How to Attract Great Talent for Your Green Business

As the busy season approaches, nurseries and landscape companies are scrambling to hire the employees they need. Here are some tips to find the quality people your business requires to grow.

As the owner of a nursery or landscaping business, your official title should be “Chief Problem Solver,” not “President.” That’s because your days are filled with issues only you can solve. A perennial one that sprouts each winter is how to staff your firm for the high season ahead. 

If you’re like many green-company owners, you may postpone dealing with this challenge until spring is nearly upon you. Then you scramble to identify and select the candidates you need to have a successful year. This is a risky gambit that may succeed, but comes at the price of finding only average employees and creating stress. There’s a better way: developing and executing a hiring plan well before you begin recruiting.

 Building a Recruiting Plan

At least two to three months before the season kicks off, begin working on your recruiting plan. This document serves to translate your operational plan for the year ahead into reality. Perhaps you wish to add new services or revise how you deliver existing services. Your recruiting plan is how you’ll transform goals into actual results.

What should this plan contain? It should list the key jobs in your firm, organized by value delivered. Focus initially on the value people generate for your firm. For example, some employees might create customers, while others might fulfill project requests. Some might operate equipment; others might maintain equipment. The point is, fully identify your firm’s value chain in terms of job types or assets. Then for each human asset that creates value, identify the desired personal characteristics, prior experiences and knowledge and skills that combine to create the value you need.

Once you have determined each position’s “value add,” build a job description for it. This should include job tasks, how they’re to be performed and when. With job descriptions in hand, create an interviewing guide for each position. You may ask all of your candidates to fill out a standard job application, but make sure your hiring interview guides are customized for each position. They should help you to uncover whether candidates have the ability and desire to create the value your business requires. As you recruit and interview talent, keep reminding yourself: “It’s all about finding and retaining human assets that return value to the business.” 

Executing your hiring plan should begin at least three to four months before you begin hiring. However, today many firms recruit continuously throughout the year. This generates a talent pool they can draw from as the busy season approaches.

Also, remember to deploy different recruiting techniques for different jobs. For example, the Internet job sites you’d use for an office bookkeeper opening will likely be different from the ones you’d use for a landscaping crew chief. Not only should you use multiple techniques for different jobs, diversify the techniques you use to recruit for a specific position. This covers you in the event one technique fails to generate enough candidates to interview. You’ll always have back-up sources you can fall back on.

Recruiting Techniques

Now that you know whom you need to hire, shift your focus to execution. Here are some recruiting techniques that nurseries and landscape firms have found to be productive:

  • Sell your firm’s value proposition aggressively in your help-wanted ads. In your copy, stress why a candidate should consider your company above others competing for their talents. If possible, stress the career paths you offer for those candidates who succeed and are willing to stick around.
  • Add a careers page to your website. This is another opportunity to differentiate your firm, not just to list job openings. 
  • Create a flyer promoting job opportunities at your firm. Post it prominently inside your building (to get referrals from employees) and also in highly trafficked areas in your community (telephone poles, outside post office, food stores, etc.). 
  • Host a job fair. This is a special in-person event where you promote your job openings and career paths, while providing handouts, soft drinks and snacks. You can execute an online version of this (without the refreshments or food) using Webex or Zoom.
  • Leverage your social media sites. If you already have a presence on Facebook or Twitter, highlight your job openings there. If you haven’t established a presence yet, consider doing so to give your recruiting more appeal to younger job candidates.
  • Network with centers of influence such as the vendors and suppliers with whom you deal regularly. Since they already operate in the green space, they likely will know people that may be interested in coming to work for you.
Again, the tactics you use are less important than using multiple ones continuously. And we can’t overestimate the importance of starting early. If you activate your plan six months or more before you need to bring on employees, you will likely have your staffing completed well before your busy season starts. And if you hire the right people, before too long may find yourself with too much work to handle. Compared with being short-handed, that’s a good problem to have.