumé, application and phone interview, there are some very effective tools available to help you build that superstar workforce. “I had no idea until I brought in an expert that there were tools available to make me a better evaluator of employees upfront,” says Bass. With the two tools outlined below, you can make better-informed decisions in less time.

The “Wonderlic Personnel Test” is an intelligence test that reveals what goes on in the potential employee’s mind. It sheds light on the person’s ability to take information, evaluate it and give a reasonable answer. There is a cost to use this tool, but Bass assures it is worth every penny. “It is a wonderful tool for someone trying to find value in the area of sales or management,” says Bass. “I didn’t use one for labourers, but when you start making decisions for management, senior management and sales, you need to have employee evaluation tools before you spend one minute of your time interviewing.”

Another tool, called the “Reliability Interview,” is a set of true or false questions. Once the interviewee answers all the questions, the answers are put into a computer program that tabulates the responses. It reports the likelihood that the person abuses drugs or alcohol, will have a safe work performance, and will be able to get along well with others.

“These are critical parts of whether or not a person is going to be an effective part of your organization,” says Bass. “And you save time not having to sit down and ask these questions yourself.”

Bass suggests seeing a human resource consultant to get the software and needed help in implementing it. A consultant can also help the overall hiring and interview process run smoothly.

Regardless of the state of the economy, you should never stop looking for people whose skills and abilities can improve your company. Knowing what to look for helps the process run smoothly. And taking the time now to find the right people to build your superstar workforce will help everything run more smoothly as business conditions continue to improve.

This article was provided by Contractor Success Guide
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