The horticulture and landscape industry in Australia is currently facing a significant staff shortage. The demand for skilled workers in this industry has risen significantly in recent years, but the number of workers available has not kept pace, or even decreased. This shortage has created significant challenges for employers, as they struggle to find and retain the skilled workers they need to meet the demands of their customers.
The staff shortage in the horticulture and landscape industry has a number of impacts on employers. It can increase the cost of labour, making it difficult for employers to compete with one another. It can also result in longer lead times for projects, which can harm the reputation of the company. Additionally, it can create significant stress and workload for existing employees, leading to burnout and high turnover rates.
The purpose of this article is to help employers in the horticulture and landscape industry in Australia address the staff shortage we’re all facing. Through the presentation of various solutions and strategies, this article aims to provide employers with the tools and information they need to source and retain skilled workers, even in the midst of this industry-wide shortage.
Factors Contributing to the Staff Shortage
There are several factors contributing to the staff shortage in the horticulture and landscape industry in Australia. One of the biggest is the disruptions caused by the lockdowns, and the knock-on effects of the border restrictions. Other industries lost overseas workers, and many garden workers of all types sought a higher wage in those industries.
To compound the problem, there are not sufficient young workers entering the industry to replace skilled workers approaching retirement age as the industry continues to boom.
Utilising Social Media
Social media has become an increasingly important tool for employers to source candidates in today’s job market. With billions of users across various platforms, social media offers employers a large pool of potential candidates to choose from. It allows employers to directly reach and engage with candidates and can build brand recognition which helps with recruiting and hiring.
There are a number of tips that employers can follow to effectively use social media in sourcing candidates. These include:
- Building a strong online presence: This includes creating a professional profile and using high-quality images and content to showcase your company and its values that attracts candidates.
- Engaging with potential candidates: This can be done by sharing relevant content, responding to comments, and reaching out to potential candidates directly.
- Utilising relevant hashtags: This can help increase visibility and reach on social media platforms. Try #HorticultureCareers, #HorticultureIndustry, #Horticulture, and similar tags.
- Leveraging employee networks: Encouraging current employees to share job postings and company information on their own social media networks can also be an effective way to reach potential candidates. You can provide incentives for them, but don’t expect them to do this if they aren’t comfortable.
- Follow Hort People on LinkedIn, and Plants Grow Here on Twitter, where you’ll find a tribe of professional horticulturists and other business owners that have “liked” content and have commented on the posts.
Utilizing Employee Referral Programs
Employee referral programs are initiatives designed to encourage employees to refer their friends, family, and acquaintances for job openings within their company. By leveraging the personal and professional networks of current employees, referral programs can be an effective way to source candidates for job openings.
Referred candidates are often able to start work more quickly than those sourced through other channels. Additionally, referred candidates are often a good fit for the company, as they’ve been recommended by someone who already works there. This can lead to higher job satisfaction, lower turnover rates, and a more positive work environment overall.
To implement an effective employee referral program, employers should follow these steps:
- Clearly communicate the program to all employees: Make sure all employees understand how the program works and what benefits they can receive for participating.
- Offer incentives for successful referrals: This can include bonuses, gifts, or other rewards for employees who refer successful candidates.
- Make it easy to refer candidates: Provide employees with clear instructions on how to refer candidates and make sure the process is as simple as possible.
- Track the success of the program: Regularly review the results of the program and make changes as needed to increase its effectiveness.
Using Online Job Boards
Job boards are online platforms that connect job seekers with potential employers. These platforms allow employers to post job vacancies and reach a large pool of potential candidates. However, employers are finding less success with the large, non-specific job boards in recent years due to non-specific categories, over-saturation of certain types of positions, and qualified candidates receiving irrelevant email notifications for nursing home and dog wash opportunities.
On top of that, they can be quite expensive for employers to invest in.
Hort People: The Green Industry Job Board
Hort People is the Australian horticulture job board. It’s supported by the Australian Institute of Horticulture and has over 60 categories, from production to installation, and everything in-between.
We specifically cater to job seekers in the wider green industry, ensuring that the job advertisement reaches relevant, interested candidates without distractions from other industries.
You can advertise on a smaller budget than using a general job board, especially when you go with an “Unlimited” package for 12 months and you’re advertising for more than 10 jobs nationally.
Hort People is featured in industry magazines, podcasts and on social media, so you’re more likely to find candidates who have a passion for and experience in the horticulture industry.
