Farming is seasonal. Vines are pruned in early spring, and harvest arrives in fall. Through the year there’s cellar work and bottling. But each task doesn’t necessarily have the same skill set as the other, which leads to people working for a few months at a time. Not the best environment to retain and engage your employees.
In order to keep the good staff we’ve collected over the years, we knew we had to tackle the “seasonality” of winery operations. At the same time, we need to be efficient enough to sustain permanent full-time staff. We want our team to have fun at work, be in a safe environment, and feel valued.
We’re well into a serious plan for workplace health and safety. In the past, we did what many small businesses did – what we thought was a fairly good job of keeping digits on hands and sending people home in one piece. But it wasn’t until we got involved with FMIOSA that we realized we had a bigger responsibility to our people that we didn’t even know we weren’t living up to.
Since preparing for (and receiving) Occupational Safety Standard of Excellence certification, we’ve noticed a distinct shift in our workplace. Little things that might have occasionally been overlooked – like wearing a high visibility vest – are now part of daily life. It’s permeated our workplace culture.
We’re the first small business in BC’s food manufacturing industry to receive OSSE certification, but word on the street is that other businesses are getting on board. A safe work environment is an efficient work environment – and usually a happier one. Happy employees stay around longer, because they know we care about them.
New to our group of benefits is an employee Mentorship and Education program. After we realized our goal of getting year round staff, we now need to keep them.
Some of the best feedback we’ve received from our team is that they want to learn. Maybe it’s taking a course at the local college to help them do part of their job better, or perhaps it’s getting access to one of our team for some mentoring – if there’s a need, we find a way. We run our training plan like a capital plan: it’s an investment
We source locally in more ways than one. That is, we try. Sometimes the best fit just happens to be in Alberta (like Goldie), but often we find there’s plenty of talent in our own backyard.
By recruiting locally, we end up with a wonderfully mixed bunch of good results: hiring local people means we help keep our community employed, which in turn is good for neighbouring businesses; our staff can keep rooted in the area, and in their local support systems (family, friends); we have a slew of natural tour guides who really know their stuff.
Benefits. We offer them to our employees for their health and well-being. Besides the more traditional dental and medical, we offer a unique incentive to longer-term staff: the sabbatical.
The average Tinhorn employee has worked with us for a little over six years. In a seasonal industry, that’s remarkable. And exhausting. So, Tinhorn employees can take a two month paid sabbatical in their 10th year of employment. It’s our way of saying “rest, recharge – and come back rejuvenated.”