The economic uncertainty of Brexit, the rise of alternative lifestyles and the influence of social media have affected the public perception of farming and the dynamics within our workforce.
Farming must respond to these external forces with a proactive and positive approach.
In this final article on staff management, Paul Harris offers seven tips to help you attract staff to work on your farm while addressing the changing needs of the political, economic and social environment.
1. Working hours
Farming has traditionally expected its workforce to work long hours and often with less time off than other industries.
The seasonality of many farms produces huge peaks of activity. However, with well-structured rotas, reliable relief staff and enough investment in staff numbers, it is possible to have sensible working hours for most of the year.
2. Working conditions
Farm owners are no longer just competing against each other for labour. They are competing with other industries and must offer safe places to work, pleasant areas to take breaks, and the right tools for the job.
Don’t expect people to choose our industry if it is unsafe, unclean or unable to offer the basics that other industries provide as standard.
3. Training and development
Many of the young people that join farms from colleges, through apprenticeships or simply through choosing farming for their career, expect to be trained in new skills and be given the opportunity to develop.
Investing in staff training and development is essential for the next generation of farmers and the future of our industry.
4. People management
Large sums of money are often invested into machinery, land and animals while little is invested into staff management and leadership skills.
If we are to retain the best staff, we need to have the best people management skills. This requires time off farm attending courses, programmes and workshops to build our ability to manage our staff effectively.
The single biggest reason this industry loses staff is the way they are spoken to on their farm.
It’s possible to be trained in understanding different personality styles and how to speak to them.
You’ll stand out from so many who simply bark orders, use foul language or aggressive behaviour and still expect staff to be motivated.
6. Work-life balance
For many years, the farming industry relied heavily on a European labour force that was prepared to work long hours to earn higher wages and salaries than they could in their home countries.
But the next generation of UK-based staff have a different perspective and farmers need to respond to this.
7. Be positive
It’s not possible to run away from the environmental and social pressures being imposed on our industry.
Changing lifestyle habits and choices need to be recognised and the farming sector should take bold steps forward to promote how our food is produced.
Being active on social media, visible online and ready to “talk up” the industry is not just the responsibility of industry bodies, it’s the responsibility of everyone involved in farming.
Paul Harris is the managing director of Real Success Ltd – a People Consultancy that helps the agricultural sector to improve staff management. A
regular speaker at industry events, Paul is widely recognised as a thought leader and positive advocate of staff development in the agricultural sector. www.real-success.co.uk