The problem of finding suitable staff is an ever increasing worry on many dairy units, so how do you recruit and retain the people you need.
Hannah Noble spoke to Paul Harris, managing director of Real Success Consultancy, for some top tips.
There is a problem with the agricultural industry, and that centres around attracting people into a career in farming, says Paul Harris.
“You are always going to need people, and ironically that is the bit the industry has invested in the least,” he says.
He stresses the need for planning when recruiting new staff, which can be difficult when someone has left at short notice.
“The team is one person down and people are hired in a panic, and this is not the best way to recruit.
“I normally tell clients it will take three months to find the right person. It is better to be without someone for two months than have the wrong person for 10 years,” he adds.
“Just because someone has left does not mean you need to replace them with exactly the same person – often it is an opportunity to change the team.”
He advises to always make sure you have written job descriptions 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 for each role.
Identifying the sort of person needed to fit the role allows the advert to be targeted at the right level to find an employee with the required skills and experience.
Also, focus on what will attract the right candidate to your farm, but additionally consider what factors would put you off working for that business.
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 in the role.
Keep the advert positive, make a big deal of the perks like accommodation availability, rewards and training packages. Add some local knowledge, Mr Harris says, especially if you are looking to attract a family, and so include information on local schools and amenities.
He recommends creating a website. “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 an online presence, how are they meant to find out about you?”
Even a simple free website would create a good impression and allow prospective employees to get a feeling for the farm and learn a little about it. He says: “Your reputation is incredibly important, and that’s about how people talk about you and perceive your business in the industry.”
Draw up a list of criteria that are essential for the role, and those which are desirable, as this will help you sort through applications and identify candidates which fulfil these requirements. Any applicants which do not have the essential criteria can be rejected at this point.
Mr Harris recommends pre-screening applications prior to interview using a short questionnaire carried out over the telephone.
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 claims.
Mr Harris suggests asking open questions, rather than leading questions, to put them in a position where they have to extend their answers.
Ensure once the chosen candidate has accepted the role, they undergo a proper on-boarding process. Organising time spent with each member of staff or team on the farm can help the new person to start their employment feeling valued and welcome.
But you haven’t finished then. Once a new employee has joined the team, it is just as important to work at keeping them: “Most people will leave your business not because of money, or because of the house, or the cows, but the way you speak to them,” says Mr Harris.
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 training and development.
Mr Harris says sharing with them the vision for the business can be a great way to make staff feel included in the future of the farm.