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5 ideas to help attract and keep the best employees

3 min read

Good employees are hard to find – and keep. That’s why some farms are looking for creative solutions to help retain workers.

Whether it’s by way of increased compensation, nurturing a family-friendly workplace or creating opportunities for career advancements, here are five ways to create a desirable workplace:

1. Non-monetary compensation

Benefits on top of wages can be a necessity to attract workers to more remote, rural locations like farms, according to Jade Reeve, manager of AgriJobs and AgriSkills with the Canadian Agricultural Human Resource Council. Such compensation can include access to housing and transportation to the job site.

Jeff Warkentin, the chief operating officer and farm manager of Hebert Grain Ventures, lists additional incentives that the 22,000-acre grain and oilseed operation in southeast Saskatchewan provides:

  • Pension benefits

  • Additional benefits, such as health plans

  • Bonus and profitability programs. Bonuses are paid out to employees who achieve targeted goals, while profitability bonuses are distributed in profitable years for the company.

2. Family affair

Including families can also go a long way to make employees feel appreciated. Warkentin says HGV is committed to:

  • A yearly summer event, which could be a day trip to a lake or taking in a CFL game

  • Christmas parties for staff and families

  • A bottle of wine or flowers for employees’ spouses on their birthdays

3. Work to live

Quality of life is a major incentive to retaining top employees, Warkentin says.

Several HGV employees made the transition from the oil sector, where their heavy work hours were such that they lived to work – rather than worked to live.

That’s where workhour management at HGV is highly valued, allowing employees to be home every night to spend time with their families.

Reeve agrees that a work-life balance is an important component.

“It’s about offering flexibility and encouraging workers to communicate their needs to their employers,” she says.

4. Room to grow

Reeve suggests employers consider identifying growth opportunities within the business.

“Is there an opportunity for these top performers to grow in the business and grow their careers?” she asks. Find these areas and let your employees know how they can be part of the plan.

Warkentin says there’s a common misconception in agriculture that there are no opportunities for career advancements at a farm – start as a farm hand, end as a farm hand. At HGV, however, that’s not the case, and hiring staff are ready to tell new hires about the opportunities.

“There are different pay bands, different levels of responsibility that include some other perks, so that they can see themselves staying in the organization for a long time.”

5. Valued staff

Michelle Painchaud of Painchaud Performance Group, a Winnipeg-based HR consultant, says a positive workplace culture is vital to retaining employees, adding it drives employee attitudes and behaviours.

Employees want to feel valued and a part of the operation, and not just be workers.

“A strong culture can really enhance overall employee performance and retention,” Painchaud says. “People don’t want to leave a workplace in which they feel successful, valued and appreciated.”

Reeve concurs. Employees want to feel valued and a part of the operation, and not just be workers.

“Being able to help shape the business and provide input where things can move and grow, I think that’s a key piece. Especially if they are your top performers and you want to keep them,” she says.

Employees want to be inspired these days, adds Warkentin. HGV shares its vision, opportunities and future direction at weekly meetings.

“We like to get them involved. We always joke our staff’s more addicted to growth than we are. They really like to get inspired,” he says.


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