New opportunities in horticulture

Wilma Duijvenvoorde sees new opportunities with vacancies in horticulture
5 to 20 times more people respond to part time vacancies

“We all are looking for the perfect new colleague, whether companies or recruiters in horticulture; young, but still experienced, with a whole range of skills and available full time. The sheep with 5 legs. Only, we can’t change the composition of the population: the population is getting older and the group of 20 or 30 somethings is getting smaller. Are we not missing chances and opportunities in our sector which other groups offer us; freelancers, returners and part timers?”

Wilma Duijvenvoorder, consultant at Lutgo HR for commercial and support positions in the flower bulb business, knows what she is talking about. She has recently carried out a presentation for a network organization of female business owners and managers in horticulture. “My belief is that you must not only search for the right candidate, but look for the tasks you are looking to have completed by this person, and if you can quantify these. Where, when and how long do these tasks take? This will help you to look in a different way at the people available in the market. You as employer are not paying for presence but for results. With part timers you might however need to work differently, for example ensure that work rosters are handed over well, but ultimately it’s about the result.”

During her presentation (with the theme of ‘Challenges in the job market’) she sketched a clear image of the situation in the job market within horticulture. “The greatest challenge is naturally the current scarcity, not only in horticulture but also in other sectors such as transport: more than 270,000 open vacancies. This scarcity will not be fixed in the short term and in other sectors is even more acute than in horticulture. The second challenge is that we are all getting older. In horticulture the average age is now 41 years and that is soon to rise to 45 years. And still it looks like all employers are looking for new young colleagues. I thought it was great to hear that many women at the presentation told me that they specifically chose older candidates. They said that these candidates were more stable and didn’t disappear after a couple of years.”

“A third challenge is the ever-increasing technical development. It seems that education doesn’t prepare people for the real world and there are many who would say it never did. The ever -increasing retirement age means that the concept of Life Long Learning is now more important than ever and business owners need to take this into consideration. That could mean that traineeships need to be available for returners or older employees: having more than one career in your lifetime is more and more likely.”

“The fourth challenge that I see is the fact that four generations now work with each other on the work floor, from baby boomers to generation Z. The management of these generations working together requires some special attention. You can see this specifically in the use of mobile phones. The older generation feel that their younger colleagues spend far too much time on their phones and not with the client or computer, while the younger generation are used to whatsapping and chatting with their clients, also after hours.”

As a result of her many years of commercial and management experience within a bulb exporting company, as well as a number of other organisations, Wilma is aware that there are many challenges.  “My opinion is that you shouldn’t look for the perfect candidate, but also look at the tasks which need to be carried out and what kind of expertise is required. On that basis you can see if you can find that expertise in other ways. In the Netherlands there are approximately a million freelancers and self- employed people and that will only become more. There are also 800,000 people who are distanced from the job market through their circumstances or personal challenges. There will be talented people in this pool, but the employer may need to invest in more training and another form of management.”

There is also a larger group, the part timers, which Lutgo HR are specifically focusing on. “We read in the newspaper that women on average, perform better at school. There are even more women studying at university than men. Also 75% of women work part time, which is less than 32 hours. It is a dreadful waste not to make use of the talents of this group for the challenges faced by our sector!” In comparison with other sectors such as care and education, horticulture is more reserved in this area which she knows from experience. “It is said that a sales position can’t be carried out part time but why not? They say that he or she must always be available for the client. But if the account manager is busy with client A, they also don’t have time for client B. It is more about ensuring that the client has their call returned quickly and is helped according to their own satisfaction. Look at the performance and results and allow the candidate to work on their own solution.”

‘Whichever way you look at it, the ship will ultimately have to turn. The perfect candidate we are all looking for, employers and recruiters – they don’t exist anymore. Employers in our sector don’t realise that enough. I can also tell you that at Lutgo HR we get 5 to 20 more responses to a part time vacancy. These are mostly from women but there are more and more men in this group. They are more often millennials, who are choosing to work a number of days each week in a stable job, alongside other interests in their life such as sport, hobbies and family, or other freelance activities. They are looking for a different balance between their work and private life than was normal for older generations.”

Wilma has been active at Lutgo HR for a number of months looking at opportunities for higher educated part timers. “We first of all did this under the motto 16-24, regarding the number of working hours. That sounded too much like the year 1624 so now we have given it the name 20-32 or 2.5 to 4 days work a week. You could call that the future year 2032 which is very appropriate, as changes in the requirements of the candidates will continue to develop, also in horticulture. This is maybe less than in the companies at the periphery of our sector, such as suppliers, but definitely less than in sectors such as care, education and ICT. There is definitely a ‘War on Talent’ going on, which every employer in horticulture should realise. To win this war you need to look much more at alternative opportunities in the offering of talent and I am absolutely convinced that more highly educated part timers can play a really good role in this.”

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