Smart hiring strategies during a labor shortage

Added January 25, 2022
Someone stacking shelves

It’s an exciting time in the horticulture industry as the market continues to grow and businesses are looking to build their workforce. But, amidst the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, most industries are finding themselves with more job openings than people willing to fill them. To avoid legal headaches down the road, business owners and managers need to ensure that workplace pressure to fill a job opening doesn’t compromise a sound hiring process.

Economists at the Indiana University Kelley School of Business expect the U.S. labor shortage will continue to be a major concern for many businesses throughout 2022. So, what do business owners like you do when you need more help? Strategize.

Hire right in a tight labor market

A tight labor market, like the one we’re in now, occurs when too few candidates are available to satisfy an industry’s or business’s demand. In Greenhouse Management’s 2021 State of the Industry Report, 20.56 percent of respondents noted that finding qualified labor remains a top concern.

With so many employers vying for the same shrinking candidate pool, it might be tempting for you to hire anyone and everyone who is willing to work. But panic-hiring brings its own set of risks. Selection of new employees shouldn’t be taken lightly—even during a labor shortage and global pandemic. The following strategies may help you avoid a bad hire.

Think local

Partner with your area community college, trade school, and chamber of commerce. Engage in horticulture-related classes and gardening clubs. Establish an internship program. Ultimately, create a brand presence with this practically pre-qualified audience so you have a go-to resource of potential job candidates.

Interview with intention

Make sure the person conducting interviews is armed with appropriate questions and transparently describes your business and the open role. You’re trying to discover if applicants are a good fit for your business and its culture, but your applicants are evaluating whether you’re a good fit for them and their lifestyles.

Listen and learn

The initial conversation with a candidate may be the most telling. Don’t rush it. During the interview, listen 80 percent of the time and speak 20 percent of the time. Actively listen to what motivates them professionally, and assess their emotional intelligence as they describe their experience and achievements.

Follow up

Use the employment application process wisely and thoroughly review applications. Check work references and past employers, request responses to unanswered application questions, explore gaps in employment, and validate educational details. Require a simple online aptitude or personality test, and do a background check before making an offer (after first consulting with your employment counsel or human resources professional to ensure you're following the law regarding these tools and practices in your specific hiring situation).

Take preventative measures

There’s no guarantee of a perfect fit. From the interview and hiring process to your work culture and termination process, the potential for employer liability is real—and increasing through pandemic-related workplace changes. To help you prevent issues from arising, establish some protocols including:

  • Employment rules: Create an employee handbook with employment rules, performance procedures, and termination guidelines. Post your corporate policies in visible areas for increased awareness.
  • Manager training: Train your managers and employees on all processes, including harassment issues, anti-discrimination laws, performance documentation, and how to handle accommodation and disability requests.
  • Attorney consultation: Consult with an attorney specializing in employment practices before executing a termination or other adverse employment action where sensitive factors, such as age, race, or gender, could be involved.

Get employment liability insurance

Hiring the right employee can be an arduous process. But hastily hiring the wrong employee can potentially be expensive, time-consuming, and damaging to your business. It’s vital to protect your business from liability claims that stem from within the organization.

Professional liability coverage helps protect your business from losses caused by your services, operations, or workers. Under that coverage, employment practices liability insurance (EPLI) and employee benefit liability insurance (EBL) provide specialized protection. A good EPLI policy will also include an employer resource center featuring webinars, online training courses, regulatory updates, and continuing education to help you proactively manage employment-related questions and workforce risks associated with your business.

Employment practices liability insurance

Employment practices liability coverage provides protection for your business from employment-related claims covered by the policy, which may include allegations of wrongful termination, discrimination, workplace harassment, and retaliation.

Employee benefits liability insurance

An employee benefits liability insurance policy offers protection for your business from employment-related negligence claims that allege errors in the administration of employee benefit plans such as health insurance or retirement funds. It also covers your business’s cost to defend against these lawsuits.

Horticulture businesses are facing diverse workplace challenges, but having increased liability risks during a labor-starved pandemic shouldn't be one of them. Check your current insurance policy to see what type of liability insurance it includes. If you have questions or would like to learn more about our liability coverages, contact us. We’re here to help keep your business safe.

Related links:

Talk with your insurer to discuss the top risks you face, the number of claims your business manages, and your approach to safety.

Professional liability insurance protects you from losses that occur during the operation of your business. There’s a wide range of liabilities in that category. Are you covered?

Should you bundle your insurance coverages? Read why many horticulture businesses often choose to bundle their insurance.

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