What are farmers’ biggest labor challenge? Finding qualified workers tops the list, according to a 2019 Farm Journal survey of 2,100 farmers and ranchers. The second greatest challenge is finding temporary labor.
Yes, recruiting members for your team is extremely difficult. But before you spend your time and energy on that challenge, focus first on retention, suggests Mel Kleiman, president of Humetrics, a human resource consulting firm.
“Put retention in front of recruiting,” he says. “Become a place that people want to work, and then when people hear you have an opening, they come to you.”
How do you prioritize retention? Analyze why employees leave your farm, Kleiman coaches. Many times, their departures fall into these nine categories.
1. Substandard Co-Workers: “The good employees aren't paid enough to cover for or put up with the hiring mistakes,” Kleiman says. Don’t force your good employees to compensate for others who are lazy, indifferent or undependable.
2. Mind-Numbing Tasks: Don’t force new employees to only perform boring and repetitive jobs, he suggests. An employee’s manager or supervisor must find ways to make roles on your farm fun, more meaningful or challenging.
3. No Attention or Authority: “When a supervisor is so busy fighting the fires created by problem employees, he or she never has any time for his best people,” Kleiman says. Many times, this busy leader also fails to delegate authority to capable employees, leaving those employees frustrated. Learn how to be a magnetic manager.
4. No Training: Kleiman says managers must prioritize training and move away from that often-repeated phrase that training is not a good investment because "they'll leave in three months anyway."
5. No Chance for Advancement: Is your default setting to promote from within? Or does every new opportunity go to someone outside the farm? Recognize how advancements drive retention and job satisfaction, he says. Read some tips to reduce employee turnover.
6. Lack of Respect: Employees need positive recognition, Kleiman says. “Praise in public and criticize in private,” he says. Learn how to provide meaningful recognition: Beyond Atta-Boy: 5 Tips to Maximize Employee Recognition
7. Receive the Jobs No One Else Wants: Even though your all-star employees are dependable and won’t complain about menial tasks doesn’t mean they should be in charge of them. Spread the dirty work around.
8. Lack of Recognition: Quality and effective feedback is critical. Many times, Kleinman says, supervisors avoid positive feedback for fear the recipient might ask for a raise – this is the wrong approach. Read more: Use Feedback to Nurture Good Habits and Squash Bad Ones
9. Scheduling Conflicts: When an employer promises "flexible hours," but it turns out "flexible hours" means having to work whenever and however long the manager wants them to, good employees look for the exit door.
Find more results and resources from the 2019 Farm Journal Ag Labor Study at AgWeb.com/ag-labor