The next in our series on combatting coronavirus is Marian Barker, owner of Fresh Horticultural Careers which provides professional, efficient and cost-effective staffing solutions for the horticulture industry, recruiting both temporary and permanent staff for established industry companies. Marian has a wealth of experience in recruiting for the horticulture sector and has seen many ups and downs within her career of more than 20 years.
Marian said that 2008/09 was a very tough time as the market really slowed down but a least there were still small pockets of work and the maintenance part of the business kept them going, but this she fears could be worse if it extends much longer than the predicted couple of months. “This is normally our busiest time of year; the next three months are the foundation of our business, though in recent years the season has certainly been extended. This time last year we would have had 35/40 temporary staff working out in the industry rising over the next few months, but as of today we only have five.”
She continues: “The permanent recruitment part of the business slowed down when it was realised how the virus could possibly spread and then turned off completely when it became clear; I’m sure it will remain that way for the next few months. One thing we have noticed is that we are still getting people looking for work and signing up on our website. Also, we have spoken to some landscapers who would still be working if they were able to get the products they need to finish the job.
“We have had to look at ways of reducing our cost base for this period of uncertainty and have furloughed the majority of staff leaving a skeleton team in place. I guess like most companies the need to manage your costs and to keep and retain the excellent staff, with their contacts and knowledge, is paramount. We also need to keep in touch with our client base on a regular basis either directly on the phone or via our weekly newsletter.
“I’m naturally a very positive person and do believe that we will see a fast bounce back once it’s safe to relax the current restrictions and we need to make sure that we are good and ready to support our clients straight away either with permanent or temporary staff. It could come twofold; firstly, with lots of clearance and getting the grounds back into some sort of shape, then the next phase will be for the qualified horticulturists – whatever the requirement, we need to be ready. We hope that it’s not too long but know there will be a few more bumps in the road before life returns to something like we knew before COVID-19.”