by Michael Wren
As small family farms become larger and more profitable they begin to hire more and more employees to help with the extra work. However, many farmers have never had multiple employees and find it hard to manage and retain them. Whether you employ five people or 500 people, managing them will be crucial to running your business.
Your farm is your business and like all other businesses your labor costs are a large part of your operating expenses. With this expenditure you expect to get a certain amount of production and work out of your employees. Therefore it is important to retain your best employees. Some studies suggest that the best employees can consistently be four to six times more productive than the worst employees. This shows the necessity of keeping good employees on the payroll. Basically, why pay four people to do the job that one man could do?
Four main reasons farm employees leave their jobs are poor management, lack of recognition, not understanding what the job entails, and not seeing any future with the company.
Poor management does not mean they are lacking someone constantly watching over them but that the employee doesn’t always know what to do or where to be. Poor management can also reflect the manager’s disposition toward employees. While you don’t need to be their best friend, it is important to maintain a working relationship with your employees. Most of the time when a worker leaves a job it has more to do with leaving their manager than the work itself. Many times it is better to be a leader than a boss, meaning that it is more efficient to show them how to work instead of just telling them what you want done.
Lack of recognition can be dealt with many ways such as a monetary bonus, increase in base pay, or any other gift or incentive. However, one of the cheapest and most effective ways to make an employee feel wanted and comfortable in their position in the company is to simply tell them so. Talking to your employees about what is good or bad about what they are doing is key in maintaining a proper working relationship. While you don’t need to fawn over them for doing a simple job, letting them know when they’ve done well or how to improve will make them feel like a part of the company. Making an employee feel like a valuable part of the operation will make them more productive and stay on longer.
Not understanding their role and what the job entails can be solved rather easily by a thorough training process or a weekly job worksheet that shows what needs to be done in addition to the usual work. This can help give employees direction and tasks to do when they aren’t sure of what to do. There is always something that needs to be done on a farm and it is easier to outline it for your employees at the start than to get mad at them for not knowing what needs done.
If an employee does not feel like they have anywhere higher to go with the company they will stay only until something better comes along. Giving a sense of security and a future will play a big role in employee retention. It’s hard for a good worker to know their abilities and not see any recognition for it. An article by the Iowa State University Extension and Outreach program suggests that another key factor between a good working relationship between manager and employee is good communication. Communication about how the employee is doing as well as about the future plans of the company. This shows the employee that they are part of the team, part of the company. This is a much better feeling than treating them like another piece of farm equipment.
William Edwards and Ann M. Johanns conducted a study on the wages and benefits of farm employees who were not related to the farm operator and gave insight as to some of the techniques that farmers use to retain their employees. Some farmers give a bonus based on how many years the employee has been with the farm while others give bonuses based on amount of work done.
Additional types of compensation include an end of the year bonus based on the profitability of the farm, gifts of livestock, insurance and other benefits, free meals and other gifts. Offering production based bonuses of goods or money will also help to improve production.
There are also times when retaining employees is critical, such as during harvest season. While monetary incentives aren’t necessarily the best way to retain employees, some farms offer a bonus to seasonal employees who work the entirety of the harvest season.
Retaining good employees is necessary when looking at the long-term viability of the farm. Paying your best employee(s) more or giving them production-based bonuses and recognition will help to keep them on the payroll as well as increase productivity.
Employee retention and motivation: How to retain good employees
by Michael Wren