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4 Ways to Attract and Retain Top Farm Talent

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People in Field_pngFarming is a unique business. Typically, farmers don’t get involved in farming to become human resource managers. One of our most frequent questions in HR is, “How do we attract and retain top talent in the ag industry?” The truth is that this is a challenging task.


Shortage of Workers 

According to a study conducted in 2016, only 3% of college graduates and 9% of millennials would consider careers in agriculture. This shortage leaves the farming industry with roughly 20,000 agricultural jobs unfilled each year. Just two years after this study, in 2018, the Department of Agriculture found that for only the second time in the last century, the number of farmers under 35 years of age is significantly increasing. Although this is good news, the new generation of agricultural job candidates also creates challenges for farm owners seeking new employees.


Selective Candidates 

In the agricultural industry, attracting and retaining quality employees is a constant struggle. The process by which candidate select jobs today is much different than in the past. Candidates are evaluating farm operations throughout the entire process, from the wording of the job posting to the website all the way through the interview and offer.


Giving attention to these four areas will help you attract and retain top talent:

1. Competitive Compensation Plans

We know you have heard this before, but read closely: according to a Glassdoor survey, 79% of employees would choose new or additional benefits over a pay increase. In the past year, we have seen a significant increase in the number of operations offering benefits to candidates. These benefits might include traditional offerings like medical insurance, paid time off, or a company truck, but increasingly, items like housing, cell phone stipends, and retirement plans are appearing. Other perks such as occasional free meals and company events can be the icing on the cake. The total compensation package that you offer and how you present the value of that package to candidates makes a significant impact. Think about providing an annual “total compensation statement” that itemizes all of the rewards employees receive.


2. Clear Expectations

Potential candidates and/or new hires want to understand their responsibilities and how their work contributes to the overall mission of the business. To be successful, they need to know what to do, how to do it, and to whom they report. Every manager should ask, “Do my team members know what is expected of them?” Research shows that many great workplaces have leaders and managers who set goals for their employees or work with them to set their own goals. They don’t just define the job; they define success on the job.


3. Work/Life Balance

Family and leisure time is extremely important for most workers. Encourage and allow employees to take reasonable time off to attend family, school, or sporting events. We have also seen farming operations offering more paid holidays to their full-time workers. The 2018 FFG HR survey reports that, on average, farm employees receive five days of holiday pay each year. Several operations shut down over the holidays and pay their staff.


4. Develop and Engage Your Talent

Many millennials who are joining the ag workforce have not grown up in farming or left the farm to complete their college education. The workers of this generation aren’t the Jacks of all Trades that their predecessors were. Remember that great leaders show an interest in their workers’ jobs and career aspirations, and they create learning and development opportunities. They find out what motivates their best employees by getting to know each team member’s strengths, goals, and what drives them. Today’s employees believe their employers should cultivate opportunities and invest in them. They are looking to make a difference through meaningful projects and may become impatient with mundane tasks. Find opportunities to challenge them!


If you want you best people to stick around, keep your workers’ lives and careers in mind. Don’t assume everyone wants or needs the same things. Be genuine. As you know, high performers are highly marketable and will have one foot out the door tomorrow if they don’t feel valued, respected, and engaged. Give them plenty of reasons to want to get up in the morning, put on their boots, and be as committed as you are.

The human resources consultants at FamilyFarms Group, Michelle Smith and Molly Bell, can work with you to improve management of your operation and help you recruit top farm employees. Click the link below to request a free needs assessment for your farm.

Needs assessment


Written By

Molly Norris

Molly Norris

Human Resource Generalist

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