Successful Farming - - LABOR - LEARN MORE Jen­nifer Blazek 608/224-3717 blazek.jen­[email protected] of­ https://fy­i­ ag-hu­man-re­sources/

Find­ing and keep­ing em­ploy­ees who are a good fit for your farm can, of course, be chal­leng­ing in to­day’s tight job mar­ket. There are steps you can take to in­crease the odds of find­ing and re­tain­ing those in­di­vid­u­als who make a good match for you.

Be­com­ing an em­ployer of choice in a com­pet­i­tive job mar­ket is key.

“Find­ing em­ploy­ees who are seek­ing jobs on farms is get­ting harder by the minute,” says Jen­nifer Blazek, Univer­sity of Wis­con­sin Ex­ten­sion dairy and live­stock agent. “Part of that has to do with the cul­ture of to­day’s younger gen­er­a­tions. They sim­ply don’t want to work on a farm.”

For dairy farm­ers in par­tic­u­lar, who have re­lied heav­ily on im­mi­grant em­ploy­ees, the hir­ing chal­lenges are be­com­ing crit­i­cal. The pool of im­mi­grant work­ers is dwin­dling, with al­ter­na­tive re­place­ment can­di­dates few and far be­tween.

“Farm­ers are draw­ing from a pool of job can­di­dates from within their own area,” says Blazek, who works with dairy farm­ers look­ing to im­prove their skills as em­ploy­ers. “Farm­ers are com­pet­ing with each other for the same lo­cal la­bor pool. These lo­cal farm­work­ers tend to grav­i­tate to­ward those farm busi­nesses that have ac­quired a rep­u­ta­tion for be­ing an em­ployer of choice.”

Fol­low­ing are five steps you can take to be­come the kind of em­ployer who is sought af­ter by job can­di­dates seek­ing mean­ing­ful work.

1 Lead rather than man­age.

“Man­agers deal with lo­gis­tics and phys­i­cal oper­a­tions,” says Blazek. “Lead­ers are the glue that holds it all to­gether. Lead­er­ship is an all-en­com­pass­ing term for skills such as com­mu­ni­ca­tion and emo­tional in­tel­li­gence – mean­ing our level of un­der­stand­ing of our­selves as well as of other peo­ple.”

Lead­er­ship also in­volves self-man­age­ment, hav­ing em­pa­thy for oneself and oth­ers, pos­sess­ing the abil­ity to lis­ten ac­tively, and hav­ing an un­der­stand­ing of what trig­gers stress.

“How lead­er­ship skills play out varies from farm to farm be­cause each farm and each farm fam­ily is unique,” says Blazek.

2 Be aware of the key mo­ti­va­tors of hu­man be­hav­ior.

Of­fer­ing ex­ter­nal in­cen­tives – such as wages, ben­e­fits, bonuses, and time off – goes only so far in re­cruit­ing and re­tain­ing em­ploy­ees who be­come fully en­gaged in their work. Em­ploy­ees’ level of en­gage­ment in their work, of course, de­ter­mines their aware­ness of what’s go­ing on around them and their will­ing­ness to go the ex­tra mile and to tend care­fully to the de­tails of their work.

En­gaged work­ers tend to feel a greater sense of ful­fill­ment and pur­pose in their work. Thus, they are more com­mit­ted to their em­ploy­ment.

In­ter­nal rather than ex­ter­nal mo­ti­va­tion is the key to en­gage­ment in work. Core in­ner mo­ti­va­tors of be­hav­ior are a sense of au­ton­omy, com­pe­tence, and re­lat­ed­ness.

“Hav­ing a mea­sure of au­ton­omy in the work­place gives peo­ple the sense that they have the com­pe­tency to make de­ci­sions on their own,” says Blazek.

“A sense of com­pe­tence comes from feel­ing as if they have the knowl­edge and the train­ing to do a job well. An em­ployer’s train­ing can build work­ers’ sense of com­pe­tence,” she says.

Em­ploy­ees’ sense of re­lat­ed­ness in the work­place comes from the feel­ing that they can com­mu­ni­cate with or re­late to their em­ployer and co­work­ers. Re­lat­ed­ness is fur­thered by feel­ings of be­ing val­ued.

