It’s time we rethink the tags we are placing on plants going to market. I receive all of the “customer service” emails for Plants Nouveau. What does that mean? When someone buys one of our plants and has a question or a problem – even though we don’t actually sell plants – they find our name on the tag or they Google the name of the plant and they end up at our website, then they email us.
I actually don’t mind the questions. It connects me to the consumers, and I can see what they know and what they need help with. One of the big growers in the U.S. did some market research and they found, and no surprises here to me, that less than 20 percent of Americans know a lot about gardening. That’s right – less than 20 percent. For any math challenged readers out there, that means nearly 80 percent know little to nothing.
Read that again and commit it to memory – nearly 80 percent of the people we are selling plants to know little to nothing about gardening.
Yet, the 80 percent are still buying some plants, and they actually read the labels, and some follow the information religiously. What can we learn from this?
Perhaps we shouldn’t use one label for the entire U.S. and Canada. Let’s take hydrangeas, for example. The tags usually say full sun to part shade and some (like ours) specify that the plants would prefer afternoon shade. This works for most of the U.S. and Canada, but it certainly doesn’t work for southern Alabama where full sun for any amount of time will bring stress, disease and possibly death to any hydrangea.
What can we do as an industry to help? Printing tags is expensive. Trying to have a different tag for each region would be super expensive – especially for growers who ship plants all over the U.S. and Canada. Inventorying tags is a nightmare. If there were four different hydrangea tags for each hydrangea, how would the growers keep them all straight and make sure the plants going to the deep south had the right tag for sun exposure? How would plants going to Zone 6 and higher have the right overwintering information?
How do we reach the 80 percent beyond the tag? Googling the plant names gets them to websites with information, but can they find what they need to care for the plants there? Most new plant introduction companies and large growers gear their copy to growers.
Knowing that many consumers know nothing, we should re-write the website copy. Anticipate what questions they ask. Stop using words like floriferous and even blooms. The 80 percent of those who don’t know much about gardening call them flowers. Break it down to layman’s terms and talk like a non-gardener.
Phrases like mildew resistant don’t mean anything to someone who doesn’t even know what mildew is. I realize we need to let consumers know when something is resistant to a disease. That’s important and sometimes the reason a new plant is introduced. But let’s sit back in our copywriting chairs for a moment and think about what information is going to be helpful to the 80 percent. We tend to write tag, catalog and website copy for the 20 percent who know something.
Instead of writing, “The Meadow Mamas are a new series of slightly taller, super floriferous coneflowers from AB-Cultivars,” try this: “The Meadow Mamas are a new series of slightly taller coneflowers from AB-Cultivars that are completely covered in flowers.”
It’s that easy. Use the more technical information, but make sure the first sentence or two of the tag or website copy is filled with words anyone understands and leave the back of the tag or the bottom of the webpage for the nitty gritty.
Remember, your tag has four seconds to get someone’s attention, and four seconds is about all they will give you before moving on. Make sure the words you use mean something to the 80 percent.
Angela Treadwell-Palmer founded and co-owns Plants Nouveau LLC., a company that specializes in introducing and marketing new plants to the nursery industry. She’s been around the world, experiencing world-famous gardens and remote areas looking for new ideas and exciting plants. firstname.lastname@example.org.
It’s an election year, and this year’s race has sparked some contentious debates. Tensions are high amidst the media frenzy, and many Americans agree that this election will make or break the nation. Unfortunately, they do not agree on which candidate will do the “making” and which one will cause the “breaking.” It’s the perfect storm of passionate opinions and conflicting ideologies that can and will enter many workplaces.
As November 8 nears and emotions run high, what can employers do to ensure that the work environment is not consumed with political discord? One option might be to ban all political conversation in the workplace. But, do employers have this “right?” Or, does the First Amendment protect an employee’s right to discuss politics in the workplace?
It is a common misconception among employees that the First Amendment unequivocally protects their “right” to discuss whatever they choose, whenever they choose. In most states, this is not true for private workplaces. Generally speaking, employers are free to impose working terms and conditions that place limitations on speech in the workplace. Common examples include prohibitions on vulgar, abusive, threatening, or discriminatory language and sexually harassing comments and jokes. These “limitations” on free speech are perfectly legal and, in many cases, required by law. In companies with policies that prohibit such language, the penalty for engaging in “free speech” that violates such company policies is — you guessed it — termination.
