December 3, 2019
Jeff Foley
Jeff Foley

Talent magnet

Jeff Foley, of Para Space Landscaping in Burnaby, B.C., is being noticed regionally, nationally and internationally for his success with recruitment and retention. He holds a landscaping diploma, as well as Certified Landscape Manager, Certified Landscape Technician, Certified Arborist and Red Seal Landscape Horticulturist credentials. He was suggested as a mentor by an industry member who noticed Foley invited a tableful of young employees to last fall’s national awards banquet.

What is the best route to connect with new talent?
We understand all contractors are having trouble with hiring. We believe landscaping needs to be a destination industry, offering full benefits. And we make sure we pay what other trades pay. Poaching won’t work. We recently had six interns come to our company from the National Collegiate Landscape Competition. One came from Niagara, the other five were from the States. The interns noticed the diversity of Para Space’s workforce.

Our strongest recruitment tactic is word of mouth. 

Our staff appreciates our culture, and they want to bring in more talent — if the candidate is the right fit. A while back, we tried — and abandoned — a referral bonus, because our employees were already recommending right-fit candidates.

How does Para Space retain talent?
It is important to set up a formal human resources system: I know this from my early days with the company, when I climbed my way up. I felt a real need to formalize HR into a consistent system. 

Our system is built around our senior management team. Managers have a role in administering a formal skills passport. We have an in-house educational program comprised of 36 seminars, on both hard and soft skills. Tracks include leadership and customer service. Administration is important; we have a very complex in-house database. It’s all part of attracting a younger workforce. You must show them you are committed to innovative technology.

Do you ever see tension between the generations?
Mentorship within my company is important. We assign aspiring leaders to work with mature staff members. Often, they go with account managers on sales calls. So, the answer is no, we don’t have tension. Rather than feeling resentful, staff members seem to gain a comfort level from the mentorship experience.

What do you look for in a candidate?
We look for a sense of ownership and accountability. If someone has good intentions, aligned with values, teaching skills is no problem.

Who is your mentor?
I have to credit my dad, Peter, who taught me to act with integrity. I also serve on boards; I work on professional development for the Canadian Nursery Landscape Association, and I served on the International Certification Council. I find being on boards is a great mentoring process, and I learn so much from others in the industry. Helping manage other organizations definitely gives valuable expertise.

What is your next goal?
I already mentioned our databases; I want to upgrade our software, and to make our company’s technology even more innovative. Our young people are all savvy enough to embrace it.
If you have a question to suggest, or a mentor to recommend, please write to