The U.S. Unemployment Rate fell to its lowest level in 50 years, at a current rate of 3.5% in January 2020. According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor and Statistics, despite increased demand for crops and other agricultural products, employment growth is expected to be tempered as agricultural establishments continue to use technologies that increase output per farmworker.
Is your farm consistently looking for new hires season after season?
If this sounds familiar, it’s time to rethink your recruitment and retention strategies. Recruitment and hiring have become major obstacles in the agriculture today. Many farmers from the older generations are retiring, and the younger generations are looking toward other industries. As a result, it is important to start thinking of new ways to retain your current employees and attract the right applicants for the jobs you need done.
ATTRACTING THE RIGHT APPLICANTS
Before starting a recruitment process, meet with the other owners/managers at your operation to assemble a written job description. Make a list of all the different duties expected of this employee, then, review the list to prioritize the duties. Be sure to include any physical requirements of the position, knowledge, training, certifications or previous work experience required.
How can you make the hiring process easier? We recommend starting the recruiting process at least 90 days before you need to fill a farm laborer position. The higher up the ladder the position is, the more lead time you will need to allow for hiring.
USE MULTIPLE CHANNELS
To find employees in the current labor market, use the obvious resources and a few tools that are out of the box. In addition to the popular social media recruiting strategy, such as Facebook and LinkedIn, there are also a vast array out other strategies we suggest in order to create a pipeline of candidates for your farming operation. Some of those strategies include radio advertisements, billboards, signs and flyers in your local community, utilizing your local workforce development office or Farm Bureau office, networking through local clubs or peer groups, employee referrals, and attending local job fairs.
No matter which recruiting strategy you use, you’ll want to be sure that any online materials for your operation are up to date and engaging. Your websites help to create and define your employer brand and give candidates an inside look at your operations culture and values.
CAREFULLY PREPARE FOR JOB INTERVIEWS
Set an interview agenda, including discussion items such as the candidate’s qualifications, technical skills and experience, work hours, overview of the operation, training plan and duties that are required. It is recommended to seek legal guidance regarding inappropriate areas of inquiry.
After interviewing all possible candidates, carefully evaluate, make a selection and determine the details of the job offer. At this point in the process, it is strongly recommended to check references and complete pre-employment checks, such as background checks or drug testing.
TAKE TIME TO FIND THE RIGHT FIT
Remember, it’s not about how quickly you can fill the job; it’s about finding the right person to do the job. Sometimes, that person will need training to fit the bill. Hiring the wrong person can negatively impact your culture, cost you money, decrease productivity, and cost you customers—or worse, other employees. Think about those things before making your next hire. Is the prospective employee really the right fit for your farm?
RETAINING FARM LABOR
“Train people well enough so they can leave. Treat them well enough so they don’t want to.” —Richard Branson
In order to grow and sustain your operation, you need to invest in your employees. There are many ways to invest in your workforce, besides increasing their pay:
- Provide training and/or continuing education to allow employees to upgrade their competencies and be motivated to not let their skills become stagnant. Zig Ziglar said, “The only thing worse than training your employees and having them leave is not training them and having them stay.”
- Be mindful not to hinder new ideas just because you have “always don’t it this way”
- Invest in ways to create an environment that makes their jobs enjoyable and gives them pride and joy to work with your operation.
- Instill practices in your operation that foster good communications between employer and employees. Ideas include: Regular meetings, employee orientation, formalized policies and employee handbooks and performance review processes.
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