Not enough hands on deck - How the employee shortage has affected us
Thursday, March 9, 2023
Every where you go whether here or abroad, there is a shortage of workers.
This is a hot topic of discussion around many kitchen tables, and there is often heated discussion when attempting to reason the 'why'.
Some people feel that this is due to Covid-19 directly, but personally I feel the events around Covid were merely a catalyst for a trend that was already on the horizon. The regulations that came into place with Covid introduced a new way of survival for the human race, one that involved not leaving home and potentially supplemental support from the government. It also encouraged our workforce to work from home, and although restrictions have fallen away, this had become a much more comfortable environment for working; who can blame them for not wanting to come back to the office? If I could work from home, I know I would be sorely tempted - but I suspect the menagerie at home would distract me too much if I did it too often!
Some feel that the shortage of employees is due to the rising cost of living and a stagnant pay scale. Factors such as housing/rental prices, grocery costs, fuel and child care certainly play into this.
Regardless of the reasoning behind the lack of employees, there is no argument that it has hobbled the service industry - including our own landscape services.
Now, I am proud to say that the wages we are paid here are (in my opinion, having worked in many different sectors from veterinary, to retail, to agriculture) phenomenal. Our bosses are also reasonable people who are approachable and genuinely want their employees to do well and be happy. [Note that at the time of writing this I am alone in the office and am under no coerceion, these are just my personal opinions] The work we do can be arduous and tiring, wear hard on clothes and muscles/skin, but staff are encouraged to take their time, rest as much as needed, and reach out if they require help or guidance. On hot Summer days, we call it quits if the temperature is too high. In the Winter, trucks can be warmed and rest breaks to a nearby Tim Hortons for a hot drink are expected. There is no penalty for being smart about your health and safety. If you need help ensuring you have appropriate clothing for the task at hand, you are encouraged to ask - we got you.
However, there is no way about it: we lack employees.
This Winter in particular we have been struck by the shortage of employees. We have not had sufficient team members to satisfactorily (especially not to Jody's expectation levels) meet our responsibilities for snow removal. We have to prioritize our property lists, and sadly we just have not had enough people to be able to complete our total lists in an ideal time frame.
This is frustrating on SO many levels. We hate disappointing our customers. We hate not completing the tasks how we plan to. We hate wanting to go out and do more work, but our bodies tell us we just can't - exhaustion is a heavy handed guide. This is not how we like our business to run.
But, it seems to take a very specific type of person to choose this field as a career. Love of the outdoors is a must. Hard work ethic. Flexibilty is a bonus, as sometimes we work odd hours or long/short days. You must also be ready to jump in to any level of task without fear of damaging your ego - we are a team, and sometimes your team members need you help with a task you don't normally do. We are lucky that the core group we have adhere to these traits; now, if only we could find more.
Jody is always looking to hire more talent, and our door is always open to those who think this may be something they could do.
With a snow event on the horizon for tomorrow, we will be putting all hadns on deck - it's just a shame that the deck is so large and the number of crew members too small. Ah well, as the US Navy Seals say, “The Only Easy Day Was Yesterday”.
Although the Fall Equinox does not occur until September 22 this year, we can already feel the change in season. The nights are cool (we were able to see our breath on the weekend!), the bees are drunkenly buzzing around, and for those of us with long-coated pets – the fur is flying!
Although our general growing season is coming to an end, there are still things you can be doing in the garden and on your property.
Those with gourds are already beginning to reap the fruits of their labour – roadside stands have pie pumpkins, decorative gourds, and squashes available. Be sure to shop local and enjoy the Fall delicacies.
For those with a more flowery thumb, Fall Mums are available in your local garden centres. These large bloomed perennials are a great investment for Fall décor, surviving for years if well Wintered and cared for. Be sure to dead head them to extend their blooming period.
Your lawn would appreciate a little prepping for next year too. We are currently applying grub suppression nematodes to help break the cycle of Japanese Beetles. If you want to learn more about grubs and how to tell if they are a concern for your lawn, check out this website White Grub life cycle and how to control them – wonderful, thorough information. Our nematode product is a living bacterium, and as such requires water to stay alive. We try to ensure that our customers are aware of their applications and keep their properties moist for the following 7-10 days give these little creatures the best chance. Remembering to water the lawn can be tricky, but we know the investment pans out.
You can also take advantage of the cooler temperatures to clean up garden beds, raking out dead plants/stalks and putting them into your composter to start great soil for next year. Rucking up the soil also allows more air and moisture to get in, encouraging the mineral and nutrient content for root systems.
Soon we will begin planning our overseeding program, utilizing the more dormant period to start seed and reduce area availability for weeds in the coming year. Although the growth of grass is slower in the Fall, we can utilize the soil availability due to the thinning grass for the seeds to get a good start.
‘The still-warm earth and natural rainfall that tends to arrive in September will help to nourish and stimulate the newly sown seed, as well as reduce the time you’ll have to spend watering or trying to beat any hosepipe bans,’ says Guy Jenkins consumer manager for Johnson’s Lawn Seed. ‘By waiting until later in the year you will avoid the summer droughts which spell death for tender young seedlings that haven’t managed to reach deeper groundwater.’
