The ongoing coronavirus pandemic has caused mass disruption to everyone’s lives — and the ways they do business. In June 2021, there were a record 10.1 million jobs available and just 9.5 million people unemployed, which seems like the perfect win-win scenario for both employers and job seekers. Some of the reason for the disconnect between workers and prospective employers is that unemployment benefits have been generous during the pandemic, although those expanded benefits ended in September.
Most unemployed were gaining a $300 bonus from the federal government each week on top of their current state benefits, keeping many from hitting the pavements to find other sources of income. Those that do are being very particular about opportunities. And since there are more jobs than people to fill them, it is a job seeker’s market. What does this mean for the tree services industry?
Companies involved in utility vegetation management have seen a boost in market demand for their services, with a 35% increase bringing market earnings to somewhere between $4-$5 billion. While this seems good on the face of it, the fact remains that since earlier this year, there has been a pressing skilled labor shortage affecting these companies. Growing demand for services coupled with a dearth of qualified labor spells difficulties for tree services companies — and the utilities they serve.
What is Contributing to the Tree Services Labor Shortage?
Since competition is elevated, some companies are poaching qualified labor from their colleagues and suppliers, resulting in high turnover rates and an increase in newer, less experienced crew members. Since the job is physically demanding, many are choosing to find work in other industries that are less so.
Employees Move Where the Pay is Better
Investor-owned utilities often pay better than their public cohorts, including smaller and municipal organizations. For this reason, the workforce tends to migrate where the pay is greater.
Many are Retiring
An increase in retiring tree service professionals is putting a dent in the workforce in two ways: First, retiring employees reduce workforce numbers and they take their expertise with them. Secondly, replacing an employee with 20 years of knowledge is difficult, since younger staff require extensive training to get up to speed.
Company Politics and Stability
As with any industry, some tree service companies may have internal issues that make the workplace difficult to navigate — a problem that can result in employees finding work elsewhere. Employees will gravitate toward positions with well-equipped organizations that offer stability and opportunities for advancement and expansion.
The utility maintenance profession — and tree service in particular — is physically demanding as well as potentially risky. To keep these concerns at bay for employees, this means tree service organizations must closely follow stringent safety protocols.
How to Reduce the Impact of the Labor Shortage
There are many things organizations that companies that offer tree services and utility maintenance can do to keep their talent pool healthy.
· Understand the needs and challenges of a younger generation and meet their requirements.
· Offer a career rather than a job position.
· Concentrate on the development of skills and experience rather than simple on-the-job training.
· Ownership and empowerment should be offered all the way down to the crew level.
· Tree service requires much skill; Make pay commensurate with this level of skill.
· Reframe the profession as a necessary component that helps preserve the integrity of crucial infrastructure.
· Focus on creating a safe work environment.
At Townsend Tree, we draw motivated, talented staff by offering comprehensive benefits packages that help support our employees and their families and by creating a safe, positive environment. By focusing on ways to improve both professional and personal quality of life standards, we can maintain teams of highly qualified, knowledgeable staff members to serve our client base.
Get Your Tree Service and Line Maintenance Scheduled Now
For utilities, there is no better way to ensure continuity of services than to schedule them in advance according to a specific schedule. In the fall, many tree service companies are overwhelmed with emergency calls due to sudden storms and weather events and these calls often must be prioritized because of potential safety factors. If the company is already understaffed, it can be difficult to manage the emergency work among last-minute calls for routine maintenance. Additionally, unexpected storms and changes in the weather can halt or stall routine vegetation management, contributing to work delays.
However, if you keep your vegetation properly maintained on a strict schedule, even a slight delay in a routine visit should not result in dangerous overgrowth. And if vegetation management companies have a yearly schedule to follow, it becomes simpler for them to allocate the proper staff to take care of both emergency calls and assigned maintenance tasks.