FROM THE EDITOR: June 2006

January 28, 2008
Written by
Growers well appreciate the investment they have that continually posts the greatest dividends. Good employees are worth their weight in gold, or in today’s prices, premium unleaded.

Good employees are worth their weight in gold, or in today’s prices, premium unleaded.    

A few years ago we published a photo of an employee who had just retired from a flower operation after 57 years of service, beginning work with the grandfather of the owners. Later that same year, we profiled a grower working alongside just two of his company’s employees, each with more than 25 years service.

It’s common to walk through a greenhouse with an owner/manager and be introduced to an employee who’s worked there for more than a quarter-century. It’s a source of pride for both the employee and employer.

How do you find good, new employees, those you hope will stick around for more than a season or two?
Recruiting efforts should start by contacting any of the many horticulture schools across Canada. Their grads are highly sought-after at home and abroad.

So, now you’ve hired someone. How effective is your orientation program for rookies, especially with respect to health and safety issues? How much time is spent in helping them get off on the right foot?
How do you get the most out of your employees and keep them motivated? Bill McCurry of McCurry Associates was a speaker during last fall’s Alberta Hort Congress. One grower he spoke with preferred a mentoring approach with training new staff, of having them “shadow” an experienced employee for a few weeks.

Farmcentre.com, a popular agricultural management web site, offers the following suggestions on effective training, which it describes as a four-step process.

•     “First, explain to the employee how the task or job is to be done.

•     “Second, demonstrate what is to be done. Instruct clearly and completely, and one point at a time.

•     “Third, observe the employee performing the task and answer any questions that may arise. Correct any errors you may observe.

•     “Fourth, put the employee on his or her own and check back frequently to see if there are any problems or questions.”

The Farmcentre.com feature emphasized that “training is an ongoing process with all employees. While new employees may have the most immediate need for training, other employees will also benefit from, and appreciate, the opportunity to keep up-to-date in their areas of expertise and responsibilities.”

There is no shortage of educational opportunities. Most immediately, Greenhouse Canada is hosting our annual Grower Day this month (June 14) in Delhi, Ontario, with a variety of topics and an international lineup of speakers. Presentations will cover the latest energy issues, marketing concepts, and new seed and vegetative varieties.

Next month is the Ohio Short Course, followed by CanWest in September, and then the Canadian Greenhouse Conference in Toronto in October, and the Saskatchewan and Alberta shows in November.

Each includes extensive educational sessions along with trade shows. The latest trends and technologies are explained and illustrated. The networking opportunities are extensive.

There are also the plant trials hosted by Westcan Greenhouses in B.C. (twice a year), the Container Gardening Trials hosted by Melhem Sawaya, the University of Guelph bedding plant trials, and – making their debut this year – the Epic New Plant Trials at Niagara-on-the-Lake. All clearly show how new plants, and old standards, bear up under local conditions.

Investing in greenhouses is a constant. There are always new technologies and processes. Equipment always needs to be overhauled and enhanced. Innovation is essential.

But the greatest returns come from a highly skilled and motivated workforce. It’s not just plants that should be growing within this industry.

Your grandkids, once you retire, will also appreciate those experienced employees.

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