August 30, 2022
Jacki Hart I think it’s a good time of year to check in with how your employees are feeling about working for you and ‘what’s next’ for them — and you. The challenge with starting to explore ‘what’s next’ with your younger team members in particular is that without being properly prepared, you might be opening up questions for which you haven’t yet developed great answers.

Many employers simply either haven’t or don’t know how to chart a path for employees to follow. To help you chart that path, I want to offer a company structure idea: Agile Cooperative vs Top Down Hierarchy. Agile Cooperative is a type of company structure where the responsibilities of each person are very clear and different people make different types or ‘levels’ of decisions based on skills and knowledge (capability). A Top Down company structure is where information mostly ‘flows down’ to the field workers/labourers. It’s more of a wheel with spokes than an organizational chart with different levels of seniority. In an Agile Cooperative, the number of years of tenure rarely equates to a raise or promotion. Raises are tied to merit, skill, knowledge, and so on.

Charting out an employee pathway starts with being clear on what their position requires for skills and knowledge. In addition, it’s also pretty tough to entice young workers to stay when they haven’t yet realized there are three key ingredients to earning more money or responsibility: skills, knowledge, and will. Having just two doesn’t cut it. To keep the people you have, they need to know, “What’s in it for me if I stay?” My answer to that is typically: “Well, that’s pretty much up to you.” With clear job descriptions describing each role, its responsibilities, required results of effort, and skills and qualifications, you can then show the path forward. (Note that I didn’t say ‘the path upward’). Refer to the chart below (with very approximate* pay ranges):
Landscape labourer/gardener
(Entry level)
  • Skills x 5 (such as life skills, i.e. dependable, punctual, physically capable, translates instruction into actions appropriately, confident to ask questions.)
  • Task knowledge x 0.
  • Will – consistently tries to improve and focuses on demonstrating newly learned skills.
Landscape gardener/lead hand $21-25/hr.* Landscape labourers’ requirements PLUS
  • 10 additional Skills (How).
  • 10 more points of Knowledge (can now teach to others ‘What, When, Why’).
  • Will – consistently mentors others and strives to improve.
Equipment operator
(ie: skid steer)
$24-30/hr.* Lead hands’ requirements PLUS
  • Equipment Skill (how to operate).
  • Equipment Knowledge (what to do with the equipment and when).
Foreperson $26-34/hr.*
(potentially + productivity bonus)
Lead hand requirements PLUS 
equipment operator requirements PLUS
  • Skills + 10
  • Knowledge +10 
  • + Ability to motivate, inspire, mentor
  • + Ability to lead others collaboratively
Supervisor $35-45/hr.*
(potentially + productivity bonus)
Foreperson requirements PLUS
  • Skills + 10  
  • Knowledge +10
  • Critical thinking/problem solving
  • Confidence/excellent communication skills
  • Excellent team management skills
  • Self accountability, high emotional intelligence

When you understand who Gen Z is, and why they think the way they do, it’s easy. They don’t want to start at the bottom. None of us do or ever did, but many of us had to and worked hard to move up. Gen Z simply have more options and resources at their fingertips than each of the generations before them and they are impatient.

They are looking for psychological safety, fairness and opportunity. When you can teach them that SKILLS + KNOWLEDGE = OPPORTUNITY, that could well be the glue that encourages them to stay. Employees can’t gain either if they keep moving around job to job. You need to convince them of that. The reality is that without a clear path, there’s a lot of great young workers who have lost hope, often believing that at a different job things will be better. However, when they can see a way forward with your company and have the reassurance that there is a ‘safe’ journey where they will be respected, valued and appreciated for their contribution no matter what job title they have, your company will be more STICKY.

STICKY means keeping the team players you need and having an engaged team with the WILL to work hard, be dependable, learn, grow and improve their opportunities. What will you do to be ready and well equipped, encouraging your staff to stay, learn, engage and grow with your team?

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Jacki Hart CLM
Prosperity Partners Program Manager