Today’s growth-oriented farmers face numerous challenges to successfully building the right workforce to support their businesses. The variety of positions necessary to staff a large operation can make good hiring choices tricky, which means good recruitment practices are even more important.
Stan Moore, a senior educator at Michigan State University Extension, recently moderated a panel discussing strategies for workforce management at Farm Credit’s Insights Conference.
“Farmer-owners can still get good employees who walk up to their door,” he says, “but the best employees often are those who are currently working. As a result, employers need to go after them in a deliberate way.”
Moore offers these tips for recruiting quality employees.
1. Move away from a “just-in-time” hiring philosophy.
Rather than always hiring to fill an open position, continuously be on the lookout for good team members — even if it means overstaffing by one person. “Do an attitude switch from looking for the next warm body to looking for someone who is really going to contribute to the farm team,” he says.
2. Up your hiring practice game.
Make sure your recruitment materials and job announcements look and sound professional. This signals to prospective employees that you have carefully considered the type of person you are seeking and are making an effort to attract quality people.
3. Be a great manager of your current workforce.
Word travels quickly about whether your operation is a good place to work, says Moore. “Managing your current employees well has a dramatic effect on your ability to recruit good employees in the future.”
4. Expand your hiring geography.
Consider reaching out to prospective employees in urban areas. “Tell your story in job announcements and interviews, promoting what’s great about working in agriculture,” says Moore. Also be upfront about what the job entails. “Don’t shy away from telling interviewees they’ll need to feed calves outside in the winter, or they may leave after the first snowstorm. Be open and honest about what’s expected.”
Employees choose to work for operations that meet their needs. Those needs could include a competitive salary, a positive work culture, a good relationship with their boss, and/or the satisfaction of doing meaningful work, says Moore. “If employees can make the connection between the work they do and the continued success of the farm, that’s key.”
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