Farms need a brand for hiring employees the same way they need to market for customers.
That was one message that Manitoba Agriculture’s Khosi Mashinini had Nov. 20 during her presentation on human resource planning in Brandon.
The farm enterprise management specialist urged producers to develop or update an HR plan, a document handling interview, hiring, orientation, conflict management, discipline and other employee issues.
“Agriculture is a good employer, but the problem is most of the skills are transferable to other industries,” Mashinini said. “In most cases, the people who you are able to hire in agriculture are the people who have an interest or maybe a link to an interest.”
The key then, becomes fostering that interest, she said.
Avoiding a bad hire starts with attracting the right people, Mashinini said, something that becomes more probable if the farm is already established as a good employer.
“If you don’t build a brand for yourself, someone else will build a brand for you,” she told the room.
Salaries may offer one incentive, as will benefits, she said, but warned producers not to overlook more indirect benefits such as flexible hours for employees trying to juggle a work-life balance.
In other ways, brand building might echo what is done for the customer, such as increasing a company’s public presence by adding logos to clothing or equipment.
“The main message is whether you are a small or large farm business, you need to have a human resource plan and then your plan should not just be focused on just hiring and retention, but go beyond that,” she said.
Performance reviews should appear on the plan, along with training supports.
The interview and hiring process may create another wrinkle, she said. Farms should have a standard hiring process laying out who is to attend the interview and who contributes to the final decision. Questions should be consistent between candidates and the person being interviewed should do 80 per cent of the talking.
After hiring, Mashinini warned producers not to overlook the importance of orientation, adding that a hire should ideally be made in slower times, when employers can invest the proper time into employee training.
Conflict management also made its way into the presentation’s highlights.
Attendees were told to speak to all parties separately and get all sides of an argument before bringing the conflicted parties together.
“Don’t take sides: state facts,” Mashinini advised.
Participants noted several takeaways from the presentation, although some pointed out that Mashinini’s motivational methods would only work if employees genuinely wanted to be there.
Others stressed the need for documenting every incident fully as evidence in the case of a human resources issue.
The presentation was one of a lineup of speakers during the 2017 Manitoba Farm Women’s Conference Nov. 19-21.