January 15, 2018
Tony DiGiovanni CHT
LO Executive Director

Attraction and retention of employees is by far the most serious issue affecting our profession. Yet at the same time, all forecasts point to continued growth. Labour is the limiting factor to an even brighter future unless we all take action within our individual spheres of influence.

What can you and I do to ensure we continue to attract, motivate and retain the employee partners we need? In his book, Drive: The Surprising Truth About What Motivates Us, authour Daniel H. Pink outlines behavioral research on what motivates people. Pink tells us that although sufficient remuneration is very important, there are three other factors that inspire, encourage and nurture us: autonomy, mastery and purpose.

Anything you can do to give employees some autonomy over their work helps make their job more satisfying and helps you as an employer. Micromanaging does not work — it is exhausting for both parties. Why is it that a franchisee owner will work much harder than an employee? Autonomy is a powerful motivator. Recently, we asked some second year business students how to make the horticulture profession more attractive to young people. The overwhelming answer was to focus on the entrepreneurial qualities of the work. This is food for thought. How can we structure our jobs so that our employees can tap into the entrepreneurial spirit that drives you as the business owner?

According to Pink, mastery is also a huge driving force. Knowledge and skill builds enthusiasm and positive attitudes. When someone is highly-skilled, others take notice. Self-confidence comes from constantly getting better and improving. Building a culture of training and mastery in your business will pay off for everyone on your team and especially for your customers.
Purpose gives meaning to our lives. We are in a special profession that enhances the lives of everyone we work for, as well as the generations to come who we will never meet. Our profession makes people happy. We are stewards of the environment. It is important to communicate purpose by what we do and who we are. Your employees are more likely to be happy if they feel they are part of that larger purpose.

We can also learn about motivating employees by understanding what they hate about their jobs. Below is a summary of those hates from a recent survey:
  • No flexibility when necessary which results in work/family responsibility conflict, lack of a work/life balance.
  • Lack of motivation/sense of purpose/meaning.
  • Lack of self-fulfillment.
  • Unresolved personal issues.
  • Unable to manage time/stress/expectations.
  • Unable to negotiate.
  • Lack of leadership/direction.
  • Toxic co-workers or having to deal with a toxic boss.
  • Gossip, entitlement and lack of gratitude.
  • Continuously being required to do more work in less time.
  • Lack of decision making from the team.
  • “Feeling stuck,” not a lot of opportunity for new challenges or continued education.
  • Micromanagers and/or an over-controlling boss.
  • Outdated human resources policies for vacation, attendance, flex scheduling.
  • Bosses messing up the employee’s mood with hurtful measures and attitudes/can never be satisfied.
  • Lack of empathy: a boss who never asks how an employee is doing (not only at work but in general, as a person).
  • Poor compensation.
  • Lack of interest in the employees’ security or fear of being expendable.
  • Little space for creativity.
  • People not willing to put in effort to make a meaningful contribution, but constantly looking for ways to maximize their visibility in the system by doing minimal work.
  • A lot of talk on values, but reluctance to put them into practice.
  • Interdepartmental rivalries and secrecy.
  • Lack of team spirit or of working together for a common goal.
  • Lack of enthusiasm and passion for a project.
  • Boredom.
  • Not being valued, efforts not recognized or realizing your full potential.
  • Appraisals with meaningless action points just for the sake of it.
  • Working ridiculous hours and having to negotiate lieu time.
  • Repetition. Doing the same things over and over again.
  • No training or improvement opportunities.
  • No growth. Stagnation in terms of knowledge and projects.
  • Lack of recognition of accomplishments.
  • Not being treated as an individual.
  • Impatient co-workers.
  • Not being able to take initiative, employer distrust in employees.
  • Not being able to see the bigger picture (i.e. work within the greater context).
  • Communication issues: how people communicate with one another, ideas are not heard, dishonesty in communications.
  • Work places are just task-centered and result-oriented (rather than places for relationship-building).
  • Nepotism means ideas are not weighed on merit.
  • Not having a team feeling. Bad morale. Being talked to in a parent-like voice.
  • Lack of clarity on responsibilities.

There were over 50 pages of survey answers. Here is a word cloud of the top 50 words used. It is instructive to relate the reasons that employees hate their jobs to the three motivators (autonomy, mastery, purpose) in Daniel H. Pink’s book.

Attraction and retention of employees is the key to a bright future. Years ago, I was at a human resources lecture and the instructor ended his talk by saying, “Look in the mirror and ask yourself, ‘would you work for you?’” This is great advice.

Tony DiGiovanni may be reached at tony@landscapeontario.com.