3 Tips to Retain Top Farm Help

As the temperature and operational workload both start to heat up, many farmers will be losing sleep over a longstanding concern that has become even more magnified in the past five years: finding and retaining top talent.

It’s with good reason that employee turnover keeps farmers up at night. Anecdotally, many signs point to a shrinking rural talent pool, due in part to the stagnation of rural population growth in the United States. In fact, rural populations have essentially remained the same the past 10 years, and despite small growth in 2018-19 (.02%), rural populations that year still grew at much smaller rate than metro communities (.6%).

All this together not only makes it difficult to find hard-working, trustworthy and knowledgeable farm employees, the high-demand market makes it even harder to keep great help.

Hiring top-level talent doesn’t have to mean you should be prepared to say goodbye. Here are three tips to retain the best employees you’ve worked so hard to hire and train.

  1. Compensate thoughtfully.

Yes, this means a paycheck that is commensurate with their effort and experience, but for today’s top farm talent, it means more than that. What benefits are in place? Have you considered your employees’ cost of employment (gas, vehicle wear-and-tear, etc.)? More importantly: what operational goals can the employee help reach? Is he or she incentivized for helping reach those goals? Are you providing bonuses or fringe benefits after particularly grueling parts of the season, like planting or harvest?

When it comes to compensation structure, a little thought can go a long way. 

  1. Aid in employee development.

Employees leave for such a wide variety of reasons, so it’s important you eliminate the reasons you can control. Compensation isn’t the only reason employees leave. Sometimes, it’s simply the desire to accomplish more, to be challenged, or to learn new skills. This can be frustrating for the farm manager, because, often, they could have achieved those same things by staying right where they were.

There is no one-size-fits-all approach to employee satisfaction, so it’s important you talk to your employees regularly, in a structured manner. Conducting a quarterly or biannual review, for instance, provides not only the opportunity for you to discuss performance but for the employee to share what they enjoy working on and where they would like to grow. Ask them questions like:

  • What accomplishments this quarter are you most proud of?
  • Which goals did you meet? Which goals fell short?
  • What motivates you to get your job done?
  • Can I do anything to make your job more enjoyable?
  • What are your ideal working conditions to be the most productive?

Providing employees the venue to discuss what may be missing from their role allows you the opportunity to provide it before they go somewhere else for it.

  1. Communicate clearly.

Positioning your key players to be successful is just as important to running a successful farm operation as it is to running your favorite football team. And top farm employees understand that success starts with communicating clearly what is expected of them on any given day.

That’s where Granular comes in. Utilizing farm management software allows you the opportunity to communicate clearly and transparently what the expectations are for the day, the week and even the entire growing season, and how you expect them to be completed. For instance, Granular Business allows users the opportunity to schedule tasks, send out work orders and assign and monitor tasks from any device. Not only does this software mean the employee understands what to do, this transparency means you don’t have to micro-manage your staff to ensure they accomplish the tasks at hand, leading, generally, to a more positive working environment.

For more details on Granular Business, and how it can help you foster a more satisfied, engaged workforce on your farm, click here.

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