Photo courtesy of Dutch Heritage Gardens

Finding new staff is considered one of the biggest challenges by many employers of horticultural workers. The Colorado Nursery & Greenhouse Association (CNGA) reached out to several members to find out how they have found the most success with hiring the best job applicants. We hope this list can provide some new ideas or at least reinforce where you can focus to most efficiently address the ongoing struggle to fill job openings.

Ranked from one to 10, the methods that resulted in the most hiring success are first. Though word-of-mouth introductions, social media posts and online ads were highest in hiring success rates, survey respondents agreed using a variety of methods is helpful. Also, some methods toward the bottom of the list may be used less by most employers, but they are still valuable for those companies that have specific labor needs and matching human resources capabilities.

  1. Word of mouth, mostly through current employees (especially useful in Hispanic community)
  2. “Now Hiring” posts on social media
  3. Online help wanted ads on Indeed.com, CNGA classifieds web page (https://www.coloradonga.org/classifieds), the employer’s website, and Craigslist
  4. Flyers and signs with job announcements posted at the company/organization and around the neighborhood
  5. Interested job seekers who walk in to apply (so be ready with information and applications for job openings so they can start the process right then and there)
  6. Job fairs: on the company site or at local high schools, vocational colleges and universities
  7. Unemployment offices and workforce centers
  8. Newspaper classified ads in print and online, including Spanish-language media
  9. H-2A visa program, as well as the H-2B visa and Refugee Resettlement programs
  10. Magnetic help wanted signs printed with QR codes, displayed on company vehicles

For more ideas about where to post job announcements and find applicants plus other hiring tips, send a request to info@coloradonga.org for CNGA’s 36-page publication, Creative Staffing Ideas for a Changing Labor Market: A Labor Resource Guide. A benefit available exclusively to CNGA members, this digital document can be downloaded as a pdf file and printed. To learn about becoming a member, go to https://www.coloradonga.org/membership.

New hires working
Photo courtesy of Dutch Heritage Gardens

Tips for Hiring Success

Picking the right method to find employees is not the only determining factor in whether the hiring process is successful. How and when job openings are announced as well as the hiring and on-boarding process can also be critical. Here’s a few insights from some Colorado employers on what they do to help boost hiring success.

Danny Bier, Nursery Department Manager, SiteOne Landscape Supply, Denver

“Posting early and frequently with accurate and thorough job information has led to most of our hiring success. As we are selecting a new hire, we focus on filling roles appropriately: hiring the right person for the job. We always welcome newcomers to the industry, but having people who are experienced and qualified for key positions is important.”

Nancy J. Spahn, Controller, The Tree Farm, Longmont

We usually run help wanted ads just before our busy season begins. We list somewhat detailed duties for customer service, sales and customer service, and cashiers. Finding employees that live near our business location is helpful. When posting a job with CNGA, offering a hiring bonus or incentive of some sort can also be helpful. Then, it makes the hiring process more efficient to prescreen job applicants before interviews so you don’t spend unnecessary time with someone who is not right for the position.”

gulley hiring
Photo courtesy of Gulley Greenhouse
Margaret Paget, Forest & Open Space Supervisor,
City of Wheat Ridge Parks & Recreation Department

“We have been able to raise our wage to $14.60 an hour this year, which I think has helped retain employees once they were hired. We try and be flexible and work with employees around their other scheduling issues like schooling, other jobs and family commitments.

“A clear job description is good along with making the job requirements clear during the interview process. For an initial hire, experience in the field is great but gauging a person’s ability and willingness to learn is also something to try and pick up on…rehiring or letting someone go is never fun if you misstep in assessing a potential candidate’s abilities.”

Chris Borchers, Greenhouse/Horticulture Crew Leader, City of Westminster

“We typically post seasonal positions in February, and keep posting until we have adequate staffing – sometimes we need to keep recruiting through April or May. Most of our seasonal staff are in high school or recently graduated.

“For increased success in hiring across the green industry, it would be helpful to educate people on the existence and variety of jobs, such as in parks, horticulture, irrigation, open space, forestry, etc. Also, pay a fair wage and provide training opportunities for those interested in a career.”

Beth Gulley, Wholesale Manager, Gulley Greenhouse, Fort Collins

We have an online application on our own website, which has generated quite a few applications, specifically people already familiar with our business and operation. A detailed job description definitely helps us to make sure people are the right fit for the job and understand what the job is. 

“Job sharing with other industries has also worked well for us. For example, we get employees working here during the winter or spring who might have other standing jobs landscaping on a city crew during the summer. We make sure our benefits are competitive – more than just wages, and that potential employees understand the other benefits of being able to work outside and with plants.”

plants
Photo courtesy of Gulley Greenhouse
Brandon Olson, President, Olson’s Greenhouse, Denver

“What has helped us be successful in posting jobs with Indeed has been a very detailed description of our company including our company’s culture and vision. We feel that representing these aspects of our company has brought us very good candidates who want to share our company’s vision and culture.

“H-2A is worth the money. We get the same group of workers each year who are here to work and work hard. Also, being open and creating a culture that others want to be a part of has been a huge benefit to us. Olson’s has started implementing the “Great Game of Business” (an open-book management and employee engagement approach), which has played a great part in helping us to build a culture that others want to be a part of.”

Brian Austin, Head Grower, Dutch Heritage Gardens, Larkspur

“We have a saved list of past job applicants that we’ve collected throughout the previous year, who we call first. Besides that, posting jobs early helps as it’s never good to hire out of desperation. We post in both Spanish and English.

“We are honest in our job description, providing all of the key details of what we need from someone. I think it’s important not to be too detailed in the description, because you want to generate interest and ultimately get them in the door. We include a quick survey for new applicants to fill out and include with their application, which let’s us know who is serious about the job and who is applying for 40 jobs as a time filler at 2 a.m.

“Focus on how people can contribute right away and be open to new ideas. Keep in mind, we are hiring people, not “general labor” drones. People want to feel valuable and respected. Keep that in mind as you go through the hiring process and people will be drawn to that sort of culture. Allow employees to grow. This is what will ultimately keep them around for the long haul.”

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