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10 tips for recruiting and retaining the right staff

Paul outlines his 5 top tips for recruiting and 5 for retaining the best staff for your farm.


#1 – Accessibility. The days of potential staff trawling local newspaper job pages are over. If you want the best staff to find you – you need to have a presence online.  If I’m trying to find out about your farm and all I can find is a 123 Directory or companies house listing, whilst when I search for another farm, I can find a website, Facebook page and Twitter account – I’m highly likely to be attracted to the farm that I can see online.  I can see some images of where I might be working or finding out about the people that own or un the farm.  A simple website with a few pictures of your farm, machinery or animals could just get you to the top of the job queue in the minds of potential candidates.  And it also helps to market our industry, dispel some myths and show the general population that farming isn’t some backward arena.  If you’ve been at Lamma recently you will have seen the incredible technology that exists in the industry so if you’ve invested in your business, don’t be frightened to tell potential new recruits via your online presence.

#2 – Advertising.  You need enough information in your advert to entice me to apply. A few poorly chosen words on a tiny advert in the local paper isn’t likely to attract many candidates.   Most people go online to find their next role using job sites like Indeed, Farmers Weekly or Farmers Guardian. So, familiarise yourself with these platforms.  But when you come to write the advert, don’t fill it with too many acronyms and jargon.  Keep it simple.  Explain the role, the farm, and remember to include details of the housing (if you provide any) and local facilities, schools and travel links.  You don’t need to include salary details in your advert, but it does increase the number of applications when you do.

#3 – Arrival.  Potential new recruits will decide about your farm, often in the first few minutes as they arrive. So, what does your farm entrance look like? Do you have rusting machinery and tools lying around?  Is the housing (if you’re offering this) clean and in good repair?  The best staff can choose where they work and if your farm looks tatty, they may think you have a similar approach to your farming business.  Go and stand at the entrance to your farm and look through the eyes of a special guest – would you be proud of what you see?

#4 – Allocate.  Have you planned your day so that you have enough time to give to the candidate during their interview or visit to your farm?  If you’re late for the interview or appear rushed, the candidate will think they’re not important to you.  An interview is not simply a scoot around the farm in the Land Rover whilst loosely chatting about what have done or can do. A structured and solid interview can be the most important investment you’ll make in your team so make sure you have all the information about the role to hand and are well prepared.

#5 – Attainment.  Be clear during interviews on how you invest in and develop your staff.  Most staff want to be trained to perform their roles so investing in training always pays off with increased loyalty.  Some farmers object to investing in training as they believe people will leave after they’ve been trained.  But what happens if you don’t train them, and they stay?  Do you encourage time off farm in discussion groups? Will they be able to work with external consultants, vets and advisors?  The best people want to grow so show them how your business will develop their skills and careers.


#1- Articulate – Have you explained your vision for the farm to your team?  Do you spend time in 1-1 discussions of staff meetings? Getting the team to follow you requires you to lay out the direction that the farm is heading.  Being open with the staff about the performance of the business, the challenges and opportunities it faces and how you place to tackle them, will build trust and alignment with your team.  Don’t be scared to talk to them.  And don’t be scared to ask them questions about how the farm could be improved.   Some of them best ideas come from those who work within the team but often don’t get chance to express their views or opinions.

#2 – Attention – If your working conditions are poor, don’t expect people to hang around.  If your farm facilities are collapsing and there is no working toilet or warm place to change clothes, your team can become demotivated and believe you don’t care.  Give some time, attention and money to the broken shower in the house, or the poor heating in the caravan or the lack of safe space in a garden for the children, and you will gain huge loyalty in return.  Staff simply want attention to show them you care.

#3 – Awareness – How much do you know about the people who work for you or your colleagues? Do you know the families of your staff?  Are you aware of any challenges or difficulties they are facing, and can you help them? Whilst farming is a way of life, it’s not the only aspect to our lives and most staff doe want a life away from the farm. Offering time off for family events or hobbies, or simply being interested (without being nosey) in the lives of your staff, shows that you care and will breed loyalty and improved performance.

#4 – Appraise – Many farms have no form of annual review process at all.  Outside of agriculture, a regular, annual discussion where the employer and employee assess how things are going, is a norm.  Do you sit down, at least once a year, with your staff to discuss how their role on the farm is progressing?  This isn’t a quick chat over a cup of tea (which should happen regularly anyway), this a full, structured discussion – often using an outside facilitator, where you find out what the team member thinks of the farm and their role.  You’ll be amazed how much you find out and you can also clearly explain what improvements you’re looking for in their performance.

#5 – Appreciate – Life on a farm can be hard with long hours, working in all weathers and it can be physically demanding.  Often family life is sacrificed for the benefit of the farm so do take time to simply say ‘thank you’ to your team on a regular basis.  Evidence confirms that regular praise improves performance. Often farmers suggest that staff shouldn’t be thanked for doing the job their paid to do – this should simply be seen as unnecessary. Sadly, these are often the farms struggling to recruit and retain staff as their employees leave citing a lack of appreciation as their reason for leaving.  Lack of gratitude and feeling that their demanding work is taken for granted are two of the most common reasons people will leave your business.  Don’t be the employer who expects everyone to work 80 hours a week, 12 days on – 2 days off, without so much as a ‘well done’ or ‘thank you.’ It takes moments to say thank you, but it could just deliver the long-term retention of your staff.

Visit our recruit page to find out more about our services.