Sector skills shortage not helped by poor recruitment, says More People founder

Horticulture suffers from a lack of experience and expertise in recruitment at a time when businesses are crying out for good staff, according to recruitment consultant Guy Moreton.

Guy Moreton

Moreton, founder of More People, which specialises in recruiting for the land-based and garden and leisure industries, said that when it comes to recruitment horticulture, like farming, food production and other similar sectors, suffers from having lots of small businesses, and a fair proportion of family businesses, which do not recruit often enough to perfect the skill.

He will tell the next Association of Professional Landscapers seminar at Provender Nurseries in Swanley, Kent on Wednesday that it is crucial to think carefully about recruitment – even though it is difficult when you are busy running your business.

"In horticulture we are really bad at recruiting people and landscaping is probably the poor relative of horticulture industry in terms of getting people to come in," Moreton said. "Most of those at the event won’t be experts in recruitment, it will be one of the things they think they do well but they don’t."

He said it is often better to recruit for attitude rather than for experience, pointing to Julian Metcalfe, founder of Pret a Manger and Itsu who has a simple technique – he recruits "happy people".

"In horticulture they’ll say they want to pay an average amount for a very good grower but they’ll say they must have 10 years’ experience of growing hydrangeas. Not everyone needs to be that experienced - if they have the right attitude they will learn."

Susan McLaughlin of Garden House Design will also speak at the event about recruiting subcontractors and there will also be an interactive panel session to discuss how college training relates to the real world. The panel will be made up of a line-up of the heads of landscape courses from horticulture colleges.

Moreton said it was also important to recognise that employment expectations, and legislation, have also changed over the years.

"People need to be managed in a transparent, fair, open and dignified way and horticulture hasn’t been that good at that in the past. I’ve worked in the industry all my life and it’s a tough industry I think people expect people to be tough. They hire and fire very quickly and it often isn’t considered enough. The cost of getting it wrong is going to be even more in the future. We are trying to get our clients to realise that the most important part of a business is its people."

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