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Why American Millennials with a Passion for the Outdoors Can be a Better Alternative to Guest Worker Programs

In 2015, I had moved from Chicago to Colorado for an amazing opportunity to become the first Human Resources Manager at a growing landscape company! The previous decade or so of my landscaping career was spent working with two well-established companies and all of a sudden I was on the ground floor of a “start up” (needless to say, I didn’t want to blow it). Two days into my dream job I sat in on a job interview and quickly discovered I was going to need to get a lot better at recruiting if I was going to keep up with this company’s growth!

But where to start. It’s no secret that the Landscape industry has its recruiting challenges and for many companies, the answer is the Federal Guest Worker Program, largely because we are told there are millions of American jobs that Americans simply don’t want. Tom Sunderland, takes a different approach, he is turning his company into one in which Millennials will want to come to work, work hard (hopefully for more than just a paycheck) and find a career in the process.

So many companies find themselves in a position where they see no option but to rely on Guest Worker Visas because “kids these days don’t want to work; you hire them and they either don’t show up or they don’t want to put in a hard day’s work”. And while that may be true of some workers (regardless of generation) the passionate and dedicated group of young landscape professionals at Native Edge are suggesting otherwise for the landscape industry. Fueled by their passion for the outdoors and a desire to make a difference in the world, these employees are proving that landscape industry jobs can indeed be prime opportunities for the American Millennial; working in a team environment that they trust and believe in.

Such environments in the landscape industry seem short in supply as many Company leaders continue to embrace models of the past to guide their business management philosophies (typically a top-down, profit-driven “this is the way we’ve always done it and it’s gotten us this far” approach).

However, “the times they are a changin” and we at Native Edge are proud to be at the forefront of change in our industry, embracing what we view as one of our greatest responsibilities as employers… cultivating, training, and investing in American Millennials. Today, we are 70 employees strong and approximately 75% are American millennials ranging in age from 18 to 35 years old. Some hold substantial leadership responsibilities, while many others have grown to become skilled craftspeople, designers, and technicians. Most are year round employees, while some have opted to pursue a complimentary seasonal career for employers like Eldora Mountain Resort.

Retaining and growing top talent of any age can certainly be challenging, especially these days as words like “experience hopping” and “gig economy” are so popular. But by cultivating open, honest, and fun relationships with employees through regular performance feedback, team meetings, and company social events, most of us experience stronger relationships and a sense of belonging that we wouldn’t otherwise experience in other workplaces. These shared work experiences and relationships are the glue that holds us together and working together takes us and the company to the next version of awesomeness! (more open positions & employee rewards)

Like those from every generation, many of the most successful will be those who are true to their passion, have a growth mindset, and learn how to leverage their unique abilities. But well before success, there must first be opportunities. And the way we see it, it’s up to employers like us to cultivate healthy and supportive environments for dreams to germinate, opportunities to be found, and success to be grown.

As a landscape industry employer we choose to embrace the many passionate, bright, and growth minded individuals (Millennial or not) who will never be wholly satisfied by any one monotonous desk job or paycheck (no matter the size). Native Edge measures success in the people we grow and the passion they bring to their work each day. Despite misconceptions I’ve heard of younger generations “not wanting to work”, our young teammates are enhancing our success, enabling us to reward their great work….great work that is above all, powered by passion!

Author: Katie Moore