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10 top tips for recruiting and retaining the right staff – Dairy Farmer

Paul revealed his top 10 top tips for recruiting and retaining the right staff.


1. Accessibility

The days of potential staff trawling local newspaper job pages are long gone.  If you want the best staff to find you – you need to be online.  If I’m trying to find out about your farm and all I can find is an old 123 Directory listing but 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.  There’s no need to spend a fortune but a simple website with a few pictures of your farm and animals could just get you to the top of the job queue.

2. Advertising

You need enough information in your advert to entice me to apply.  But don’t fill your advert with acronyms and jargon.  Keep it simple.  Explain the role, the farm, and remember to include details of the housing and local facilities, schools and travel links.  You don’t need to include salary details in your advert but do suggest you’ll pay a competitive rate.

3. Arrival

What’s the entrance to your farm 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 pick and choose where they work and if your farm looks tatty, they may think you have a similar approach to your farming business. Look at your farm through the eyes of a special guest – would you be proud of what you see?

4. Allocate

Have you ensured 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.  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 on how you invest in and develop your staff.  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?  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.

2. Attention

If your farm facilities are collapsing and there is no working toilet or warm place to change clothes, your team can become demotivated.  Give attention to the broken shower in the house, or the heating in the caravan or the lack of safe space in a garden for the children, and you will gain huge loyalty in return.

3. Awareness

Do you know the families of your staff?  Are you aware of any challenges or difficulties they are facing, and can you help them?  Offering time off or simply being interested (without being nosey) in the lives of your staff, shows that you care.

4. Appraise

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 is 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. Acknowledge

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.  Lack of gratitude and feeling that their hard work is taken for granted are two of the most common reasons people will leave your business.  It takes moments to say thank you, but it could just deliver the long-term retention of your staff.