Each year, snow blankets the roads and walkways, providing the perfect opportunity for snow removal businesses to thrive. But with that opportunity comes a big challenge — finding reliable seasonal employees and keeping them busy so they can meet customer demand.
The hiring process for a snow removal business isn’t easy. Fortunately, having the right approach can reduce hiring costs and frustrations.
Team Engine recently had the pleasure of sitting down with Grow The Bench and Snowfighter Institute's Neal Glatt to discuss how he took a snow removal company from under $1 million to over $40 million in sales. Watch the entire on-demand webinar here. Whether you're just starting a snow removal business or looking to add more snow shovelers and operators, these strategies will help you find reliable seasonal workers.
Why Hiring Seasonal Snow Shovelers is Hard
The labor shortage is a nightmare in virtually every industry, but it’s especially challenging in snow removal. It’s hard to find reliable people who are willing to put in the long and unpredictable hours shoveling snow. And when you do find them, turnover is high — making it even more difficult and expensive to keep up with demand.
Why is this? Truthfully, there are a lot of disadvantages of seasonal employment in the snow removal industry. Neal points out three big ones:
- 24/7 readiness
- Lack of guaranteed hours
- Difficult, dangerous and cold working conditions
First, snowfalls are hard to predict — one storm can change everything and workers may have to work late into the night or on short notice. This makes it difficult for most people to commit to a snow shoveling job.
Second, snow removal businesses usually can't guarantee hours. This makes it hard for workers to commit to the job if they don't know when or how much money they’ll make in a given pay period.
Third, snow shoveling is not easy — you have to brave cold temperatures and dangerous conditions. Working this kind of job can be a real challenge and can quickly sap motivation.
Some companies are resorting to less-than-legal methods to attract employees, such as paying cash under the table. Others are offering sign-on bonuses, promising guaranteed hours or paying flat rates.
And then there’s the ongoing labor shortage… All of these factors increase competition for seasonal snow shovelers.
That means if you're just starting a snow removal business, you’ll have to work twice as hard to get the help you need.
Even established snow removal businesses really have to stay on top of the labor market to get ahead.
How to Attract Seasonal Employees for your Snow Removal Business
The key to attracting the right employees for your snow removal business is understanding their needs and motivations. Some people may be willing to work long hours in tough conditions if there's a potential for larger paychecks, while others may appreciate the flexibility and independence of seasonal work.
When Neal was a snow contractor, he realized that he needed to create a compelling job opportunity for prospective seasonal employees.
He discovered 5 critical ways to attract the right seasonal employees and keep them productive:
Fair Pay and Benefits
The most important way to attract snow shovelers is to offer competitive pay and benefits. Neal has seen hourly wages ranging from $15-$40/hr, depending on the region and type of work.
While he argues that those top-tier hourly rates are unsustainable for most snow removal companies, it's important to understand the market rate for snow shoveling and adjust your pay accordingly.
Paying for performance can be a way to incentivize workers, but you should also consider offering benefits like healthcare coverage, vacation days, etc. This can go a long way in making your seasonal job appealing and keep employees around for multiple seasons.
Quality Materials and Equipment
Working in snow removal can be hard enough without having to deal with subpar tools and equipment. Make sure you have high-quality snow shovels, snow blowers, and other equipment for your workers to use.
And don't skimp on the small stuff either — offer the opportunity to earn a professional winter coat, gloves, hat, and boots for a job well done.
Neal doesn't recommend giving these things away to people who will never show up again. But if an employee displays a real commitment, investing in their winter wardrobe can be a great way to reward them. Keeping your crew comfortable and well-equipped will help them be even more efficient and productive.
There is a growing trend among employees today who are looking for more flexibility in their work arrangements. A recent report from MetLife found that employees were 1.8 times more likely to stay at a job if it offered better work-life balance and flexibility. And Pew Research Center reports that 45% of workers are quitting because of a lack of flexibility.
A snow removal business is in prime position to offer flexibility, but Neal sees many snow contractors going the other way — and becoming more rigid with their employees' schedules.
If you can offer more flexible shifts, like splitting shifts between two people or offering shift swapping for those who need to attend other obligations, this can go a long way in attracting and retaining good seasonal employees.
Teammates Committed to Quality
Any business that's hiring doesn't just want bodies; they want motivated workers who care about the quality of their work. And this sentiment is shared among snow shovelers too. They don't want to work beside someone who is just there for the paycheck...
Neal emphasizes that it's essential to find and foster a team of seasonal workers who are truly committed to providing quality service. You need to build a crew that works well together and gets the job done efficiently, so everyone can get out of the cold and go home safely (here are some ideas on how to successfully promote safety in the blue collar workplace).
Work With Purpose
When Neal had to hire over 1,000 snow shovelers, he didn't try to recruit them by promising cold, difficult work conditions for $15 an hour. Instead, he told candidates the inspiring story of how their job was helping to keep businesses and families safe during winter storms.
He found that this was more effective in attracting seasonal workers. People want to work with purpose. If you're trying to figure out how to attract temporary workers, communicate the importance of their work.
How To Hire Seasonal Snow Shovelers
The quality of your recruiting and hiring process is key to finding the right seasonal workers. Neal recommends starting with a high-quality job description and job ad. This shouldn't be a laundry list of demands and requirements, but instead should:
- Demonstrate how your company is making an impact (local awards, customer testimonials, etc.)
- Explain why your company is a great place to work (brand new shovels and snowblowers, frequent breaks and hot coffee, transportation provided, etc.)
- Talk up the opportunity for unlimited hours and overtime
- Showcase how employees can be promoted to management positions
- Set you apart from the competition
Using one of Team Engine's well-crafted job description templates can simplify this process and help attract the right applicants. You can download them here for free.
Once you have a great job post, Neal recommends leveraging the latest technology to get it in front of potential employees. You don't want to overcomplicate things and spend hours on manual recruitment processes.
The good news is that there's a whole suite of automation tools available to make recruiting and hiring easier for both you and the applicant:
- Mobile-friendly forms that are easy to fill out
- Text-to-apply QR codes on trucks, yard signs and business cards
- Text message automation to keep communication with applicants consistent
- Automated applicant screening to disqualify bad fits without wasting anyone's time
Automating your hiring process not only saves you time, but results in lower costs and higher-quality applicants.
In the webinar, Neal goes into great detail on:
- 5 best practices for posting jobs so you don't waste time and money
- The 4 best job posting sites to focus on (that actually result in quality candidates for a snow removal business)
- How to leverage employee referrals without increasing your costs
- 5 new hiring methods that are effective in the current labor shortage
If you want to learn more about starting or scaling a snow removal business and how to find great seasonal workers, check out the full on-demand webinar here.