“Hav­ing a mea­sure of au­ton­omy in the work­place gives peo­ple the sense that they have the com­pe­tency to make de­ci­sions on their own,” says Jen­nifer Blazek.

3 Do a self-anal­y­sis.

Deter­min­ing your pri­mary lead­er­ship style points to ways you might mod­ify your habits to help you re­tain em­ploy­ees who are seek­ing to en­gage in their work.

“An en­cour­ag­ing leader

is one who is in tune with the needs of em­ploy­ees,” says Blazek. “Such a leader en­cour­ages learn­ing and en­gages work­ers in the process of learn­ing and ac­com­plish­ing a task.

“Op­po­site of that is a co­er­cive leader who is­sues com­mands,” she says. “That kind of lead­er­ship works in a cri­sis, but if you use it all the time, em­ploy­ees who need a sense of au­ton­omy feel de­val­ued and feel that you don’t trust them to fol­low a pro­to­col.”

On the other hand, a demo­cratic leader seeks in­put from em­ploy­ees.

Also take stock of your abil­ity to lis­ten and your will­ing­ness to com­mu­ni­cate with oth­ers.

Tak­ing time, too, to think about and to iden­tify the cul­ture of your farm busi­ness helps you choose em­ploy­ees who are a good match for that cul­ture and who are able to iden­tify with it or buy into it.

“The cul­ture of a farm re­flects the val­ues of the farm fam­ily mem­bers, their work ethic, and their pur­pose in liv­ing and work­ing as they do,” says Blazek. “You might ask your­self how well you re­flect that cul­ture. Be­cause no mat­ter what the work­ing con­di­tions are, em­ploy­ees will as­so­ciate the farm’s cul­ture with the owner.”

4 Do a job anal­y­sis.

De­cide what tasks you want new em­ploy­ees to do and the skills and ap­ti­tudes they must have in or­der to do the work. De­cide whether or not some skills are best learned through your own on-farm train­ing.

Con­sider how you might build into the job de­scrip­tion ac­tiv­i­ties or work com­po­nents that give em­ploy­ees op­por­tu­ni­ties to ex­pe­ri­ence key in­ner mo­ti­va­tors of au­ton­omy, com­pe­tence, and re­lat­ed­ness.

For ex­am­ple, in­clud­ing the mon­i­tor­ing of herd health in a milk­ing po­si­tion could bring a mea­sure of au­ton­omy to a rou­tine job where milk­ing pro­to­cols are fixed. Or, meet­ing weekly with em­ploy­ees to dis­cuss job per­for­mance, work progress, prob­lems, and farm goals could give em­ploy­ees a sense of re­lat­ed­ness.

A con­densed job anal­y­sis gives you a po­si­tion de­scrip­tion you can then use for post­ing on­line or ad­ver­tis­ing in print.

5 In­ter­view can­di­dates care­fully.

Be­sides shar­ing with screened ap­pli­cants the de­tails of the job anal­y­sis and its com­po­nents, you might share your lead­er­ship style, the cul­ture of your farm, and the vi­sion you have for your busi­ness and its broader pur­pose.

Give job can­di­dates a farm tour and con­sider en­gag­ing them in a task in­cluded in the po­si­tion de­scrip­tion.

You might con­sider ask­ing why they want to work on this farm.

Can­di­dates’ an­swers might re­veal whether or not they have the de­sire and ca­pa­bil­ity to be­come fully en­gaged in the work and in­ter­nal­ize the cul­ture of your farm.

You stand to gain more sta­ble and mo­ti­vated em­ploy­ees as a re­sult.


Ask ques­tions that re­late to the be­hav­iors, skills, ex­pe­ri­ence, and mo­ti­va­tion ap­pli­cants need to meet the job re­quire­ments.

Avoid ques­tions that could make your busi­ness vul­ner­a­ble to a dis­crim­i­na­tion law­suit. These in­clude ques­tions re­lat­ing to age; race, eth­nic­ity, or color; gen­der or sex; coun­try of na­tional ori­gin or birth­place; reli­gion; dis­abil­ity; and mar­i­tal, fam­ily, or preg­nancy sta­tus.

A con­densed job anal­y­sis gives you a po­si­tion de­scrip­tion you can then use for post­ing on­line or ad­ver­tis­ing in print.

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