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Preparing your induction process

First impressions count! Ensure that everything is in place for your new starters to succeed

It is highly likely that some of your new employees this year will have just lost a job and will be looking for some financial security. Their confidence may be low, along with their horticulture knowledge, but don’t underestimate the alternative skills they have which could be beneficial to you. And for those coming from hospitality and catering – like you, they will have just as good an insight on what a hard day’s work and unsocial hours involves.

  • Even before staff arrive, ensure that they feel part of the team and make clear ‘what is in it for them’. Remember that they had a choice – they could have gone (and still could go) to the local retailer. Keep in touch with them before their start date and let them know what to expect on their first day. Try and find out what motivates them as an individual in order to get the most from them
  • On day one, ensure you have all paperwork and necessary forms prepared in advance and be ready for their first arrival on site. Work through our induction checklist to make sure that you haven’t missed anything
  • Make sure everyone has been provided with detailed instructions to find you – don’t always just rely on a postcode!
  • Prepare detailed maps of the site, including toilets, rest areas and canteens, etc.
  • Prepare them for the working conditions by advising of necessary footwear and suitable clothing options. Even if it seems obvious to you, providing new starters with too much information is better than not enough
  • In light of the current restrictions, think about how you can ensure social distancing when your workers arrive. Could you stagger start times to reduce large groups congregating at the same time? Are any modifications to working practice required to ensure a two-metre distance between workers? Make sure you’ve got these plans in place in good time
Guidance for social distancing in the workplace (gov.uk) Advice from NFU around seasonal labour recruitment and safeguarding

Training new starters

  • Think about your normal training resources. Do you have standard operating procedures for the main tasks performed in your business? Are they in English? Do they use pictures or videos to visually explain the procedures?
  • How do you communicate the correct way to do a job? With the technology on phones now, even the worst technophobe can make a short film of someone doing the job correctly and make this a training resource for new starters. It’s a good idea to require people to watch the video before they start doing a job – that way, it stops them picking up any bad habits
  • Allow people time to learn – taking time to get people into good habits initially will pay for itself tenfold when they are out in the field and being highly productive

Training resources

AHDB has produced several training videos and aids that will be useful for new starters. Many of these are available in a variety of different languages on the AHDB Horticulture YouTube channel.

Crop work

  • For growers of soft fruit crops, you can make use of the AHDB Champion Soft Fruit Picker video. This features best-practice guidance on how to pick strawberries, raspberries, blackberries and blueberries
  • Growers of outdoor flowers can watch the video on best practice for flower harvesting. Although it’s an old video, it covers key points which will be useful for new starters.

Health and safety

The importance of health and safety can never be underestimated and especially not this season. There’s a strong chance that many of your new employees won’t have spent time in a horticultural business before and, as such, won’t be aware of the various risks and hazards on site.

Food safety

Training new starters on the importance of food safety is essential in all induction plans. The Food Standards Agency has guidance on how to manage the food hygiene and safety procedures in your food business.

AHDB has several resources which can also be used as part of your induction and training package on food safety:

  • Keeping it clean video. Despite this being an older video, it enforces best-practice approaches to food hygiene, and includes a section for training employees
  • Watercress best practice guide. Although this guide is focused on watercress, it covers legal hygiene obligations that fresh produce growers must abide by
  • The Fresh Produce Tool was originally developed by AHDB and links to best-practice resources, as well as a set of tools for helping growers to manage microbial contamination risks

In order to make sure new starters recognise the importance of health and safety and food safety before they arrive on site, you might consider sending them links to the online videos and tools so that they can watch them in advance of starting with you. This would count as a training day, but it would mean everyone should have the same level of knowledge when they arrive on site. You could even think about pulling together a multiple-choice quiz for them when they start to test their knowledge and understanding of the content.

Once your new starters are up and running it’s important to keep them engaged and motivated.

Getting the most from your horticultural workforce