GROW Perspective: Government Compliance Issues On The Horizon

Articles about government regulation compliance sometimes exude a tone of fear, uncertainty and doubt. It is almost impossible to discuss regulations with a business owner without elevating the risk meter.

I apologize in advance for any uneasiness my thoughts may cause. This is intended to be a glimpse of reality, not a nightmare. Think of me as a lookout in the crow’s nest of a ship spotting landmarks or dangers on the horizon. The task is relatively mundane; until one day, the lookout saves the ship and his fellow crewmates. This is my perspective looking at the horizon.

The Horticulture Industry Needs Better Human Resources Strategies

One of the best parts of my profession is that I get to compare notes with business leaders every day. We discuss their challenges and accomplishments, and their goals for moving their businesses forward. I get to do this not only in the horticultural industry, but also with leaders in a variety of manufacturing and distribution businesses. Frequently, these discussions turn to the issue of human resources management and how best to navigate existing government regulations.

This topic, however, rarely comes up in my visits to horticulture sites, and it is concerning. The need for better human resources management strategies is a significant danger on the horizon for the horticulture industry and one that must be addressed aggressively.

In business, sometimes we focus on the fixed assets or production equipment that can improve our efficiencies and better meet the needs of our customers. However, one of the biggest assets, as well as the biggest risk to our businesses, revolves around our human capital. The same folks who help us solve problems and generate ideas to grow our businesses carry an extra overhead burden of complying with government regulations and reporting.

Invest In Your Human Resources Professionals

You may think human resources compliance is only for the big guys, but a large percentage of growers peak at more than 50 employees during the year. This is the trigger point for many regulations. Some growers use contract labor; others leverage part-time employees during their peak season. However, I think it is wise to do a quick headcount. If you reach 50 folks walking around your greenhouse who you pay in some fashion, you owe it to yourself to make sure you are in compliance.

Complying with government regulations is not exciting to a business leader. It rates on the same level as completing a term paper in school. You know it is a requirement to pass the course and it has a deadline, but not many students rush home and begin the work the day they receive the assignment.

Investing in tools to help you maintain compliance is also not very exciting. A new tractor, robot or even an additional acre of greenhouse has a visible, at least somewhat tangible return. Admittedly, human resources tools are not flashy, nor do they produce better plants. That is probably, in part, why I tend to find the human resources director at a grower operation hidden behind file cabinets, mounds of paper or working off a monstrous spreadsheet.

Other industries have learned there is value in providing tools for their human resources team, just as you have done for your customer service or production teams. Leaders in other industries have also learned the value of training their human resources professionals, participating in professional conferences like the ones hosted by the Society for Human Resource Management, and bringing in outside experts when needed. Get your folks some help so they can do their job effectively and minimize your risk!

Plan Your Strategy For Dealing With The Affordable Care Act

One thing I see on the horizon is the Affordable Care Act (ACA). In the past, leaders in the horticultural industry have dealt with human resources issues like tracking immigration status or handling workers’ compensation claims. The ACA is different. It is not as simple as completing a few forms or filing a quarterly report. It is not just about health care. It is a monster floating below the surface of the compliance sea.

The original law was about 2,000 pages but has spawned to about 15,000 pages of regulatory law. Since the employer mandate of the ACA has been kicked down the road recently, I, too, had abandoned the crow’s nest until I was chatting with a friend of mine at a summer swim meet. He works for a major accounting firm and is on the road everyday, implementing this new law at hospitals across the country. After a few brief moments, he had me back at my post and looking around again. A few moments more and I began to realize some of the implications to my friends within the horticultural industry.

My brief training class poolside did not make me an expert, but it did awaken me to the fact that every company needs to plan its strategy for dealing with these new regulations. Whether you like the law or not, it will have an impact on your business. Currently, the deadline for the employer mandate is in January. By the time this article is on your desk, you may have only three months before the deadline. Act now to make, keep and work your plan.

Equip Your Human Resources Staff With The Right Tools To Do Their Jobs

My friends at Practical Software Solutions and I have spent many years providing our unique insights to the horticulture industry and learning just as much in return. I have seen how important it is for companies to have tools available for accounting, production, distribution, human resources and other areas of business to make better decisions and grow efficiently. We highlighted human resources issues and available tools at the Innovation Zone at Cultivate’14. To my delight, we did have several human resources professionals approach us and exchange stories from the trenches.

I am not standing watch alone. There are others who see the need to equip our human resources folks with the right tools, training and education to minimize the risk to the business owners. We are taught that with increased return, we have increased risk; however, we are better off if we can mitigate elements of risk along the way. I will continue to stand watch until properly relieved.

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