Similarly, employers in states other than Connecticut* can adopt policies that prohibit political discussions in the workplace as a term or condition of employment. The key is to ensure that any such policy is enforced equally among all employees so it does not give rise to complaints of favoritism or claims of discrimination or retaliation.
Keep it under control
Although you may have the right to enact a complete ban on political discussion in the workplace, such a policy may not be very popular among your employees, or you may prefer to permit such discussions. If you do, how can you prevent that “perfect storm” from breaking out? Be prepared to take immediate action if an employee who engages in passionate political discussions or activities violates other policies, such as:
- A dress code that prohibits employees from wearing clothing with a political, religious or sexual message.
- Nonsolicitation policies that prohibit employees from wearing buttons or pins on their clothing, soliciting donations from coworkers for private causes, passing out flyers, or posting notices on a company bulletin board.
- Antidiscrimination policies that prohibit harassment, discrimination, and retaliation based on a protected class, such as religion or race — two topics that can easily enter into political conversations or debates.
- General performance policies that require employees to work productively without distracting others while they are working.
- General conduct, bullying, or antiviolence policies that prohibit employees from threatening or intimidating employees for any reason.
Coaching or disciplining employees for violating a dress code or solicitation policy, or for a lack of productivity due to social conversation with coworkers is much less controversial than disciplining an employee based on the expression of their political opinions.
Differing political opinions
What about a politically outspoken employee whose views you disagree with? Can you fire someone because of his or her political affiliation?
Depending on the state you are in, taking employment action based on the political expressions of an employee could run afoul with laws that prohibit discrimination and/or retaliation based on political affiliation. For example:
California, New York, and the District of Columbia explicitly prohibit discrimination against applicants and employees based on political affiliation.
California, Colorado, New York and North Dakota have broad “lifestyle” antidiscrimination regulations that prohibit private employers from basing employment decisions on lawful conduct that occurs outside the workplace. In these states, if an employer takes employment action against an employee on the basis of his or her political affiliation, there is potential for an allegation of illegal discrimination against the employee’s lawful off-duty support of a candidate.
California, Colorado, Illinois, Louisiana, Minnesota, Missouri, Nebraska, Nevada, New Mexico, New York, South Carolina, Washington and West Virginia prohibit private employers from retaliating against employees who engage in various types of political activities.
The District of Columbia, Iowa, Louisiana, and Puerto Rico prohibit employers from discriminating against an employee based on party membership, endorsements, and/or affiliation.
A number of states also have laws that prohibit threatening, intimidating and/or retaliating against individuals who sign political petitions, make or refuse to make campaign contributions or run for political offices. These laws likely cover employment-related threats or intimidation on this basis.
Given the extent of employment laws and regulations pertaining to political affiliation, to minimize the potential for a claim, ensure that all employment decisions are job-related, nondiscriminatory, and unrelated to political affiliation or actions outside the workplace.
Time off to vote
And there’s something else to think about, too. Thirty-one states have voting leave laws that require employers to provide time off to vote during the workday to employees who do not have ample time to do so before or after work when polls are open. Many of the states require employers to pay for the voting leave. Before denying an employee time off to vote during the workday, be certain that your state does not require voting leave.
If you haven’t done so already, take time to educate your managers about your company policies pertaining to voting leave, employment decisions based on political affiliation and political conversations in the workplace. If you permit political conversations, make certain that managers understand the difference between permissible activities and conversations and those that may violate company policies. Making sure that everyone is on the same page before an issue arises can minimize risk, save time and ensure that the matter is effectively resolved should the perfect storm erupt in your workplace.
*Employers in Connecticut must tread carefully in this arena. A state statute prohibits disciplining or terminating employees who exercise any rights guaranteed by the First Amendment, if the activity does not substantially or materially interfere with the employee’s job performance or the working relationship between the employer and employee.
Jean Seawright is president of Seawright & Associates, a management consulting firm located in Winter Park, Fla. Since 1987, she has provided human resource management and compliance advice to employers across the country. She can be contacted at 407-645-2433 or email@example.com.
While the busy growing and shipping season can be intoxicatingly exciting, it also brings added expectations, pressure and stress. Your employees take their cues from you. If you are anxious, grumpy and running around frantically, they will be, too. If you are gracious, having fun and cheerful, your staff will mirror that as well. As the leader goes, so goes the team.
