Recruiting the Right People for Robots

An insightful Q&A with Jen Mongeois, Scythe’s Director of People Ops

The labor shortage facing the landscape industry isn’t new news. In fact, it once again topped the list of landscape contractors’ primary business concerns in the latest “State of the Industry” report from Lawn & Landscape

But what is new is that as the landscape industry adopts more technologies like Scythe M.52, you’ll also need to find people who will be successful with these tools in the field. So how can you tackle the challenge of recruiting the right talent for landscape roles that will use robotics? 

Thankfully, Jen Mongeois – director of people operations at Scythe and recruiting extraordinaire – has some great ideas. We recently sat down with her to get her thoughts. 

Jen Mongeois - Scythe Robotics

The most people-y of the people persons: Jen leads the People team at Scythe Robotics

Scythe Field Team: Where should landscape contractors look to find new hires interested in using the latest technology in the field?

Jen: Contractors need to take a grassroots approach and meet people where they are. Go to social media and find Facebook groups where your prospects are convening. TikTok works great as well – we have landscape partners finding candidates there who tend to be more comfortable with technology. 

Social media ads can help you to get in front of targeted, location-based groups for a reasonable price, and they are easy to use. In addition to your traditional recruiting pools, go after groups that enjoy the outdoors, being green, being independent. Capture their attention by touting the technology you’re using. 

Look at hobby groups and talk to candidates about how they spend their time. Who is building computers or tinkering with electronics on the weekend? Is anyone entering code competitions? Who likes to take things apart and put them back together? There is likely underutilized talent sitting in your current pool already.

You should also develop a referral program not just for employees but within your personal network of tech-focused friends. Ask individuals to repost opportunities in their networks and reward them for referrals. Use industry specific job boards, but consider posting robotics focused roles on tech related job boards. Do not be afraid to be creative in your tactics and do not limit yourself or your reach.

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How can landscape companies create technology focused job descriptions that attract the right candidates?

First, highlight requirements that are needed and the skills you are looking for. Try to describe these skills more inclusively to invite applicants that do not have specific skills that are traditionally identified in the green industry. For example, describe transferable skills from other industries and disciplines. 

Ask for problem solvers, analytical thinkers, and flexible team players instead of looking for people who have experience with robotic mowers specifically. Look for people with these qualities or find these qualities in other skill sets. We can teach a person how to manage a fleet of M.52 mowers, or how to use a software program, but it’s much more difficult to teach creativity, passion, problem-solving, and teamwork. 

What types of candidates will do well in the field with M.52? How do you identify them? 

It’s easy to think that the youngest, most tech savvy talent will be the best at operating robots in the field, but we’ve found that their mindset matters far more than the number of gadgets they have. Employees who are willing to try new things, who are adaptable and engaged – these are the team members who end up seeing the biggest productivity gains with M.52. 

To screen for these qualities, ask candidates to describe a time where they learned how to use a new tool or adopted a new process. Have them explain the gains that resulted from it. Look to see if they have any industry certifications or have demonstrated a commitment to continually learning in other ways. 

You can also ask them situational questions: “We are introducing robotic mowers from Scythe and asking our crew leaders to build new workflows on their properties when deploying this technology. What are three things you would do to figure out how to use M.52 to make your team more productive?” Their answers will illustrate how proactive and creative they’d be in learning new technologies. 

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How can companies recruit candidates for manual labor-intensive positions in a tight market?

Use a mix of approaches from employee referral incentives to recruiting agencies that focus on manual labor. Create clear job descriptions, responsibilities, and expectations, and emphasize that training and career growth opportunities are available if they want to advance. You may also look at holding an open house where candidates can see for themselves what may be involved in the position. You don’t want people to be surprised by the physical demands of the job. 

The great thing about using technology like M.52 is that you can tout the ways it improves the employee experience and makes that manual labor a little lighter. Share employee testimonials about how robotics have changed their role, or how electric mowers have created a safer, more comfortable work environment. 

You can also showcase the benefits that come from a career in landscaping. More and more young people are losing interest in the idea of a desk job. Some want to be outside instead, and others want more dynamic days. Many want to work on improving the environment, which the green industry is at the forefront of doing. Candidates attracted to these benefits will likely also be more successful blending technology into their roles. 

How can landscape companies identify technology driven employees who will blend well with the rest of the team?

When we hire a unique individual, we are adding a skill set that brings value to the team, but no one individual is better or more important than the rest. Everyone needs to feel included – everyone plays a role and contributes. Be sure to celebrate what each team member brings to the table as new value is being added. You’re not replacing the skill sets of the existing crew but expanding them. 

Once more technology driven employees have a hang of the tools, you should encourage them to teach the others on their crew how to use them productively as well. You can screen for these types of candidates by asking them to share their experience in training or mentoring new employees at their previous companies. 

By using these tactics and talking passionately about technology in the recruitment process, you’ll more successfully be able to attract the type of talent your organization needs. Now go out and get ‘em!  

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Jen Mongeois has more than 20 years of expertise in recruiting for technical and non-technical roles across hardware, software and field operations. In one of her previous roles, she hired more than 500 employees in a five-year period! To learn more from Jen and keep up with the sage advice she shares, follow her on LinkedIn.


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