Career profile - Grounds maintenance contracts manager

Many organisations outsource their grounds maintenance services.

A ground maintenance contracts manager is in charge of these services for their client, which in many cases is a council or a large corporation. Specific tasks include grass cutting, maintaining hedges and borders, removing weeds and leaves, and maintaining play areas and sports fields.

What is best about being a grounds maintenance contracts manager?

Ground Control group training manager Neil Huck admits there is a perception that ground maintenance is boring. "But it's not," he insists. "It's always a challenge dealing with different clients' requirements. Quite often, by coming out and working and liaising with them, you end up changing their viewpoints so you end up with a better product."

A representative for grounds maintenance firm John O'Conner notes: "It's good to remember how you helped a client solve a problem." Ground Control regional contracts manager Danny Hope says dealing with clients on a daily basis and working on a variety of different sites is an enjoyable part of the job. "It's the diversity," he explains.

What kind of skills, attributes, knowledge and experience do you feel are most in demand for this role in the recruitment market at the moment - and why?

Management/leadership

Managers from both John O'Conner and Ground Control say you need good leadership/management skills. Hope explains: "We have just won a new five-year contract with Severn Trent Water and so we took over some of their TUPE staff members and had to fit them into the mould that we work in." Managing a team also necessitates human resources knowledge, they add.

Horticultural knowledge

John O'Conner and Ground Control say good technical horticultural knowledge is required. Huck says: "You have to be able to know what 'good' (horticulture) looks like." Sometimes specialist horticultural knowledge is required. "Understanding how to apply grounds maintenance equipment to different geographical terrains to obtain the right quality of maintenance" is also important, according to John O'Conner.

Customer care

Interpreting customer requirements is a key part of this job, says Huck.

"You have to be able to meet clients' specifications. For example, Tesco's will be different to Sainsbury's, which will be different to Waitrose. Some clients want to use herbicides, some don't." He adds that "the ability to negotiate on site" is also important.

Business and IT skills

Given the amount of logistics involved in managing large contracts, IT skills help, notes Hope. The John Conner representative says it helps to be familiar with the price benchmarks in the industry.

What sort of qualifications and experience would you need to see from a candidate to be convinced that they possess these qualities?

John O'Conner says candidates ideally need a level 3 work-based diploma in horticulture coupled with three-to-five years' experience and Institute of Learning Management level 3-7 or equivalent. Huck points to a minimum of a level 3 or 4 diploma in horticulture "so that you can fully understand the horticultural requirements of the job". Huck and Hope also note that most contracts managers have NPTC PA1 and PA6 pesticide spray certificates as well as qualifications in health and safety.

Are any of the skills that are in demand transferable from other horticulture roles?

"The skills from landscape contracts manager to grounds maintenance contract manager are transferable," says John O'Conner. Huck adds: "We get people coming from other companies who may have a background in pure landscaping as opposed to grounds maintenance. The basic skills are there, it's just a case of adding to them."

Hope, meanwhile, reveals that he comes from an arboricultural background. "At Ground Control, for example, we do a lot of in-house training, which gives people skills that are transferable from one part of the industry to another."


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