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Pro Landscaper Interview | Phil Jones, CEO | Attracting The Right Candidates

01 Jul 19

Our CEO, Phil Jones, says taking on a smart and resourceful approach can solve recruitment issues.

In December last year I was still new into the role of CEO at Cultura Group, with a focus defined of improving quality, delivering projects safely to specification and providing opportunities for our people to develop.  A goal, I am pleased to report, we are well on the way to achieving.

Due to expansion of the business, we additionally had a requirement for more people with specific skills that did not exist in the quantities and areas that we needed.  For example, a Senior QS, HSEQ Compliance Manager, estimators, Contract Managers and skilled soft landscapers.

I suspect that the majority of those reading this will know something about the well-publicised skills shortage within our industry.  And as I had previously been close to some of the studies and initiatives relating to this gap, I was expecting a long haul in recruiting people with the necessary skills and/or attitude for our business.
It was refreshing and unexpected therefore when it turned out to be way more successful than I had envisaged, although not altogether plain sailing!

This begs the question: How have we managed to fill all positions with the right people, in the face of such industry pessimism?

To answer one would have to look at the factors influencing both the Company and those we were seeking to recruit.

Include in that the interests of those agencies and organisations that are here to help, and you may have some, if not all, of the answers.

Arguably, we have a sufficient number of people within the industry to ‘go-round’.   Therefore, we should expect to have to work at portraying our Company, and the opportunities it provides, rather than taking for granted that a prospective candidate should want to work for us because we believe in what we are doing.  In this way we can convince a prospective candidate to step out of what is sometimes a secure position and change employer.

Providing development opportunities within an expanding business, with a mission of best quality service delivery and provision of great working conditions for employees, will also go some way towards attracting the right calibre people.

A key element which we often underestimate is the role that horticultural recruitment agencies play.

I am one who has in the past expected that such agencies would have a database of available people and that it ought to be relatively easy to pick people “off the shelf”.

Even if it were true, we should still need to provide a convincing argument to support our recruitment requirements.

I gather that one of the biggest challenges the agencies face is getting an ongoing dialogue and feedback from clients on prospective candidates that they have put forward. 

Recruitment agencies are the same as any other supply chain partner, they and we benefit from understanding what we are looking to achieve, and therefore how they can support us to the best effect.

The conclusion of our recent recruitment at Cultura is that there are plenty of willing candidates out there in our industry who, with the right encouragement and ability to see the opportunities, will take that opportunity to further their careers.

Our responsibility as employers, is to ensure that we are transparent in portraying our needs, are thorough in our processes, and work together in partnership with our industry colleagues. The skills gap that so many publicise, certainly exists at the entry level to our industry.  However, my recent experience suggests it is not so much of an issue elsewhere.

Published in Pro Landscaper July 2019 Issue
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