Managing people in the snow and ice management industry, whether on-site or in multiple locations, is a complex issue. In most organizations people are hard working, but productivity increase announcements are often perceived as a demand for front line workers (specifically those in sidewalk snow removal) to try harder. This isn’t necessarily true – usually it’s about working more effectively and being accountable for the results.
People are by nature territorial. They tend to accept more responsibility and be more accountable when their territory is well defined. Sometimes it’s difficult for workers to fully grasp the scope of their territory or responsibility because in our industry the areas are so large and/or spread out. It’s hard for management to keep track of individual performances if workers don’t know the outline of their territories.
Sidewalk snow removal is a people-intensive activity. Often more payroll dollars go toward it as a percentage of the total labor outlay than others. The labor intensity involved has improved, and the percentages may change, but people power will be the heart of the business for the foreseeable future.
Remember, we haven’t substantially reduced the man-hours per lineal foot of walk, even with improved ice control materials and more sophisticated equipment. In fact, a man with a “snow-pusher” is considerably more productive than one with a snow blower in accumulations less than eight inches.
The US Department of Labor has confirmed that the pool of available workers is shrinking and will get even smaller in the future. The industry will continue with more companies chasing fewer workers or – more accurately – less people willing to do this kind of manual labor. So managing these workers properly is essential to your bottom line.