How to Effectively Use Job Boards
To effectively use job boards of all types, you should:
- Make sure the job description accurately reflects the role and responsibilities.
- Use keywords related to the industry and job role to make the listing more easily searchable.
- Provide a detailed company profile and culture to attract the right candidates.
Utilising Industry Associations and Networking Opportunities
Industry associations and networking opportunities provide a platform for employers to connect with potential candidates, as well as other industry professionals. These associations and events also provide opportunities for employers to promote their company and open positions, increasing their reach and attracting top talent.
Membership to an association like the Australian Institute of Horticulture is a good start, but if you sponsor them or an event they’re organising, your business will be featured more prominently.
Being a part of industry associations and attending networking opportunities allows employers to:
- Build relationships with potential candidates and other industry professionals.
- Promote your company and open positions to a wider audience.
- Stay up-to-date on industry trends and developments.
- Gain insight into the job market and what candidates are looking for in a job.
Utilising Career Fairs and Open Days
While an industry event is for professional networking of all types, a career/job fair focuses on matching employers and job seekers.
These events typically take place in a large venue and feature exhibits and booths where employers can showcase their company and available positions, as well as meet with potential candidates and conduct on-site interviews. Job seekers attend these events to learn about job opportunities, network with potential employers, and get a sense of the job market and the skills and qualifications that are in demand.
Career fairs and open days are a great way for employers to connect with a pool of potential candidates in one location.
To effectively use career fairs and open days in sourcing candidates, you should prepare well in advance. This includes developing a clear message about your company and job opportunities, as well as preparing marketing materials such as flyers and brochures. You should also be prepared to answer questions about your company and the job opportunities you have available.
TAFE and University Programs
TAFE and university programs provide an opportunity for employers to connect with students who are interested in entering the horticulture and landscape industry. These programs can include apprenticeships and other hands-on experiences that can help students gain the skills and knowledge they need to succeed in their future careers.
To effectively use college and university programs in sourcing candidates, research the programs available and reach out to the institutions that offer them. Employers should also be prepared to provide students with meaningful learning experiences that will help them to develop the skills and knowledge they need to succeed in the industry. This can include internships, work-based learning opportunities, and other hands-on experiences.
Apprenticeships and Traineeships
Apprenticeships and traineeships are a great way for employers to source new horticulture and landscape talent. These programs provide on-the-job training and education to young individuals who are interested in pursuing a career in the field. This not only helps to address your staff needs, but it also provides a way for the industry to train and develop the next generation of workers.
Utilising Freelance and Contract Work
Freelance and contract work are possible for certain roles within the horticulture and landscape industry, especially designers, consultants and specialists. This type of work provides a flexible and cost-effective solution for employers who aren’t able to fill a position in-house, and don’t want to use labour hire.
Freelance workers are self-employed and offer their services on a project-by-project basis, while contract workers are hired on a short-term basis to perform specific tasks.
Utilising Recruitment Agencies
Recruitment agencies specialise in sourcing and hiring candidates for various industries, including the horticulture and landscape industry. They can help employers find the right candidates for their open positions, saving time and effort on the part of the employer.
Using recruitment agencies can lead to faster placement times, access to a wider pool of candidates, and they may provide employers with market insights and help ensure that all legal requirements are met during the hiring process.
However, you’ll pay more per hour for staff sourced through a recruitment agency.
Here are a few tips to choose the right recruitment agency for your needs:
- Determine your recruitment needs: Clearly define what you are looking for in a candidate, including the desired qualifications and experience.
- Research recruitment agencies: Look for recruitment agencies that specialise in the horticulture and landscape industry and have a good reputation.
- Ask for referrals: Ask for referrals from other employers in the industry to find a reputable recruitment agency.
- Review the agency’s track record: Look for recruitment agencies with a proven track record of successfully placing candidates in the horticulture and landscape industry.
- Meet with the agency: Schedule a meeting with the recruitment agency to discuss your needs and assess if they are a good fit for your company.
Offering Competitive Compensation and Benefits
Offering competitive compensation and benefits is a key factor in attracting and retaining employees in the horticulture and landscape industry, especially during a staff shortage. A competitive compensation and benefits package can set your company apart from others and make it an attractive option for job seekers.
Raising wages and offering more benefits can have a positive impact on employee morale, productivity, job satisfaction, and loyalty to the company. It can help attract more applicants to your job ads, while also reducing employee turnover.
