The War for Talent

These are difficult times to find and keep good employees. ( Farm Journal's PORK )

What’s good for the economy isn’t necessarily good for you as a small business owner. Take unemployment for example. It’s great that fewer people are unemployed but it means finding and keeping the workers you want and need is more difficult.

In Iowa, for example, the unemployment rate is down to 2.5%. The economy has now grown for more than 90 months, which is the third-longest expansion in U.S. history, says outsourcing company OSI.  And for the first time since record-keeping began in 2000, OSI says the number of available job positions in the country exceeds the number of job seekers. Record wage growth creates yet another obstacle in the present environment.

According to the HR Daily Advisor, here are some of the challenges small businesses face:

  • Employees are less likely to stay when problems arise—even if those problems may be short-lived—if the unemployment level is low enough that they feel they can get a new job quickly. This may mean higher turnover rates. It may also mean employees are more likely to give less notice when leaving, as they may feel pressure to start the new job quickly.
  • It can make filling a position take longer, as there are fewer applicants for a given role when fewer people are job searching in general.
  • Employers may have to spend more on compensation and benefits to compete when labor becomes scarcer and jobs take longer to fill. Looking at the big picture, rising wages that result can influence an increase in inflation rates.
  • Employers may have to increase training budgets to make up for the skills gaps that result from being unable to hire individuals with the necessary skills

How can businesses compete in this war for talent?
It’s difficult to compete with other businesses, but many people enjoy working with animals and want autonomy in their jobs. Here are four ideas to improve retention and make your farm a place people want to work.

1.  Listen and Act: Ask your employees what they like and don’t like about their jobs. As Nick DeKryger with Belstra Milling pointed out earlier this year, it might be something as simple as putting cushions on the breakroom chairs. Maybe it’s having boots and coveralls that fit, or better soap and towels for shower-in, shower-out facilities. Be a problem solver.

2.  Show appreciation:  Tell your employees you appreciate what they do and make them feel that they’re valuable contributors to the operation’s success. Write notes of thanks, encouragement, congratulations, etc. You’ll never know when the smallest action will leave a lasting impression. (I still have notes that were written to me 30 years ago).

3.  Provide opportunities: Help people advance in your operation. Let your employees know there is room for advancement. Provide training to make them better equipped to do their jobs. It takes time and effort, but if you’re willing to make an investment in your employees, they’re more likely to be loyal to you and your business when other opportunities come along.

4.  Provide Fair Compensation and Benefits: You need to make sure salaries and benefits are on par with similar jobs in your area. Maybe there are other perks you can offer, like time off, bonuses or incentives. Keep in mind, however, that salary isn’t the No. 1 reason your employees stay. It has more to do with whether they like their boss, like the work, and like the people with whom they work.

It may be time to be creative in your human resources playbook. Think in terms of building a team that’s dependent upon each individual playing a vital role in the team’s success. You’ll not only have more loyal, motivated employees; you’ll also help them gain confidence and leadership skills.