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How to retain farm employees despite unsettling times

Sergio Kateryniuk/ThinkstockPhotos Man working at home
A reliable workspace provides a strong comfort zone as farm personnel cope with potentially difficult home or family disruptions.

If you asked your farm team about their typical day six months ago, it would most likely differ completely from today.

We’ve always heard, “change is constant,” but change like we’ve experienced during the pandemic is unrelenting. Like never before, the pandemic has affected almost every aspect of employee life, from social activities, to home-schooling decisions, family life, and the workplace.

However, a reliable, safe workspace can be an immense positive for employees in times of trial. As an employer, keeping talented, valuable staff ensures consistency and productivity, another positive for businesses.

Before the onset of COVID-19, employers already expressed concern over their organization’s employee retention, and predicted this concern would only increase. Fast-forward a few months and the pandemic has only amplified these concerns. surveyed employers in the Retention Practices within the Agricultural Industry, where employers expressed the highest concerns about retaining hourly employees, technical and skilled-level roles, along with production roles.

Business stability is a positive

Employers cited company stability as the most effective retention effort. How is your farm making it through these challenges? Here are some tips;

  • Share plans, efforts and outcomes with employees. The majority (65%) of ag employers reported to that they would NOT need to implement employment management cutbacks (such as furloughs, lay-offs, etc.) during the pandemic. Open communication with employees about the situation, along with transparency about the business, is key to keeping employees satisfied in times of change. If an employer remains silent, employees may wrongly assume their job or employer is threatened and look elsewhere for employment.  
  • Mental health is also a concern. About 60% of ag employees we polled said that COVID-19 had a negative impact on their mental wellness. Half of employees said their employer hasn’t provided communication, education, or support about mental health during the pandemic. Mental wellness is another area where communication matters. Employers should reach out to employees with regular check-ins. Provide an open door for incoming questions and support requests.  
  • Don’t skip performance reviews. In times of disruption it’s easy to skip procedures amid the hustle and disarray. Performance reviews shouldn’t be one of these forgotten procedures. Not only do they enable employers to have valuable time with employees for open communication and offering advice, it also gives employees a chance to share their feedback on how the organization is doing, along with their role in changing times. 

Create healthy working procedures, connect, and offer support to retain employees during times of change. For more information, check out Market Research, or contact [email protected].

The opinions of the author are not necessarily those of Farm Futures or Farm Progress. 
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