What are tailgate talks and how can they help your business?

Great businesses are built on great communication. When it comes to your business, communicating with your landscape crew is no different. Whether you’re using open and transparent communication to help build your team or simply trying to use clear communication to share expectations and goals for a project, great communication is the best way for everyone to get on the same page.

When it comes to the fast-paced world of landscaping, tailgate talks are a great way to communicate with your crew. This guide will help you strengthen your communication skills when it comes to this helpful tool of the trade.


What is a tailgate talk?

A tailgate talk (sometimes called a toolbox talk) is a quick, face-to-face stand-up meeting with crew members. Tailgate talks are usually held at the beginning of the work day and are used to communicate goals, project details, and safety messages. While they don’t always happen this way, the name refers to the practice of meeting by the back of a pickup truck on a job site.

Tailgate talks or tailgate meetings are used by crew leaders or managers to;
- Set goals and objectives for a project or job,
- Outline scope of work and expectations,
- Inform crew members of any safety concerns or hazards associated with a job,
- Act as team-building opportunities,
- Provide crew leaders or managers the opportunity to have face-to-face time with crew members,
- Review elements of policy and procedure (e.g. your emergency action plan), and
- Establish a crew leader or manager as a safety authority.

Tailgate talks are an important piece of any formal landscape training program. Used correctly, they can reduce the risk of workplace injuries, increase productivity, and foster a positive team environment. Used incorrectly, tailgate talks may be seen as little more than a distraction or waste of time.

Here are some tips that you can use to make the most of your tailgate talks.


Tip #1: Come prepared

Have a brief agenda of what you need to communicate to your team or crew, even if you’re the only one that sees it. Having something written down (or at least planned) will help you communicate efficiently and effectively. It will also help ensure you don’t miss anything important, particularly if you’re like the 75% of people who have anxiety about speaking in public.


Tip #2: Know the safety hazards associated with a job site

The safety of your crew should be your top priority, which means keeping your crew informed of the risks. Tip #1 and tip #2 go hand in hand, since knowing the safety hazards of a job site ahead of time is part of being prepared. Take the time to know the job site yourself, including how the natural terrain and the particular job being performed may contribute to safety risks. If there’s a particularly steep embankment that your crew needs to be aware of, make sure you know exactly where it is and how it will affect their work. Then, use your tailgate talks to inform your crew.

Bonus tip: When it comes to safety risks associated with hot weather, tailgate talks can be the perfect time to hand out an extra water bottle and squirt of sunscreen—a next-level addition to your talk that only comes with preparation!


Tip #3: Keep it short

Nothing can crush morale quite like a long meeting. Make sure that you keep things moving in your tailgate talks; communicate with purpose only the things your crew needs to know. While there are occasionally times when you want to run things fast and loose, be aware that jokes and side commentary can quickly derail a meeting. If your meetings continue to get away from you, consider leaving a couple of minutes at the end of a tailgate talk for a joke, special announcement, or to open up for questions from the crew.


Tip #4: Limit public speaking opportunities

When it comes to tailgate talks, the person leading the talk should be in control of any crew participation. Questions and clarifications are fine, but make sure you limit the opportunity for a chatty crew member to run away with your meeting or for bored participants to speak out of turn. Encourage questions, but ask that people save them for the end of the tailgate talk. Keep the Q&A short as well. If anyone has a particular question that isn’t relevant to your agenda, ask that they discuss it with you in private or add it to a future talk.


Tip #5: Share responsibility

If you’re stressing about tip #1, here’s a great tailgate talk hack: let someone else help you prepare for the next one. Ask a crew member to pay special attention to potential safety risks. Ask another team member to help you identify goals and objectives for a project. Assigning responsibility to different crew members can give them the sense that they have a special role in the completion of a job and can help you identify who has the leadership qualities your business needs.


Tip #5: Give positive feedback and praise

Everyone likes to know they’re doing a good job. Providing positive feedback and rewarding crew members with praise are great ways to create a positive working environment. Giving positive feedback also lets people know that you’re paying attention and that the work a crew member is doing has a purpose. There’s a big difference between praise and flattery, so be genuine about the praise you give.


Tip #6: Get tech-y

Use technology to keep your tailgate talks on track and help keep your crew engaged. Greenius has created a comprehensive library of tailgate talks to provide your crew leaders with content on more than 100 topics that will improve your crew’s safety, productivity, and knowledge. Use the Greenius program to keep your talk on track, record site notes, and get crew members to sign off on the content. You can also use the Greenius platform to create your own tailgate talks using an easy step-by-step process.


Tailgate talks are just the start. Develop your crew’s skills and grow your business with Greenius landscaping training software.

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