Coronavirus: 5 tips for recruiting new farm staff

To say that we are in challenging times would be an understatement. The challenges of Covid-19 are rippling through every aspect of our lives and businesses.

Farmworkers are leaving employment to self-isolate or are off work sick.

The dairy sector’s reliance on European labour and the necessity of countries around the globe to go into lock-down has meant many have returned home at short notice; neither worker nor employer knowing if or when they will return. 

With sector-specific disruption, how can UK farmers attract and retain workers?

See also: Coronavirus: Advice for managing and keeping staff safe

While farmers may be facing short-term labour challenges, there is a real long-term opportunity for businesses to think differently about the people they employ in the agricultural industry. 

Below, Becki Leach from Kite Consulting offers her top tips.

1. Build a positive reputation for your business and make it an attractive place to work

We don’t necessarily mean hanging baskets on the yard (although kerb appeal does help), but ensure you are making the working environment a pleasurable one – physically and mentally. 

  • Provide basic facilities such as a clean toilet, wash facilities and a staff room.
  • Ensure the equipment being used is safe and fit for purpose.
  • In addition, you can create a positive mental environment by ensuring that you, as the leader, adopt a proactive and positive approach to the business and those working in it.

2. Make the role attractive

This will ensure you get applications from the right sort of people.

Remember, employees cannot be expected to work 12 hours a day, six days a week, as it is not sustainable and certainly not attractive.

  • Give staff members breaks and sufficient weekly rest.
  • Ensure you give complete clarity about the role you want to fill by setting realistic expectations and reward accordingly.
  • Consider local competition, both within and outside of agriculture, when setting salaries and benefits.

3. Be open-minded and flexible about who you will employ

Historically, “experience essential” has been key in any job advertisement, but what about considering people who have no experience, but have a great attitude, are willing to learn and are reliable?

Also, what about employing two people for the price of one? Consider job shares or offering a range of hours for specific roles.

This can be easily done for relief milkers and can be a great way of ensuring you have plenty of cover and allow the role to appeal to more people in the local area.

4. Invest time and effort into the recruitment process

Write an advert that reflects the job and, more importantly, the skills and attitude the person must have. Make sure the pay reflects the role and what they can bring to the business.

See also: What skills to look for when recruiting farm staff

Advertise somewhere relevant to the type of person you are trying to attract – the local shop notice board is great if you’re looking for someone to do a couple of milking shifts a week, but not necessarily for a herdsperson. 

Request a CV or formal application and follow this up with a telephone interview before inviting them to the farm. It tests their commitment and can give you valuable information and insight.

5. Give new employees the information they need to succeed

A thorough induction, training and ongoing review process are all essential to allow new (and existing) employees to thrive in your business.

No one turns up to work wanting to do a bad job, nor are they mind readers, so a proper induction is necessary to make sure they know what a good job looks like in your business. 

Even those with dairy experience are not experienced in your business, so they should be trained to your protocols and processes.

Conducting regular reviews allows you to check in with staff, make sure they are happy and understand their motives.