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Finding the right hires for horticulture

July 3, 2018  By Connie-Lyne Harder

Today’s labour market is tight. Profits are tight. As hiring managers, our job has become increasingly difficult. We can talk all day about the challenges we face – the aging labour force, millennials, skilled labour – the fact is, most people are already working. Their families depend on it. The question is, how do we motivate people to work for us?

Let’s be clear – there are different motivation factors for different people. Only when you match your intrinsic company values to an individual’s motivational force will you achieve your goal. So, how do you do that? Here are five steps:

1) Know your company – from the ground up. Your HR department may not know what motivates your employees.
Ask your workers WHY they like working in your greenhouse. What would make their lives easier? These answers are gold – especially if you want to find like-minded workers.


2) Take what your employees have told you, follow it and market it. Use job boards, employee referral incentives, career fairs and social media.
Find professional help. There are many organizations who will help you create a great job description based on your corporate culture, position and company. They may also offer advertising services that include an online job board and social media channel advertising.

3) Challenge preconceived notions – open up hiring constraints:
Age: At 65, my father can outwork me. He’s had a great career in farming and mechanics and has retired – twice. Twice he has come out of retirement. Why? He has more to offer. He has common sense, practicality, wisdom and work ethic. You’re not sure he can handle the manual labour, the bending, the early hours? What is hard on HIS body, is also hard on your 25-year-old employees. The difference is, he will figure out a way to modify his work to conserve energy, save his body from physical duress and still get the job done. At this age, most know who they are and what they want. They are not interested in job hopping. Seniors have roots and can be loyal, long-term employees! (Census Canada (2016) says there are over 5.9 million seniors in Canada)

Gender: The age-old mindset that women will leave to have babies. Guess what? Parental (Dad) leave happens as well. Heart attacks, sick leave, a change of heart, more money – these are all factors that will change your workplace. You can’t control any of it – so open those doors to both genders.

4) Be competitive, yet different.
Cost of living is immense, especially in certain areas. Pay competitively. Remember, pay isn’t only an hourly wage, it can include bonus incentives, benefits and company “perks” such as transportation to and from work, adjusted hours or housing.

5) Be flexible – Focus on lifestyle
Never before have we seen an entire generation focused on flexibility and lifestyle. Our newest generation(s) work to live, and don’t live to work. They want to know, FEEL and be apart of your corporate story. They will investigate you on social media to assess your impact on their world. To motivate this generation, tell your story with social conscience. Health spending accounts, wellness opportunities, social events, flexible hours, holiday time – these are all attractive.

The older workforce, looking for their second career may be a great fit for a part-time or seasonal role. They want something to do in the spring/summer, and then escape the cold for the winters. What are most seniors interested in during those off months? Insurance! Offer them company insurance and you’ll have loyal return employees when the growing season ramps up. With a referral program, they might have a few friends too!

Employees with school-aged children are often unable to work due to lack of before and after child care. Create a shift to accommodate them. You might be surprised at how valuable your 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. labour force can be. It’s not conventional, but it might open doors to those looking to work for you. Your flexibility may well make up for an otherwise lower-end pay scale.

You all have great employees. Find out why they love to come to work every day. Use their motivation; embrace it, expand on it and tell your story to everyone everywhere!


Connie-Lyne Harder is the marketing and recruiting manager for Alberta and British Columbia at AgStep, a recruiting service for agriculture and horticulture. She can be reached at

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