Recognizing and Attracting Great Talent

By Phil Key, President

As we look toward the future and develop our next Five-Year Plan, a key to our success will be in hiring and developing people, as it has been in years past. Our goal of sustainable growth and providing further opportunities for our employees while maintaining our culture is attainable if we make attracting the right people a top priority.

Personnel recruitment is one of the biggest challenges facing our industry and many others today. A recent survey from the National Federation of Independent Business (NFIB) found that 15% of owners listed the difficulty in hiring qualified workers as their single most important business problem. In our company, we plan to hire approximately 5,500 people in the next five years while attempting to significantly lower turnover rates. The majority of these new hires will start out as field-level employees. It is important that from day one we introduce them to the culture by providing thorough orientation, mentoring and on-the-job training, and by conveying a sincere interest in each individual’s development. We put in this effort from the beginning to build a relationship that will keep them here for the long haul.

We are constantly looking for better ways to identify labor sources in the different markets we serve. To that end, we plan to appoint a director of recruiting by the beginning of next year to help us focus on acquiring the talent we need to succeed. At present, we source potential candidates in a number of ways—through college visits and collaborations with college landscape and horticulture programs; internships and work programs; online job listings; career fairs and open houses; and by word-of-mouth. We teach our team members to always be on the lookout for talented people, whether that person is a friend, family member or acquaintance. When employees invite friends and family members to join the team, it can be a big advantage. They often share the same work ethic and have at least some prior knowledge of the industry and the company, which can help ensure that the fit will be a good one.

Pictured L to R: Hunter Thompson, staff accountant in our corporate office; Logan Thompson, crewman in our Frederick maintenance branch; and their father, Ken Thompson, director of quality and efficiency in our landscape construction division, at the Ruppert Family Picnic in July.

We ask anyone enlisting others to join our team to paint a realistic picture of life in landscaping—often requiring early mornings, working in various weather conditions, some degree of physical activity—and to underscore the many opportunities a career in landscaping can provide. Ultimately, we are looking for the right fit for our culture and our team and want to ensure that, likewise, we are providing the candidate with a positive career move and opportunity for future advancement. In addition to our current employees, we hope that our valued customers, who are familiar with our culture and how we do business, will feel confident referring us to others not only as a contractor but also as an employer.

Employees most often cite these as the most compelling reasons to choose a career at Ruppert:

  • A strong sense of family and focus on people, with the company being family and employee-owned and motivated by a strong value system
  • Opportunity for advancement and a commitment to providing people with the means to succeed
  • A long history of over 40 years’ experience in the green industry and a track record of financial success and stability
  • A high level of trust and belief in management/leadership to understand the challenges facing the industry and our teams in the field

Howard Schultz, CEO of Starbucks, is quoted as having said, “The only competitive advantage we have is the culture and values of the company. Anyone can open up a coffee store. We have no technology, we have no patent. All we have is the relationship around the values of the company and what we bring to the customer every day. And we all have to own it.” The same holds true for us. In order to attract the right kind of talent, we have to own our culture and our values and understand what makes us unique. Each of us plays a vital role in building and developing our team, and I thank you for your part in doing so.