The award wage is not competitive. It’s the bare minimum; if you want to offer a truly competitive rate, you’ll need to do much better than that.
To determine a competitive compensation and benefits package, research industry awards (using this calculator), and compare with market rates for similar positions through online job boards like Hort People. Consider factors such as experience, skill level, job duties, and location when determining compensation. It may also be beneficial to conduct a salary survey or consult with a human resources professional.
Learn more about award wages through this article.
Offering Flexible Work Arrangements
Flexible work arrangements refer to arrangements that allow employees to have more control over when, where, and how they work. This can include options such as flexible hours, remote work (when possible), part-time work, and job sharing.
They can improve employee satisfaction, reduce stress, and increase productivity. It can also make your company more attractive to job seekers and help with employee retention.
To effectively implement flexible work arrangements, it’s important to have clear policies and guidelines in place. Communication and trust between employers and employees is also key. Flexible work arrangements should be offered to all employees, with the exception of remote work, which isn’t possible for all roles. It should not just be offered to select individuals, and should not impact the quality of work or productivity negatively.
Creating a Positive and Supportive Work Environment
A positive work environment can improve job satisfaction, increase employee engagement and boost productivity. By creating a workplace culture that prioritises the well-being of employees, you can increase the likelihood of attracting and retaining top candidates so that you don’t have to replace them.
Here are 8 steps for employers how to create a positive and supportive work environment:
- Foster open and transparent communication between employees and management
- Encourage teamwork and collaboration
- Offer opportunities for professional growth and development
- Provide a safe and healthy work environment
- Offer competitive benefits and perks
- Encourage work-life balance
- Provide opportunities for employee input and feedback
- Recognise and reward employee performance
Utilising Employee Retention Programs
Employee retention programs are designed to increase the retention of current employees, reduce turnover, and improve overall job satisfaction.
To implement an effective employee retention program, you should start by identifying the specific needs of your employees. This could involve conducting surveys, one-on-one meetings, or focus groups to get a better understanding of their priorities and what they value most in their workplace.
From there, you can develop and implement specific initiatives that meet their needs, such as flexible work arrangements, professional development opportunities, and regular performance evaluations. Additionally, it’s important to communicate the program and its benefits to your employees and solicit their feedback to ensure its success.
Adjusting Your Approach
The horticulture and landscape industry is facing a staff shortage, and as an employer, you need to be proactive in finding ways to attract top talent. By modifying your recruitment and selection process, you can increase the chances of attracting and retaining top talent.
Revisiting the recruitment process can help you fix problems that prevent candidates applying to your jobs. Change the tone of your job and and focus on WIIFM (what’s in it from the perspective of candidates).
Offer incentives such as flexible working arrangements or training opportunities to entice top talent. Review your recruitment channels to ensure you’re reaching a wider pool of candidates.
Considering candidates that you may have overlooked in the past, such as those who are under-qualified or lack relevant industry experience, may also be a necessary adaptation. This could involve re-evaluating the importance of specific qualifications or certifications and focusing instead on a candidate’s potential, attitude and ability to learn. Offering mentorship and training programs can also help bring these candidates up to speed and provide them with the necessary skills to succeed in the role.
Keep trying new things, such as using the Hort People job board.
Employee Development Programs
Employee development programs are initiatives aimed at providing employees with opportunities for growth and professional development. These programs can include training workshops, coaching, mentorship, or further education and certification programs.
They can increase job satisfaction and motivation, as employees feel valued and have opportunities for growth. Additionally, investing in your employees can improve the overall quality of their work, as they’re equipped with the latest skills and knowledge to succeed in their roles.
To implement an effective employee development program, it’s important to start by identifying the specific needs and interests of your employees. This could involve conducting surveys, one-on-one meetings, or focus groups to get a better understanding of what they would like to achieve and what areas they need support in.
From there, you can develop and implement initiatives that meet their needs, such as training workshops, coaching, mentorship, or further education and certification programs. Additionally, it’s important to communicate the program and its benefits to your employees and solicit their feedback to ensure its success.
Throughout this article, we’ve explored various solutions for addressing the staff shortage in the horticulture and landscape industry in Australia.
While the staff shortage presents a challenge, there are steps that employers can take to address this issue. By taking action and utilizing the solutions outlined in this article, you can overcome this challenge and build a thriving, sustainable workplace.