By Rachel Robinson
Develop strategies to keep workers on the payroll
Employers know it’s hard to find and keep good help. Businesses lose an estimated $2,000 each time an employee is replaced, according to a study by Sarah Smith at Purdue University. With the average farm employee turnover rate close to 25%, employers face some high costs, says Chris Zoller, an Extension educator at Ohio State University.
Those higher costs aren’t always salary-related, though. There are other costs to businesses when replacing employees, such as separation expenses for the former employee, recruiting expenses for the new employee, interviewing time and the administrative work associated with a new hire.
Not to mention that once a new person is hired, there is still a need for training and supervisory time for the new hire, overtime pay for employees who had to fill in for the departed employee, and lost production associated with getting a new employee up to speed with his or her new job. Taken together, all of these factors mean that finding and keeping productive employees is key.
How can farmers keep their employees? Developing strategies to reduce turnover rates is important for businesses, Zoller says. But paying employees more isn’t the best fix. According to a study by George Mason University, good wages ranked only fifth in employees’ top motivators for remaining at a particular job. The top three were interesting work, appreciation and feeling "in-the-know" about things.
Here are some ways to reduce your turnover rate:
- Take time to hire better qualified employees, because you will always get what you pay for. Make sure to check references on prospective employees.
- Establish a training protocol and create an employee manual. The employee manual should include a clear statement of the job expectations and goals for new employees.
- Set a probationary period for all new employees and conduct periodic worker satisfaction surveys. A clearly defined grievance policy will give employees direction if a problem develops. Conduct exit interviews to determine why employees are leaving.
- Most importantly, place employees in jobs they like and are interested in. Provide a flexible compensation program and give employees opportunities to take time off to meet their personal obligations. Hold regular staff meetings to discuss farm issues, goals and operational strategies to make employees feel like partners in the success of the operation.
- Consider sharing one or more employees or seasonal laborers with your neighbors.
- Invite your Extension agent or farm adviser to review your employee management system.
By retaining employees, Zoller says, a business saves money, creates a solid knowledge base, helps its staff work well together, and saves time that would otherwise be spent in advertising for and recruiting new employees.