What skills to look for when recruiting farm staff

When assessing the performance of their team, or when seeking to recruit new staff, farmers often focus on the skills and knowledge of a potential employee. 

While this is important, Paul Harris, managing director of people consultancy Real Success, says farmers should also focus on “attitude” and “alignment”.

“When we assess our teams, we can use a simple formula to decide if they will be right for our business or how much value they are contributing. The formula is: skills + knowledge + attitude x alignment = performance.”

He says if you consider a staff member and score each aspect on a scale of 1-10, an experienced worker may score 8 out of 10 on skills and knowledge.

However, if they are a negative at times, you may score attitude lower at 4 out of 10. 

More importantly, if the worker resists change, doesn’t want to follow new protocols and insists that he/she knows best, you may also score them lower (4 out of 10) in your assessment of their alignment, he adds. 

The formula, for example, would generate an overall score as follows:  8 + 8 + 4 x 4 = 80.

However, a less-experienced member of your team might score lower on skills and knowledge, but higher on attitude and alignment. So, they may score 4 + 4 + 8 x 8 = 128. This is 60% higher than the more experienced worker, as, most importantly, their alignment score is the multiplier of performance.

See also: How Gold Cup winners are managing staff

Based on this principle, farmers should seek to recruit and retain staff based on attitude and alignment, he believes.

“We can then train skills and knowledge. We cannot ignore the ability of our more experienced workers, but it does show the effect of poor attitude and alignment on their performance and potentially, the positive impact of less-skilled workers can still make on our business.”

Below, Mr Harris offers seven quick tips to help you build alignment within your team.

1.  Provide good working conditions

Poor working conditions don’t encourage loyalty and alignment. Do you have a clean and fully functioning toilet and washing facilities? 

If you wouldn’t expect your own family to use your facilities, don’t expect your staff to do so.

2. Provide sensible working hours

Don’t work your team to exhaustion. Time off is essential for people to remain fresh and safe. 

Tiredness can kill, so make sure people get breaks and adequate time off.

3. Ensure you’re paying enough

If your staff are salaried, keep a record of hours they work. 

If they work too many hours, their hourly rate can fall below minimum wage rates. 

4. Provide safe, good working equipment

If your equipment is falling apart or constantly breaking down, it becomes frustrating and demoralising. Keep everything serviced and in good working order.

5. Carry out regular personal reviews

Take one hour a year to sit and listen to your staff and if possible, use a facilitator. 

If you have foreign staff, invest in an interpreter for the day. You’ll be amazed how much staff value this time.

6. Consider personality types 

Remember that everyone is different. You need to speak differently to each member of staff to get the best from them. 

7. Communicate well with your team

The most common reason people will leave a business is because of poor communication. 

Keep your team informed through regular team briefings and updates and celebrate your successes.


Paul Harris is the managing director of Real Success – a people consultancy that helps the agricultural sector to improve staff management.  A regular speaker at industry events, Mr Harris is widely recognised as a thought leader and positive advocate of staff development in the agricultural sector.  www.real-success.co.uk

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