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Holding on to a quality agricultural work force

As the saying goes, “good help is hard to find.” That is especially true when it comes to hiring and retaining quality employees that embrace the anything-but-a-desk-job, far from glamorous, tiring and dirty jobs in agriculture.

“The farming workforce has such unique skill sets and a knowledge base that you just can’t find anywhere and everywhere,” said Mary Barefoot, human resources services manager at AgCareers.com, a company that helps connect the ag industry with well qualified workers for all types of job sets. “Once you find the right people for the right roles, you obviously want to hold on to them for as long as possible.”

Tips for retaining top-notch employees include a fair compensation, training, professional development, incentives and flexibility. Some may see taking these steps as expensive, but not when considering the cost of worker turnover.

“Studies have shown that an employer can figure the cost of replacing a worker to be roughly 150% of an employee’s salary, for a managerial role that number is closer to 200%,” Barefoot said. “That takes into account advertising for the open position, the interviewing time and the cost of lost productivity and customer dissatisfaction and it also affects overall company moral, which can be detrimental.”

Finding the right people for the right jobs can save an employer from the headaches of worker turnover, but that too can be quite the process.

“You first have to find people that are squarely aligned with the company’s vision and what the company’s purpose is,” said Jerry Carmichael, head of HR partnering for commercial operations and management for Syngenta. “Secondly, the job candidate should have the type of competencies that were outlined relative to the job.”

Carmichael said that once a position is filled by a qualified employee, retaining them on the workforce isn’t all about salary, as there is value in being part of a successful team in a happy environment.

“Employees must feel like the work and efforts that they are putting forth are valued, worthwhile and something that contributes to the overall company strategy,” Carmichael said.

Above all, communication is a valuable part of the process when it comes to maintaining a solid workforce in agriculture.

“Having the opportunity to be transparent as an employer is critical,” Carmichael said. “Whether it be about how an employee can move up within the organization, or how the organization plans to build its brand and place in the market, communication and an open air environment will make a worker feel that they are a part of something greater than themselves and they will want to see the company they work for succeed. That is a win-win for the employee and employer.”

All of these steps take time, but motivated employees can make all the difference in creating a thriving workplace and its bottom line.

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