As an industry, we need to reevaluate the importance of production workers in sidewalk snow clearing operations. This group – usually part-time employees and often the lowest paid – should be the focal point of our management systems, beginning with the crew leaders who supervise them.
Since the 1980’s, crew leaders have emerged as the specialists of the industry, with an expanded role in managing sidewalk snow and ice removal. The difficulty and expense of directly supervising mobile service crews, coupled with the need to have an experienced, knowledgeable employee on-site at all times, has reshaped the value of the traditional crew leader. Organizations that recognize this expanded role can streamline operations by eliminating oversight by middle managers and production supervisors.
People work in snow removal because they enjoy being outside, or they do it as part of a year-round commitment that includes landscape maintenance or property management. Obviously this group doesn’t object to physically demanding work. However, you need to provide them with the proper tools, since snow related tasks are often more physically demanding than those in landscaping. Maybe you need a pay differential for winter work since the conditions are harsher than in other industries.
When staffing snow removal positions, find people who like being active all the time since they usually have a good eye for detail and a disdain for traditional office settings. They learn by doing and are strong candidates for on-the-job training. Truthfully, many production workers in sidewalk snow removal quit because they aren’t properly trained and managed. This is also true in landscape management.
Organizations should be staffed and run so the entire operation is a support system for production crews and their workers. Sidewalk snow removal should be viewed as a production oriented task, and the overlying organization should be structured so management doesn’t interfere with it. Workers perform best when they’re managed like team members rather than laborers.
Most people want more than a paycheck for a day’s work. Part of management’s responsibility in a production organization is to help players on the team reach their full potential.