No Profit Without People: Personnel Policy In Glasshouse Horticulture

International competition in horticulture continues to increase. The entrepreneur can choose two strategies to maintain profits: specialization in a niche product or reduction of cost price by scaling-up. Horticultural companies not only become larger in the latter case, but often employ considerably more people. Table 1 shows the development of the sizes of horticultural companies in The Netherlands.

This scaling-up requires an entrepreneur to develop new skills. An important expertise is the development of new personnel policies. When considering type of contract, nationality, sexes and level of education the companies show necessary differences in personnel policy. Some of these factors are shown in table 2. These figures originate from research on personnel management, carried out in 2003 on 66 large nurseries (Vermeulen et al., 2004).

The cost of personnel in horticulture is considerable. The percentage of the various costs in the production of the six most important horticultural products is shown in table 3. Labour contributes 18% to 40% and in nearly all cases is the greatest cost.

Of course the more people employed by the company, the higher the personnel costs. Actually to think of staff solely as costs is not correct: work should be considered as a means of revenue. In the Dutch publication ‘Arbeidsradar Glastuin¬bouw’ this idea is defended as follows (Warmerdam et al., 2003):

“In the continually harsher international competition horticulturalists in The Netherlands must explicitly choose a strategy based on quality. Modern personnel management and policy are important aspects of such a strategy. Competition only on costs will not work in the long run and there is no way to compete with the production from low-wage countries. Dutch horticulture must compete using innovation and high quality production, just as in the textile branch.”

This idea supports the aims of national governments and the desire of the general public to introduce and create Corporate Social Responsibility; a balance between the 3 P’s, People, Planet and Profit. This is also in agreement with the requirements of the social paragraph of Eurep-Gap, in which the minimum requirements for working conditions are stated.

To operate as a profitable business introduction of an adequate personnel policy is a necessity.

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Author(s): Vermeulen, P.


Organizations(s): Applied Plant Research, Glasshouse Horticulture Economic and management research, University of Wageningen