February 9, 2022

Lindsay Drake NightingaleRecently, I was fortunate to attend a webinar set up by the British Association of Landscape Industries (BALI). It was a panel discussion on belonging, diversity and inclusion and dismantling racism by leading the way with our own businesses by listening and taking action. It was an informative, engaging panel with much to contribute. Some of the points I will share are elements we can implement into our businesses and within our professional organization.

Our workforce needs to be as diverse as possible with businesses having the nerve to eliminate the barriers rather than leaving them in place. An individual with physical disabilities can have a fulfilling career in landscaping. We need to embrace the individual talents of each person and break down intolerance. With advancements in technology and machinery, traditional constraints that were often associated with disabilities can be re-evaluated using a new lens and ultimately, they can be overcome. To increase educational opportunities for individuals with disabilities, access needs to be barrier free and this includes within horticulture and landscape-based training (college, pre-apprenticeship and apprenticeship programs) as well as courses taught through Landscape Ontario and its partners.

Working the land — whether building a vegetable garden, a perennial bed or a fully landscaped property — breaks down barriers and creates connections between people of different cultures because working with our hands in the soil is innate to us all. We can learn from each other — whether it is as simple as using a Korean hand hoe tool called a ho-mi, or the way two people can move a 36-inch wire basket tree by hand across a property, or the way humour can break down language differences — all the while creating relationships and communities within our businesses.

Business is all about taking risks, so why not take risks on your staff? As a company, should you not use your core values to help with recruiting employees? At the same time, are you aware of your conscious and unconscious biases, including those that may even be within your core values?

Part of taking a risk on potential employees is recognizing the spark an individual may have for horticulture. One way to do this is to remove yourself from like-minded people, which will offer you an opportunity for a different and new perspective. Is your business welcoming? Or does it convey a “just a gardener” or “just a labourer” mentality?

Try eliminating potential transportation issues by offering carpooling, holding one-on-one sessions with employees to help them voice their needs and concerns, developing career paths for all employees and offering a living wage. By creating a company culture that is about mentorship, flexibility and support, you will attract individuals with a spark that grows into a love for and a career in horticulture.

When we first start our businesses, our hope is to be successful. That success is only as strong as the success of our employees. Let’s all have a look at how we make this success happen.

Lindsay Drake Nightingale
LO President