When recruiting candidates, be sure to promote the benefits of working with your company for the person and the overall community. Garden centers have the additional advantage of showcasing how plants improve the environment and personal wellbeing.

Here’s a frightening thought: It’s all up to you! The company’s future growth and success are directly proportionate to your ability to hire and retain talented, productive employees. Yikes! This is easier said than done in today’s intensely competitive job market, which has fewer people who are willing to perform manual labor.

With fewer candidates available in the job market, employers must up their game when it comes to attracting talent. Gone are the days of posting a four-line job ad on Craigslist and paying the minimum wage. If this is your strategy for attracting talent, it won’t get you very far today.

To successfully attract talent, you must first have an environment where people want to work. Even the best recruiting tactics won’t make up for what’s lacking internally, so start by assessing your workplace. Take an honest look at your compensation rates, benefits, culture, training programs, and the strength of your management team. Then evaluate your trucks, uniforms, online presence, community reputation and buildings. What’s your image and what message does this send to potential employees? Do you pay at or above market rates? Do you offer benefits that appeal to the younger generation of workers and a work-life balance? Why would someone want to work for your company versus a competitor’s?

Determine what sets your company apart and ensure hiring managers can articulate this with enthusiasm. Function from the perspective that recruiting is selling, and it’s a buyer’s market.

Once you have an environment where people want to work, the next step is to implement a continuous recruiting strategy. There are dozens of recruiting tactics, and what works for one company will not necessarily work for another. Company culture, position characteristics, location, labor market realities, and competitive pressures should be considered before determining which recruiting strategies to adopt.

The companies with the highest recruiting success rates use multiple methods for attracting talent. They also adopt an “everyone is a recruiter” mentality and implement programs that encourage recruiting at all levels. They understand the importance of casting a wide net when recruiting and invest the time and effort necessary to proactively attract talent and keep the pipeline full.

If you’re serious about attracting talent, consider adopting some of the strategies used by such employers for recruiting hourly workers:

1. Tap into employees’ networks by offering a generous employee referral bonus. Up the ante for difficult-to-fill positions. Continually remind employees about the bonus and email job ads to their personal email accounts. Ask them to forward the email to their contact list. Start a contest with a special reward (like a smart phone) for employees who simply refer qualified candidates and/or for those whose referrals are hired. Editor’s Note: This suggestion and more recruiting tips can also be found in Jean Seawright’s January column, “Resolve to improve recruitment efforts, culture in 2018” here: bit.ly/2EsoBHG

2. Advertise jobs in Puerto Rico. After the devastating Hurricane Maria, many native Puerto Ricans are looking for work in the U.S. and are willing to move. (Before recruiting from Puerto Rico, consider how to handle temporary housing needs and any necessary relocation assistance.)

To find quality candidates, companies must clearly and effectively communicate their strong suits.

3. Provide a compensation incentive for newly hired employees, such as a hiring bonus or an accelerated performance review with potential for an increase. If you pay above market rates, consider advertising the rate.

4. Add a designated career page to your website. Optimize it for smartphones and use visual platforms like YouTube, podcasts, and video clips of employees sharing stories about what it’s like to work at the company. Promote your company’s mission, culture and benefits on the career page. Make it easy for job seekers to express interest in a position.

5. Stay in touch with former (productive) employees (called “boomerangs”) who have resigned on good terms. Make them ambassadors of your company. Email ads to them with open positions and invite them to participate in company events. Considering offering referral bonuses or special discounts to refer candidates.

6. Get involved in the community to boost name recognition and attract candidates. Sponsor kids’ sports teams, educational events and social clubs. Join and participate in local chamber events and volunteer at nonprofit organizations.

7. Monitor company review sites such as Glassdoor and carefully respond to negative posts by former or current employees. Job seekers don’t expect companies to be perfect, but they do expect them to take criticism seriously and to care. Accepting feedback in a constructive way promotes transparency, which younger generations seek and value.

8. Create and post job ads that effectively sell the company and position. Don’t post boring job descriptions. Describe the culture and how the position adds value to the community and the applicant’s life. Post on job boards that appeal to the types of candidates you seek. Use chat-based messaging apps and social networking sites such as Instagram, LinkedIn, Twitter and Facebook. Consider Ziprecruiter.com, Indeed.com, simplyhired.com, trade association websites and others.

Build a recruiting network by tapping into employee contacts and offering referral bonuses.

9. Offer internships, apprenticeships, career paths, and educational opportunities. Promote these in job ads and during interviews.

10. Contact churches, Goodwill placement offices, community organizations and military base outplacement offices to post jobs and communicate vacancies. Notify local employers laying off workers of your vacancies.

11. Tap into nontraditional labor pools such as veterans, retirees or the disabled. Editor’s Note: You can read more about working with employees with special needs here and employees with criminal backgrounds here.

12. Network, network, network! When you get good service or meet someone with potential, hand out custom business cards with sales pitches (recruiting messages) on the back. Create a recruiting brochure.

13. Host an open house. Advertise the event on social networking sites and via radio in markets with potential employee listeners. Serve beverages and food. Invite families along with candidates.

Closing the deal

Once you get candidates lined up at the door, make sure you have a comprehensive process with legally compliant forms for screening candidates and verifying qualifications to reduce risk. Invest the time necessary to conduct a thorough interview and adequate background checks.

Don’t delegate interviewing to an untrained manager! Ensure interviewers are adept at asking the right questions, reading between the lines, and selling the company and the position.

Keep them engaged

If recruiting is marketing, then retaining employees is akin to reselling a customer. How do you keep your customers? Determine and meet their needs. Offer new services at a fair price. Create value. Treat them with respect. The same goes for employees. If you put as much effort into attracting and retaining great employees as you do finding and keeping good customers, it will pay off!

Jean is president of Seawright & Associates, a management consulting firm located in Winter Park, Florida. Since 1987, she has provided human resource management and compliance advice* to employers across the country. She also consults with employer-members of trade associations, including, among others, The Garden Center Group. She can be contacted at 407-645-2433 or jseawright@seawright.com. (*The information in this article is not legal advice. For legal advice, readers should consult with an attorney.)