Contact us now if you want to incorporate overseeding into your lawn’s Fall plans!
Would you not consider horses the original “ride’m lawn mowers”? As herbivores, with seemingly insatiable appetites, they are a very competent mower. They are fairly consistent in the length to which they will mow, and are skilled at getting into the tight corners that would otherwise require a whipper snipper.
However, there are some drawbacks.
First off, they leave their own fertilizer behind them. Although this is beneficial to the ground itself, it can be unsightly and eventually requires clean up and removal to another site. This does result in some wonderful material for gardens but takes management.
Secondly, lawn properties are not typically ‘designed’ for an herbivore to live off. They can be deficient in mineral requirements and contain undesirable/poisonous plants (such as Buttercups). As such, there would need to be some planning and potentially supplementation in place (salt/mineral blocks available and selective weeding).
Third, horses eat a lot! Unless grazing periods are limited, they can clear acres of land in a matter of days and then be complaining they are out of material. If they are not fenced properly, they will also wander to new areas – and perhaps your neighbours do not wish their lawn mown in quite this manner. Although in the grand scheme this is a fairly quick method of grass trimming – most residential properties want their lawn completed in a matter of minutes, not days. It is also moderately difficult to mobilize a horse to numerous properties – making the idea of employing a horse as a regular piece of lawn equipment laughable.
Historically, residences were not located so close together, and it was possible to graze your work horses at the end of the day on an open field – now, we need electric fence lines at minimum, although wood fencing is still good (if your horses is not a cribber) and wire fence with wooden posts works well too to contain them. Contemporary planning encourages us to mow numerous properties in an area in a small amount of time – making gasoline driven machines more efficient.
Finally, it has become a bit complex to keep a horse as merely a lawn ornament, although many people treat their horses to such a retirement. The average horse does have some duties typically, whether it be being ridden or more therapeutic responsibilities, and are always a well loved natural piece of equipment.
Well, it's summer time and it's so very very hot. This has been one of the hottest summers we've had in a long time. It's normal for grass to thrive and grow during the early and late spring. And it's at those times when we cannot keep up with it's thick luscious growth. Everybody wants a nice thick, lush, green lawn. But what happens when summer hits, and temperatures rise? Grass settles down and sometimes goes dormant. Growing only a little week by week and heaven forbid it goes brown if we don't water. This summer has been extremely stressful on our lawns. They have been experiencing a great amount of stress while the heat is relentless and the sun fires down on it. I'm glad for all the famers of Norfolk County and across Ontario, that we have had a few breaks in the heat and we'vefelt a few rains in the past ten days. And I am very happy that lawns are greening up and growing a bit better now for JLC. I see that rain is in the forcast again for this weekend, so fingers crossed that mother nature gives it to us!
Jody and I have had a project all our own this summer. We recently moved and creating and growing our lawn and gardens FROM SCRATCH! That's right, the entire lawn of 14,000sq ft is brand spankin' new!! It hasn't been easy, thats for sure. We always tell our customers to water the seed. "keep it moist", "if it dries out, it dies out" etc....But most people don't seed an entire lawn of this size from scratch. Our spring and summer has been spent growing tiny baby grasslings. How do we do it you ask? We water. and water. and water. We do not have an irrigation system, so hours and hours a day and for weeks on endwe are pulling weeds and watering the grass. The grass is too young for weed spray and the summer has been so hot, that the grass (like everyone elses) is under stress. Patience, I tell mysef. With time and attention, our lawns are like children. We need to watch them, care for, and nuture them. Soon I will write again and let you know when our new lawn seed will enjoy it's very first cut!
After such a long week of rain and clouds, I am so happy to finally look outside and see the sun. Not mention that it's warm out too. My teenage kids tell me this morning that there are only three 'Mondays' left of school. Really??? Three weeks until summer. Ahhhh the freedom of summer. Evening strolls, ice cream cones, beach days, bike rides, blueberry picking, and Canada's Wonderland
This will be our first summer fully living in Cambridge so I am pretty excited about trying out some new summer adventures. We've spent many summer days at the beaches of Port Dover and Turkey Point, but now we'll get to try Puslinch Lake and the Grand River. We just had our first experience at the Cambridge farmers market last weekend. What a neat little place to visit on a Saturday morning.
Being in the lawn care business in a small county like Norfolk, there are fewer companies that we can compare ourselves to. However, here in Cambridge, there are many different companies we can check out to see how others run their businesses. From small 'fly by nighters' to larger well known companies, it's very interesting to watch and learn from. I personally always look to see what kinds of uniforms the crews are wearing and find a sense of reassurance that other companies are just like ours in many ways. One thing for sure that is different is that in the city, there are large medians and wide boulevards that need mowing. The land structure is set on a much smaller scale in Simcoe. It's fun to compare. Definitely a learning curve as we grow our business in the region of Waterloo. But hey, it's all a fun experience...new places, new people just in time for summer.