Strategies to recruit and retain good employees
Let’s face it, finding and retaining good employees is becoming a major hurdle on many dairy farms. A few key strategies can give you an edge in finding and keeping great employees.
Know the labor pool
First, consider what types of positions you need to fill on your farm. Are they general labor positions or do they require specialized skills, education, or training?
For more skilled positions, some farms have found value in professional recruiting companies, but these are not the only resources. Community colleges offering animal science classes and universities with agricultural programs are both good places to ask about students who might be looking for jobs. Don’t forget about the many consultants who visit your farm. Let them know about your labor needs; sometimes they know individuals who are looking to do something different.
Faith Cullens, Michigan State University dairy extension agent, has some practical ways to advertise and find potential employees. Placing an ad on Craigslist may help you find employees from the local area.
If you are trying to connect with Latino workers, think about the common places where they may gather and share opportunities with each other. Cullens advises putting an ad on the board in a Mexican grocery store. Visit churches that offer services in Spanish and ask how you might connect with people looking for work. Many Latinos support each other and help place peers in jobs. Cullens recommends asking others who are in these “local networks” who may be able to help you find employees.
Put the expectations in writing
Use written job descriptions during the interview process to make sure interviewees understand what their roles and responsibilities will be. Job descriptions should clearly outline expectations of tasks so that they understand and are accountable for carrying out these tasks.
Job descriptions can also be a great tool to use for employee reviews. The more responsibility an employee has, the more often these reviews should take place. They can be used to tie performance to a raise and give feedback to help employees become better at what they do. On the flip side, the documentation from reviews can also be helpful if an employee doesn’t live up to expectations.
Make it a good first day
Onboarding new employees is very important. Cullens suggests creating a simple checklist of things for the employee to learn in the first few days of employment. Pair the new employee with a manager and give the same checklist to both individuals to make sure the information is understood. Items on the checklist can include:
- Farm tour
- Job description
- Learning expectations and a timeline to complete them
- Pay rate
- Pay schedule
- Work schedule
- Work attire
- Where to park
- Bathroom location
- Where to store food and eat lunch
- Introduction to other employees
- What to do in case of accident or emergency
- Location of phone lists
- Policies regarding tardiness, sick days, break times, etc.
Make sure your farm is a place where people want to work. Word gets around, in a good or bad way. On a regular basis, take an inventory of your farm from employees’ perspectives and ask, “Would I want to work here?”
Consider employee morale and common complaints. If you think of any negative areas, find ways to make a difference and change the negative to a positive. When you invest time and effort into your people, it usually doesn’t take long for you to see the benefits.
About the author: Mark Case is a Vita Plus territory manager in western Michigan. He earned his bachelor’s degree in animal science at Michigan State University. He joined the Vita Plus team in 2002 and is responsible for managing dealer partnerships, training and developing new staff in his area, and serving as a nutrition consultant for several dairy farms. He has earned Professional Animal Scientist certification with the American Registry of Professional Animal Scientists. Case enjoys the challenges and constant learning required to keep up with industry demands as well as creating solid relationships with customers and peers.