Steven Cesare, Ph.D.



A business owner from Colorado called me the other day to inform me that his long-time Office Manager had just resigned.  Like most mid-size landscaping companies (i.e., 50-100 employees), the Office Manager had extensive involvement in multiple functions:  accounting, human resources, customer service, field support, safety, and business development.  A key position to be sure!  The immediate sense of loss was palpable; her impact on the culture, organizational memory, and daily functioning cannot be denied.

Upon hearing the news, I told the owner I was overjoyed!  Not surprisingly, he thought I did not understand the news he was telling me.  Trust me:  I understood.  I completely understood.

As a capitalist, here is another golden, transformational opportunity to turn lemons into lemonade!

It is my professional default position to adopt an “Upgrade Mindset” every time employee turnover occurs.  While multi-incumbent positions (e.g., Foremen, Laborers, Irrigators, Tree Climbers) are slightly more problematic than sole-incumbent positions (e.g., Office Manager, Maintenance Manager, Shop Mechanic, Business Development Manager), their job descriptions, production rates, and performance expectations should be reviewed and revised during Quarter 4 of each fiscal year as a pretext to the company’s strategic planning session that defines the beginning of the next fiscal year.

You and I both know those employees are going to ask for a pay raise each year, right?  As capitalists, we should get more return on our investment, shouldn’t we?  Do increased wage rates for the same productivity sound like good business sense to you?  Try selling increased billable hourly rates to your customers for the same level of job quality, efficiency, and customer service.  Let me know how that works out for you.

Back to Colorado, I suggested the now-piqued business owner meet with his management team to envision an upgraded Office Manager position, replete with additional duties to perform, skills to possess, and deliverables to contribute.  For example, the redesigned Office Manager position would now have bi-lingual Spanish speaking skills, which would assist in processing new employee orientations, investigations, benefits issues, and ongoing administrative communication.  Additionally, the revised position would now require the incumbent to be a Certified Notary Public at the time of hire, or achieve that credential within the first 90 days of employment.  The reinvented Office Manager should also take a larger role in overseeing the company’s social media efforts (e.g., campaigns, postings, reporting).  Extra responsibilities like purchasing (e.g., master purchase orders, vendor interaction, pricing changes), sales administration (e.g., tracking pipeline metrics, proposals, and renewal rates), as well as vendor management (e.g., insurance policies, benefits programs, outsourced shop duties) all add value to the company going forward.

And “yes,” raise the vacant position salary by 7-10% while you’re at it, as an employee recruitment and retention tool.  Why do you think employees are leaving their employers?  Do you think employees want to start all over again at a new company?  Have you been to a supermarket, ball game, or restaurant lately?

Whenever employee turnover occurs, meet with your management team and discuss position upgrades, especially for:  Account Managers (e.g., larger portfolio, greater enhancements to contract percentage goals, increased client relations management visibility), Project Managers (e.g., larger portfolio, decreased actual to estimated cost variance, improved gross margins), Business Development Managers (e.g., increased sales goals relative to last year, more diverse coverage of sales proposals within the target market, and improved capture rate), and Field Managers (e.g., landscape/construction professional certifications, OSHA 30-hour credential, budget development, business acumen, and coaching skills).

We all know there has been a significant, verifiable deterioration of the American workforce over the past several years.  Duh.  So, what are you going to do about it?

Take my advice:  Don’t settle.  Upgrade!

Your clients aren’t going to settle for less.  Your competition is not going to settle.   Are you going to settle?

Go ahead, add some sugar to your lemonade.

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Steve Cesare Ph.D.

has more than 25 years of Human Resources experience. Prior to joining The Harvest Group, Steve worked with Bemus Landscape, Jack in the Box, the County of San Diego, Citicorp, and NASA. Steve earned his Ph.D. in Industrial/Organizational Psychology from Old Dominion University, and has authored 68 human resources journal articles. As a member of The Harvest Group, Steve’s areas of expertise include: staffing, legal compliance, wage and hour issues, training, and employee safety.  Read Steve's full bio.