It’s the end of June, and there are still too many acres without crops in the ground. Our farm started in 1941, and according to my father’s impeccable record keeping, this is the latest time of year we have planted and the worst spring conditions we have seen on the farm.
The unpredictable weather and temperatures have created a variety of problems for farmers. Not all of us have our crops in, nor will all of us get everything planted this season.
While it depends on the situation, temporary layoffs should be avoided as best you can. With the low unemployment rate and difficulty in hiring talent, it is more costly to lay off employees for one to two months than it is to search, hire and train new employees when you do need them.
Whether you have downtime this summer from lack of planting or you are battling the usual labor surplus between planting and harvest, there are a few ideas to maximize your human capital and accomplish much-needed tasks on the farm to keep everything progressing in a positive direction.
Low-Cost Improvement Projects
It might be time to reorganize the farm shop. As time goes on, materials and tools can get misplaced and used parts stacked up. Before long, nothing is in its proper place, and it can be difficult to find the right parts. The disorganization of the shop costs both time in inefficiency and money when you can’t locate a part you know you have on hand. Before you even begin moving pieces and parts, establish a plan for what you want the shop to look like. Research ideas online for organization.
Although it isn’t practiced as much in agriculture, 5S shadow boards and organization techniques they use in large maintenance organizations could easily be implemented on the farm. If you have metal shelving, consider using magnetic labels so everyone knows where you would like things to go. Low-cost items such as commercial bin racks only cost $150-$300. Including your entire team on the project will help to get their buy-in and support to keep it more orderly going forward.
Education & Training
Extra downtime is the perfect time for employees to learn new skills. Whether you send your employees to classes, workshops or seminars, they will appreciate the ability to expand their knowledge, and your farm will benefit from what they bring back to apply to the farm. Consider classes in supervising employees, lean agricultural practices or on-farm safety. Perhaps it’s time to send them to more agronomy and crop-science classes. If you are simply looking to add knowledge depth to your team, cross training on the farm also has its benefits. It’s low cost and the training is on-site.
If you rent the land you farm, it’s critical to continually build upon your relationship with your landlord. Get in touch with your landlord to see what else they are looking for in the partnership. They might ask for simple improvements or changes such as getting ditches cleaned out or stone added to an entrance that your team could work on.
You could also utilize your team to host the landlords on-site. Take them on a tour of the farm, meet the team, go over where your farm is heading and answer any questions. The more interaction your landlords have with you, your team and your farm, the more likely they are to feel connected to your operation, come to you with problems and remain loyal when a neighboring farmer knocks on their door.
Connect with the Community
Volunteering in the community is a great way to connect and increase visibility. Hosting a community day shows what your farm has to offer. Also, consider having your team volunteer at a local event or partner with another agribusiness to host a dual event. An added bonus: Events are a great way to meet more people in your community who could be potential future on-farm employees.
The most important idea to maximize your team’s talents during downtime is actually very simple: Ask! Ask your employees about what they’d like to do. More often than not, they’re more willing to work if they get to choose their work. For example, if you have an employee with technology experience, they may be willing to help with the website and social media.
Keep the farm progressing, keep the morale up and get the team involved on low-cost initiatives that will benefit the farm years to come.
Written by: Lori Culler, AgHires Founder/Owner
See more from the AG’s HR Coach here.
Just when it feels as if we have millennials figured out, or somewhat figured out, Generation Z enters the workforce. Generation Z are those born in 1997 or later. By 2021, they will make up more than 20% of the workforce. There’s a tendency to label all younger employees as millennials, but you may be surprised to know that Gen Z’s tendencies, motivations and operational styles are quite different, and, in some cases, completely opposite.
Let’s take a step back to consider what Gen Z has been exposed to and how it influences their tendencies. They grew up in the digital age, so Gen Z is more tech savvy than their predecessors and have been exposed to social media at a younger age. Whether it’s a quick text or emojis in a social media post, Gen Z lives in a time of instant answers and instant feedback.
This generation has also watched millennials amass large debt loads from college, and they’re less willing to take on that debt themselves. Statistically, more students are graduating from high school but fewer are enrolling in college. Roughly 75% of Gen Z doesn’t consider college as the only path to a strong education. If they aren’t going to college, where are they going? Many are going to trade schools or are entering the workforce directly — a sign of a booming economy.
Gen Z is highly success-oriented and is mainly focused on personal financial success. Millennials tend to be focused on owning their own business and being their own boss, whereas Generation Z is looking for career advancement, enjoyment and stability.
When it comes to marketing jobs to this new generation, we need to showcase what agriculture can offer. Gen Z is looking for a great workplace and will be highly focused on the culture of the organization. They will research the company, read reviews and gain as much information as they can before they apply or respond to a reach-out. Sixty four percent of candidates look for more information about the company before applying. If they can’t find information about the company, they will move on.
Make sure you have a basic website and social media presence, or you might lose them at hello. About 70% of Gen Z job candidates have said they would apply for a job if the company’s brand is managed well. At AgHires, we know how important it is to get the attention of the target audience. It’s the reason we create video job posting advertisements to go with a written job posting.
When you first speak with a Gen Z job candidate, don’t jump into their background. First, take the time to walk through your operation, highlighting the family-like atmosphere and explaining the direction you want to go. Gen Z is looking for opportunities to grow and learn. Help them visualize that path at your operation whether it’s through mentorship on the farm, outside classes or learning conferences.
Gen Z has grown up with YouTube as their go-to resource to quickly learn different topics. To manage and train them, consider creating short videos on everything from precision ag technology and how-to videos on the steps to complete a pre-trip inspection report. You can upload your videos for free on easy-to-use sites such as YouTube or Vimeo.
Finally, just when you thought you were getting better at giving feedback, you’ll have to crank it up a notch for this next group of employees. Given the digital world in which they grew up, Gen Z needs more feedback than previous generations, even millennials. While they may need a quick status check on a nearly constant basis, it can be as simple as a quick phone call or text. If you aren’t sharing any feedback, they will most likely believe that you have negative thoughts about their work.
Due to a large amount of digital communication, Gen Z will be more reserved in person. You will want to set them up for success if they have a role where direct interaction with customers is needed. The same goes for formal emails. Gen Z is used to short communication with incomplete sentences. If formal emails are needed in your operation, they may need more guidance.
This next generation is smart, ready to work and ready to learn. They will be great additions to the team. But as with any new generation, it takes targeted focus from managers to help them succeed.
Written by: Lori Culler, AgHires Founder/Owner
See more from the AG’s HR Coach here.
Lori Culler (Lennard), founder and owner of AgHires, grew up in and around the Agricultural Industry on her families 3rd generation potato, tomato and grain operation in Southeast Michigan and Northern Indiana.