Be an employer of choice

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The ability to find labour can make or break even the best business plan. Labour supply is one of the main reasons farmers cite for moving ahead with expansion plans.

Factors impacting staff retention

Retention of staff impacts farm productivity, profitability, and longevity on every level; however, it rarely receives the attention it deserves. In previous articles, we have touched on some factors or practices that influence the ability to attract and retain staff in a farming business. These include:

  • Having established policies and procedures
  • Written employment documentation (contact, position descriptions, etc)
  • The quality of professional relationships that you enjoy
  • The ability to communicate your expectations and give clear instructions

Retention problems can be costly

Depending on the role and seniority of an employee, some human resource professionals indicate that the cost of replacing them can be anywhere between 30 and 200 per cent. This is particularly when you factor in lost productivity from an employee leaving, time to recruit, re-hiring and then bringing a new staff member up to speed.

Reasons people leave

It is essential to focus on creating an environment that minimises employee turnover.

There are several reasons that individuals leave their jobs; however, some of the employer-related reasons are:

  1. Neglect in providing a safe work environment
  2. Lack of career development and promotion opportunities
  3. Availability of alternative employment
  4. Role design (hours, flexibility, weekend work, etc.)
  5. Poor leadership or team dynamics

Why people stay

Do you know why current employees stay? Spending some time thinking about the following will help you design strategies that influence employees to stay in your business:

  • Are you consistent with how you manage your staff?
  • Why have employees left your business in the past?
  • Do you help employees achieve personal and career goals?
  • Do you engage with your employees regularly to check-in?
  • Do your people trust you to make solid decisions?
  • Do your team know that you have their best interests at heart?

If you are unsure why you have a high turnover of employees, in addition to regular communication between you and your team, you could consider undertaking exit interviews. (Exit interviews will be discussed in the next article.)

How to retain staff

When you think about it, employees typically spend more time at work than with their own family and friends. Simple things like giving your team a genuine compliment for a job well done helps to ensure that your people feel valued and appreciated for their contribution and efforts.

Other strategies include:

Be an employer of choice

Are your employees excited to come to work? Becoming an employer of choice (rather than one of last resort) is one of the best ways to attract and retain staff. Employers of choice ensure the entire team is safe and productive – and they have fun at the same time.


Culture can either engage the team to perform to the best of their ability or give them excuses for falling short of the mark. Building a high-performance culture where expectations are clear, excellence is rewarded, and performance is managed is the key to creating an environment where people want to be.


Learning to manage yourself before managing others is a critical component of affecting employee motivation, performance, and retention. If there are inconsistencies between what you say and what you do, you will begin to see cracks in the performance and conduct of your team.

Growth and development opportunities

At an employer of choice, employees feel as if they are encouraged to continue to develop their skills and careers. These employers offer performance development planning, career paths, and internal and external training opportunities. While promotions aren’t always possible, making work meaningful helps employees reach their full potential.


Given autonomy, employees are empowered to take responsibility and make decisions about how they do their jobs. If you have provided employees with a high-level view of the business framework (company mission, vision, values, goals, feedback) and clear job descriptions, they should control how they perform their role without someone micromanaging their day.

 Further information

Over the last couple of months, we have been sharing a series of articles to help you better understand the human part of a successful farm team written by Sally Murfet, Chief Inspiration Officer of Inspire AG. These articles are designed to provide a basic awareness and, where appropriate, lead you to additional resources to help develop your HR systems & process.

Other articles in this series:

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