Keep your cool this busy season and empower your staff to excel with the following tips.
- Take care of yourself physically. If you want to perform at your best and keep your cool when everything around you is heating up, get plenty of rest, eat properly and stay hydrated. In addition, avoid the temptation to burn the candle at both ends as it will significantly increase your risk for burnout and illness, decrease your efficiency, and lessen your tolerance for frustration.
- Encourage your employees to take care of themselves as well. Maximize their productivity by ensuring they take breaks and making it easy for them to stay hydrated and fueled up with healthy snacks. Lastly, insist that everyone, yourself included, take at least one day off per week in order to reenergize and return ready and raring to go.
- Fill your tank. Just as your car needs gasoline to keep running, your soul needs pockets of fun in order to be reminded that life is more than work and problems, especially during the busy season. Fill your tank and create much needed reserves by regularly engaging in activities that make you happy. Enjoying life empowers you to keep your energy and optimism high, and gives you a buffer from the frustrations that inevitably arise this time of year.
- Focus on the good. It’s easy to get tunnel vision and key in on problems and what’s going wrong. Counter balance the tendency to do this by daily compiling a list of at least three things that are going well. Doing so will provide you with a more accurate assessment of what’s going on and help you better appreciate your employees. Share this with your staff as well.
- Address problems as they arise. It’s easy for tempers to flare during the busy season. Unfortunately, things can get said that can’t be taken back and that quickly erode trust, confidence and morale. One of the best ways to keep your cool is to prevent anger from building up in the first place. If someone isn’t pulling their weight, talk with them instead of letting it go until you say something you’ll regret. If you’re frustrated, ask for what you need rather than making a cutting or sarcastic remark. If someone is chronically late, set the expectation that things need done on time and follow through on the boundary you set.
- Cut yourself and others some slack. While it’s never okay to take your anger out on others, you are human and the busy season can bring out the worst in the best of us. Perfection isn’t what it takes to be a great leader. Genuinely caring about your people, a willingness to fess up when you mess up, doing what it takes to make things right, and working every bit as hard as they do is what earns lasting respect and admiration.
Being proactive enables you stay at the top of your game and empowers you to bring out the best in those you lead all year through.
Dr. Sherene McHenry, the author of Pick: Choose to Create A Life You Love, is passionate about creating healthier relationships and better bottom lines. www.sherenemchenry.com.
Greenhouse humidity, standing water in plant containers, rising summer temperatures — these nursery conditions are ideal for disease-carrying mosquitoes during their peak season. Whether working in an outdoor nursery or a greenhouse, make sure you’re prepared to prevent mosquito bites.
Aedes aegypti mosquitoes are one of two types of mosquitoes that transmit the Zika virus and carry other diseases, such as West Nile virus and chikungunya that pose a threat to you and your employees. Aedes are not your typical mosquito. While we often think of mosquitoes biting at dawn and dusk, Aedes bite all day, meaning they have the potential to bite during daytime working hours. While you’re hard at work, be sure to take time to eliminate standing water that provides an ideal breeding ground for Aedes.
With the first potential case of Zika virus from a mosquito bite in the United States reported in July and the number of traveler cases, it is important to take precautions to prevent the spread of the disease. Zika virus has the potential to spread anywhere Aedes is present, mainly in the southern portion of the United States, and as far reaching as California to the West and New Hampshire to the East. An easy first step toward preventing mosquito bites is applying an EPA-approved insect repellent during these summer months, along with a separate application of sunscreen.
- Apply EPA-approved insect repellent on exposed skin according to label directions, and reapply as needed. Most CDC-recommended insect repellents should be reapplied every four hours to properly repel mosquitoes. Using EPA-approved repellents on the right application schedule is especially important for pregnant women due to the Zika virus’ connection to birth defects.
- Aedes mosquitoes bite all day, so wear light-colored long sleeves and pants.
- Use sunscreen and repellent separately. The CDC recommends applying sunscreen first, and then EPA-approved insect repellent according to label directions, since DEET-containing repellents can decrease the SPF in sunscreen when the products are used together.
- Aedes can breed in water trapped in containers as small as a bottle cap. Remove any standing water such as rainwater or spillover that can collect in buckets or plant pots.
For more: debugthemyths.com/zika
Source: RISE (Responsible Industry for a Sound Environment)