Labour resources available to Canadian fruit and vegetable growers

Current and upcoming tools to help you with the important tasks of recruiting and retaining quality employees
Treena Hein
June 26, 2019
By Treena Hein
“Employee retention is very important at this point in time in the horticulture sector,” notes Portia MacDonald-Dewhirst, executive director at the Canadian Agricultural Human Resource Council (CAHRC). “There’s a significant labour shortage. It’s very difficult to attract new people to the industry, so in addition to a tough time with recruitment, we should do our best to keep workers already in the industry satisfied. Investing that time and energy is so important.”

For his part, Kevin Bobier, recruiting manager at Ontario-based AgriRecruiting.com (formerly AgriStaffing.com), says his firm is seeing more and more horticultural jobs being posted on its website.

“We are also receiving more inquiries for our ‘Full Recruiting Services’ from that sector,” he says. “We feel there are more jobs being posted because the employment rate in Canada is extremely low. There just aren't enough candidates out there to fill these positions and therefore employers are doing more advertising to try to find employees.”

To help you with finding and retaining employees for your operation, Fruit & Vegetable presents a roundup of currently-available online resources and tools.

First, is CAHRC’s ‘AgriHR Toolkit’ (https://hrtoolkit.cahrc-ccrha.ca). It was first published about ten years ago and is constantly being updated (a new section on Temporary Foreign Workers was added at the end of March, for example).

“It’s designed to address the unique needs of the agriculture industry and presents best practices based on years of research and field testing in Canada and around the world,” MacDonald-Dewhirst explains. “It’s a mixture of instructions and specific tools for every situation related to recruitment, management and retention of employees.”

The Toolkit costs $99 per year but various ag industry associations provide membership discounts. Producers can also go to the CAHRC website and see overviews of various aspects of the kit for free.

"In addition to steps, case studies and tools, the kit has links to provincial labour regulations, many inspiring case studies and much more. It’s so comprehensive," says MacDonald-Dewhirst, "that it’s being used as an online textbook for HR courses within various ag degree and diploma programs. I think the most beneficial aspect of the Toolkit is if you have a question, you can quickly get an answer,” she notes.

Retainment 
In terms of strategies to help retain employees, the Toolkit offers many ways to support employees for success, including some innovative ideas from a case study of the Apple Growers of Ontario.

For her part, MacDonald-Dewhirst believes retention is all about having an open mind.

“We can’t assume our employees are the same as we are and we need to ask them what motivates them and what their interests are if we want them to stay,” she explains. “Then, we need to follow through with a long-term plan to meet their needs and keep them interested in their jobs. It’s not all about money.”

In addition, she says making employees feel valued with special perks is also a solid retention strategy.

“A few of the ideas from the Toolkit are special events, family BBQs or gym memberships, but again, ask first because what you’re interested in is not necessarily what your employees might want,” she says. “Maybe it’s little things like being able to use a company truck to move something on the weekend.”

‘Perks’ are not just important in retention however, but also in recruitment.

Bobier says, “the best piece of advice we have for hort farmers or any agricultural operation for that matter is to sell your company to the candidate. Right now, it is a ‘candidates’ market...So, if you want to get the best candidates to apply for your jobs, you need to tell them why your farm/company is the best choice of employment. Do you offer benefits? Is your operation a ‘family’ type work environment? Do you offer incentives? The more you sell your company, the better the resumes you will receive.”

In addition to adding a new section on the Temporary Foreign Worker Program to its Toolkit, CAHRC also runs online webinars, in-person workshops on how to manage temporary workers and how to comply with changes to the program rules as they are instituted.

“We’ve also created a Farm Worker app, which is now being piloted through the Ontario Greenhouse Vegetable Growers for the Leamington area, that helps foreign workers find their way in the broader community,” explains MacDonald-Dewhirst. “Almost all foreign workers have a smartphone. Hub Connect links workers with their new community and provides them with local news, weather, events, shopping, health care and church options. Working with industry and government, we hope to expand the communities served by the app to help employers be able to provide this service to their staff in all regions of Canada. Farmers value their international workers and consider them an integral part of Canada’s AgriWorkforce, providing this tool is another example of the investment farmers make to support their workers.”

Other currently-available resources:
Grasslands Group - https://www.grasslandsgroup.com/services/tools.html
This ag-focussed recruiting firm offers tools such as a salary evaluator, and articles such as ‘Advantages of Employee Referral Programs,’ ‘Are Workers Ready to Jump Ship For More Money?” and ‘Are You Prepared for a Candidates Market?’

Workhorsehub - www.workhorsehub.ca
Rather than using job boards and headhunters, Workhorse describes itself as “an innovative online platform that matches qualified professionals” in agriculture with employers.

Canada’s job bank - www.jobbank.gc.ca/home
This national job board run by the federal government includes a mobile app, employer resources, labour market information and more.

AgriLabourpool - http://www.agri-labourpool.com/
Agricultural Employment - http://agemploy.com/
AgHires - https://aghires.com

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