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Just as a healthy soil is the foundation of a successful garden, so is a solid company culture to a successful business. Even so, building a strong and sustainable company culture and projecting positive organization values isn’t an easy task. Doing the same in a business with seasonal employees is even tougher. The most important factor in projecting a solid company culture to your seasonal employees is actually having one in place before they arrive.

Company culture may be built from within, but it starts at the top with owners and key managers. First, you must define your core company values and make sure you yourself are walking the talk. If you haven’t done that, there’s little hope of creating a company culture that can be passed on from employee to employee.

Action always speaks louder than words. If you’ve developed company values around a particular concept, such as being environmentally friendly, then you’d better make sure your business practices and partnerships are aligned with that value. If all your recyclables are going into the dumpster, you’ve just failed company culture 101. Expect your staff to be up to date on technology and social media, but you won’t spend any money to update your website? Then you’re a company culture fibber. If you tout independent thinking and creativity, but you micro-manage your staff to death, that’s another company culture fib. If you value community involvement and charitable giving…but you say no to all the donation requests that pass your marketing manager’s desk…well, you see where I’m going here. Give your employees cause to question the authenticity of your company values and you’ll forever be fighting a losing battle.

Encourage open communication by listening and encouraging staff to express their goals, needs, and frustrations. Just as with your external company marketing message, you need to control the conversation amongst your employees with good internal PR.

Once you’ve defined your values and approach to doing business, and you yourself are setting a good example, you should identify the employees you already have that embody those values. Are you acknowledging them for such and making them feel valued in their jobs? These value-match employees will be your key to projecting and passing on a positive company culture. Without their buy-in, you’ll be stuck trying to coach every employee directly on how to act — that’s not a sustainable approach. 

Good or bad, company values can be contagious, but not without communication. If you aren’t having group activities, pep meetings, disseminating a company newsletter, or checking in regularly with all of your staff, then it’s hard to establish a communal set of values. Encourage open communication by listening and encouraging staff to express their goals, needs, and frustrations. Just as with your external company marketing message, you need to control the conversation amongst your employees with good internal PR. 

Seasonal employees can be a good source of perspective for you on how your company culture is, or isn’t, working. Seasonal staff get a boot camp snapshot of how it is to work with you in your business and they aren’t jaded by long-term employment or even a sense of expectation of future work. That may mean they’re willing to be a bit more honest with you. Be sure to ask for and accept their constructive criticism and feedback on their working experience. Consider doing the same type of exit interview with key seasonal staff as you would with a long-term employee; you just may garner some valuable nuggets of feedback.

After all, if you rely on seasonal employees, you need them to want to come back, or at least tell their friends about how they enjoyed working for you.

Don’t skip or skimp on training for new hires, especially not seasonal hires. It may be tempting to think you’ll be saving resources by only investing minimal effort into onboarding seasonal staff, but that approach usually bites you in the tail with customer service. Schedule pre-season training sessions for each department. Make sure you also have a well-organized and planned group orientation session pre-spring for all of your existing and new employees, including seasonal hires. Express your company values and approach to operations, production, and customer service at this orientation and provide all of your company policies and training documents at this time. Allow your key staff and department heads to each address the group and consider doing some role-playing to make new staff feel more confident. This investment of time will make your new staff feel welcome and valued.

Ultimately, company culture isn’t just about coffee bars, bean bag chairs or vacation time. It’s about opportunity and a shared value system. If your profits are the only foundation for your company culture, employee morale will suffer. Creating and projecting a positive company culture stems from how positive your employees feel about their opportunity for success while working for you.

Leslie (CPH) owns Halleck Horticultural, LLC, through which she provides horticultural consulting, business and marketing strategy, product development and branding, and content creation for green industry companies. lesliehalleck.com