Need To Hire More Farm Workers? Flexibility Is Key

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At a time when it’s increasingly hard for agricultural businesses to attract and retain employees, employers need to be flexible and open to new sources of talent, says a specialist with an agricultural recruitment firm.

Steve Peddie of AgCall in Calgary says there are key management tactics that can encourage a farm worker to stay with an employer and even encourage workers to seek a job on a farm.

He said opening the mind to a new type of people can help. He suggests new Canadians, people that can be facilitated to come to Canada to work on your farm. They may not have Canadian work experience so farmers may have to give them on-the-job training for specific jobs.

Women are another possibility. Snowbirds can work when not in the southern United States. Retired farmers often like to stay involved in farming, and with them you get somebody who or six or seven hours a day can take a huge pressure off farm management. If you rent land, why not see if the landlord wants to help at times, especially at harvest? Make it part of the land lease agreement, said Peddie.

Money isn’t the only criterion for taking a job. There are other reasons. Will it meet their needs? Safety and security are critical issues. Employees ask “What is the risk of injury? Can I provide for my family and cover expenses? Is there opportunity for long-term employment?”

“Build a team,” said Peddie. “Delegate responsibility and authority. Avoid the perception of broken promises by ensuring the employee understands what is being asked.”

Employees also appreciate a safe workplace with secure employment. Time is very important in farm work, Peddie said. There usually are three or four weeks in spring and fall with no flexibility. But there are stretches in summer and winter when you can offer flexibility for time off, perhaps time off without pay.

“Remember people leave your job if they believe they will be better off somewhere else,” said Peddie. “If you are losing people, assess your operation and look at the needs of your workers.”

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