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Attracting a wider audience to the landscaping profession, with Tim Howell

I’ve written many times about the career opportunities within the landscaping profession, and the difficulties that we face in attracting and retaining talented individuals. It’s a challenge that isn’t going away and is one that will continue to affect our business’, or us personally, over the next decade. There are already industry wide actions in place to encourage school leavers to consider landscaping as a career. Now is the time to broaden our appeal and accessibility to a far wider group of people.

landscaping profession
Tim Howell, Mitie Landscapes
 At Mitie we carry out an independent survey every year to measure employee engagement. It’s well known that the best performing organisations in the world are those which have highly engaged, highly motivated people. This is true whether they are small regional enterprises or have a global reach. The answers allow us to hone in on the issues that are most important to our people. This thereby allow us to align the fundamentals with our business objectives. With over 15,000 responses we get some exceptional insights into what makes people tick. There are always actions to put in place each year.
 
Many of the issues that come up would come as no surprise anyone who manages people. But, if we dig a little deeper there are often more areas that need drawing out. What’s clear is that these additional areas make the difference in creating high engagement, a fulfilling career and making us more attractive to anyone looking for employment.
 
An area I am keen to focus on is diversity in our work place. Different interpretation can show several different things, but I believe that this is an area that can make a difference. One thing is quite clear; our industry suffers from a lack of real diversity. Yet, it is an area that will create further employment opportunities and improve our recruitment ability.
 
I saw a social media post this morning which put great acclaim on the fact that a female worker had received a promotion to a senior position in a construction team: “the first female ever in this role”. While I can’t criticise the publicity around the subject, this should not be so unusual in 2018!
 
How can we normalise that message? It’s correct to say that our industry is largely male dominated. It’s predominantly white and with limited inclusion of people with recognised disabilities. Yet we’re an industry which can be fully accessible to everyone. To enable this, we can and should increase flexibility and adapt our traditional way of working. Would that be so difficult?
 
It’s important we find the time to engage with people and understand why we are a more attractive industry to certain groups of people. Understanding what we must change, how we need to change, and the investment required to make these changes is important. But, taking action and changing the traditional ways of working is critical to opening up our workplace to everyone. At Mitie we recognise that our diversity makes us stronger. Our diversity networks raise awareness, promotes understanding and provides support for everyone.
 
Do I have all the answers? Absolutely not. But I am certain that I will continue to encourage and support any necessary changes to ensure we have a inclusive environment which will enable our diversity to flourish. As we train and develop those people they will be able to move within an industry that will also show an increased awareness. An industry where full inclusion is the norm.
Tim Howell is managing director of Mitie Landscapes and a columnist for Pro Landscaper magazine.
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