Business Clinic: How can I recruit good farm staff?

Whether you have a legal, tax, insurance, management or land issue, Farmers Weekly’s Business Clinic experts can help.

Here, William Baillie of Savills advises on recruiting an assistant farm manager.

Q I have expanded my farm business and would like to employ an assistant manager. Where do I start?

There are always additional costs to factor in when expanding any enterprise. Taking on an extra member of staff is often one of the highest.

As well as the basic salary, there will be employer’s national insurance and pension contributions, accommodation, a vehicle, ongoing training, perhaps a discretionary bonus, phone, laptop or tablet, and so on.

Accommodation is usually an important consideration for potential employees, so make sure you either have a suitable property available or are willing to offer enhanced pay to cover rent.

See also: Business Clinic: share-farming v contract farming

William Baillie, food and farming consultant, Savills

Once you are clear that it stacks up financially, create a full job description that sets out the role, responsibilities and duties required.

At this stage it is worth discussing the opportunity with the existing team to ensure they understand how the role will fit in with the current staff structure.

This is especially true when appointing an assistant manager who is likely to be directing and supervising other farm staff and taking a lead role in your absence. This also offers your current staff the opportunity to apply for the role.

To attract good candidates, it is important that you show your business in the best light. A well-written advert including the business ethos and an accurate job description is key.

If you have a website or use social media for your business, this is likely to be the first place a candidate will look, so ensure these are professional and up to date.

Recruitment isn’t cheap when you take into account advertising costs, professional advice and your own time but trying to cut corners will ultimately be more costly, either through an unsuccessful recruitment exercise or employing the wrong person.

Spreading the word widely is key – consider social media, word of mouth and your local media as well as the more traditional farming press.

Don’t be shy to ask your agronomist, feed rep and any other appropriate contacts if they know of anyone suitable.

Set a reasonable application deadline date that will fit in with your workload and that of potential applicants and make sure those you want to interview know of the dates as early as possible.

Start by interviewing a good number of candidates before narrowing it down to a final two or three for a second interview.

Allow plenty of time for the interview and ask set questions where possible. Give yourself time to make some notes afterwards and refresh your knowledge of the next candidate. It can be useful to have another person to assist with the interviews, perhaps a trusted adviser or another family member.

The second interview is a good time to take the candidates on tour of the farm and the accommodation, if offered.

Use this time to talk more informally so you can establish how they might fit in with the team. Candidates will be motivated by opportunities to learn new skills, so be clear about what you can offer.  

Don’t leave candidates waiting. Make a decision within a couple of days of the final interviews once you have their references.

They may have applied for other roles so any job offers should be made as soon as practically possible.

The keys to finding and retaining good staff are being open and honest from the very outset, ensuring that there is trust between all parties.

Don’t forget there are legal employment obligations which shouldn’t be overlooked, including drawing up an employment contract.

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