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HERd Management: 5 tips to attract the right employee to your farm

Kelli Cull for Progressive Dairy Published on 01 June 2021

On any farm, sometimes it is more about having “enough” employees than it is about having the “right” employees.

Seeking out and hiring that quality person who possesses the optimal skill set, positive attitude and genuine work ethic you are striving for can feel like a daunting task. Challenging questions arise such as this:

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  • Where do I begin to look?
  • How do I advertise for a specific position?
  • What do I ask the candidate once we start communication?

Fear no more; here are a few ideas to help you obtain that key person who fits the mission statement and vision of your farm.

1. Market the position and be prepared with a detailed job description

We start by utilizing social media marketing by posting the “cliff notes” of the position we are hiring for. It needs to be a quick read along with an enticing photo or couple of photos of your farm, team, equipment or animals they might be working with. Make it viewer friendly to capture attention. Be clear on how interested parties can communicate with you about sending a resume or asking questions regarding the position, such as email, message or text.

2. Communication. Clarification. Confidence.

Once we start to receive feedback, communication needs to flow quickly and often. You do not want to lose their attention by delaying response. Think of it as selling a product, but you are selling the position in which they are interested. Asking a few key questions can accelerate or pause the communication abruptly. This allows for clarification of who you are looking for and exactly what the position entails.

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Have a detailed job description prepared for them to read expectations: what their duties will include, hours, time off, living arrangements, typical schedule and a potential start date. Ask for a resume or a one-page document stating their agricultural background (based on specifics to the position), a key reference and then allow them to share their thoughts on the job description once they receive it. Finally, once confidence is established that this person might be a good fit, schedule an on-farm or phone interview to hear them speak and to observe how they react to your questions and comments.

3. Understanding the position using a job shadow

Once we have established agreed-upon details about the position and everything incorporated with it, we then schedule a one- to three-day job shadow for them to fully understand what we are all about, our daily routine, meet our current team and see our facilities and equipment. This is a key element for our business because it allows potential employees to spend a few days observing, assisting and meeting us. We need to know if candidates are the right fit from a physical standpoint and for them to see it for themselves in person. We pay for their travel, meals and housing while they are at the farm, and honestly, it is some of the best money we can invest into our team-building process.

4. Be completely transparent on your expectations and try not to settle

This is sometimes easier said than done. For us, we operate best when we have a seven-person team. Therefore, when we are firing with all seven cylinders, our team morale is higher, our work efficiency is strong and we are allowed an adequate amount of much-needed time off. At times, we have settled for that “warm body” or part-time person who fills the current void enough to allow us a break here and there, but that is not what we are striving for.

We will continue to post on social media, maybe putting a different spin on words or pictures hoping to attract that one key person who resonates with the position. We will utilize our network of friends and clients who may know someone they would vouch for or recommend. We work hard to keep our team together for our farm to operate smoothly. Sometimes that key person is worth the wait because one bad apple can spoil the apple cart.

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5. Utilize internships to source additional employees

What is your farm’s niche and how would a person learn from that portion of your business? One of our strongest recruiting programs is our summer, fall and seasonal internships. We have successfully worked with and have retained several full-time, high-quality employees from our internship program. We feel it allows them an opportunity to get their feet wet with our farm and see if they really enjoy what we do, or if it is not for them. The time frame is short, usually 90 days. Housing is provided, they receive a wage and we encourage them to do it as a college program to receive school credits.

We also try to throw in some fun perks during the internship; for example, we allow our interns to show one or two animals at our local district show. We do a mock selection process among our employees and interns, then they need to break their animals to lead, work with and finally show them at our local show. It is a fun and exciting opportunity that allows them to complete the process from start to finish, along with the overall competitiveness that our employees usually pose when they work at our farm. Internships are our way of giving back to an industry that has done so much for us.

Final thoughts: Keep a strong, positive and constructive presence on social media that portrays what your farm it is all about. Tell your story. Share rewarding outcomes and positive events that have happened at your farm. Job posting needs to be viewer friendly and to the point. Try to maintain a website for referral about available positions.

People want to connect with careers that have purpose and meaning and where they feel they can make a difference.  end mark

Kelli Cull
  • Kelli Cull

  • Owner
  • Budjon Farms
  • Email Kelli Cull

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