With finding and retaining quality staff a major issue on many farms, Hannah Noble spoke to Paul Harris, managing director of Real Success People Consultancy, to find out what farmers can do to improve their appeal.
Labour, and importantly the availability of it, is a hot topic within the farming sector. However, consultant Paul Harris believes there is no such thing as a labour crisis and instead the problem lies with not being able to attract people into a career in farming.
Mr Harris says: “There is not a labour shortage, there is a farming problem. You are always going to need people and, ironically, that is the bit the industry has invested in the least.”
Here are Mr Harris’s top tips when looking to recruit a new member of staff.
MR Harris says it is important to plan when recruiting. When someone has left at short notice and the team is one person down, people can be hired in a panic. This, he adds, is not the best way to recruit.
“I tell clients it will take three months to find the right person,” he says. “It is better to be without someone for two months than with the wrong person for 10 years.”
He explains it is important to identify the staffing need, and sometimes there is the opportunity to swap roles around.
“Just because someone has left does not mean you need to replace them exactly the same person again,” he says. “Often it is an opportunity to change the team.”
Have a written job description for all the roles on the farm, as well as person specifications, as this helps you identify what sort of person you need to employ.
“Anybody under the age of 50 will go straight to Google or Facebook to find out about your business and, if you do not have a presence, how are they meant to find out about you?” adds Mr Harris.
Even a simple free website would create a good impression and allow prospective employees get a feeling for the farm.
He says: “Your reputation is incredibly important. How do people talk about you and perceive your business in the industry?”
WRITING AN EFFECTIVE ADVERT
USE written job descriptions and person specifications to help you identify a staffing need, says Mr Harris.
This allows the advert to be targeted at the right level to find an employee with the required skills and experience.
Focus on what will attract the right candidate to your farm, but also consider what factors would put you off working for a business.
For example, an untidy farm, long hours, unorganised rotas and lack of potential to develop the role, are all factors which can put people off applying or accepting a position.
The finished job advert should include the job title and location, followed by some general information about the farm and the specifics of the role being advertised.
Follow this with a brief outline of rewards, support and possible training included.
Keep the advert positive and make a big deal of perks, such as accommodation availability, rewards and training.
Mr Harris advises to add some local knowledge, and if you are looking to attract a family, include information on local schools and amenities.
SHORTLISTING AND INTERVIEWING
DRAW up a list of criteria that are essential for the role, and criteria which are desirable, this will help you sort through applications and identify candidates which fulfil these criteria.
Any applicants which do not have the essential criteria can be rejected at this point.
If the group of successful candidates is still too large to interview, you can refer to the desirable criteria to filter off more applicants.
Mr Harris recommends pre-screening applications prior to interview using a short questionnaire carried out over the telephone.
He also says when it comes to interviewing prospective new staff, often the techniques used on-farm leave a lot to be desired.
“Very few people within the agricultural sector, especially on farms, have ever been taught how to interview people properly,” he says.
ONCE a new employee has joined the team, it is just as important to work at keeping them within the business.
Mr Harris says: “Most people will leave a business, not because of money, or because of the house or the cows, but the way we speak to them.”
Make people feel important and valued, take interest in the needs of their families, empower them with responsibilities and make sure you stick to any promises of further training and development.
says sharing with them the vision for the business can also be a great way to make staff feel included in the future of the farm.