Mona Marie Research
A Study of Landscaping: A Millennial Perspective
Over the past five years, Mona Marie Research has been studying the commercial professional landscaping industry with acute attention to the labor shortage problem. During this time, the team has interviewed over 300 landscaping companies across 7+ states. Including distributors, sales representatives, suppliers, customers, potential employees, etc.
The H2B program is an unsustainable/unreasonable labor solution for small-medium sized companies. This is particularly true for commercial professional landscapers in rural communities.
1. Landscaping work has not been adopted in mass by young millennials and generation Z.
This problem is particularly relevant for repetitive tasks such as mowing, weedeating, trimmer, blowing, etc. Horticulture, irrigation, herbicides, sustainability, design, construction, and other activities requiring creativity are oftentimes the exception.
Some of the reasons for the disconnect with the up-and-coming generation may be obvious, others may not:
1.1 The work is physically demanding oftentimes in severe heat, many potential workers prefer technology and/or desk based jobs with trendy-flashy offices.
1.2 Many jobs are temporary, seasonal and dependent on weather conditions. This level of unpredictability in work schedule seems to be unfavorable to potential younger workers. Particularly for those interested in building a career.
1.3 There are considerable social changes, namely, increases in college-level education, highly skilled trades and the 'gig economy' (Uber, Lyft, Instacart, etc), that increases the landscapers' challenge. Further, there is an interest amongst millennial workers to engage in autonomous tasks, oftentimes with the experience as being their own boss and/or with an experience of entrepreneurship.
1.4 Some of landscaping work can include repetitive unrewarding tasks. There is a considerable, and growing interest, for individuals to work in tasks that are inline with their values, intersectional identities, and high social impact/mission - for many workers landscaping may not be inline with these areas.
The NALP Industry Growth Initiative of course is working to address many of these disconnects.
2. Individual landscaping companies struggle to grow their market share.
Many landscapers are hitting a proverbial ceiling in growing their revenue and market share due to limited labor supply within their market. The landscaping industry is extraordinarily fragmented with the top 50 companies making only 15% of the industry's revenue, yet the industry is growing at approximately 5%.
The fragmentation, yet industry growth, suggests a very important idea about the industry: the landscaping market demand is being fulfilled by more companies entering the landscaping industry to serve the growing need, as supposed to current business owners growing their market share - this is largely due to inadequate labor supply.
3. Labor costs are complex and multi-dimensional.
Many companies do not fully understand their labor costs nor the rate at which labor costs may continue to grow due to political and social pressure of economic inequality, quality health insurance, and competitive labor markets. Many tasks that employees complete have a 'true cost' double that of the employee's hourly wage when including the effects of overhead, equipment, travel, etc.
4. Maintenance is not a differentiated activity.
While many commercial professional landscapers invest considerable time, energy, and resources to general maintenance activities for their customers, these tasks do not offer a competitive advantage or differentiation over their competition. Many of these services are offered by necessity, as it serves as a gateway to more "high-value-high-impact" work.
5. Limited technology adoptions.
Technology implementation throughout the industry as a whole is rare, the most cutting edge softwares are related to design/construction, scheduling, workflow tracking, employee tracking, and payroll. Currently there are no widely adopted technology based solutions to the labor shortage problem
While robotic lawn mowers are being considered, they do not seem to be applicable for most commercial landscapers, due to their build quality, power inadequacy, required infrastructure changes and/or cost. Similar can be said of many battery/electric handheld technologies (weedeaters, hedge trimmers, etc), although this category has higher adoption in the industry than robotic mowers.
Needless to say these situations are not applicable in all circumstances but tend to surface more often than not. Theses challenges are particularly relevant for individuals meeting the following criteria:
1. Landscaping owners or grounds supervisors that engages primarily in managerial activities
2. Growth focused companies
3. Managing large commercial or residential properties (.5 acre+)
4. Spending 10+ hours per week recruiting
5. Operating 2+ maintenance trucks
6. Currently, have, or are considering participating in the H2B program.
7. Having trouble integrating technology into operations
8. Are considering robotic lawn mower, battery powered equipment, productivity software or similar technologies
9. Are attempting to recruit employees 30 years old or younger
If your company fits this description or would like to learn more about our research, please see our contact information below. We would be happy to learn about your company, hear your experience, and if appropriate offer assistance.
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Marie, Mona. "A Study of Landscaping: A Millennial Perspective." Monamarieresearch.com, 2020, monamarieresearch.com/.