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Why developing an HR strategy is worth the investment

3.5 min read

One of the biggest challenges with human resources on the farm is investing in the resources.

Dr. Sara Mann, interim dean and the associate dean academic at the LANG School of Business and Economics at the University of Guelph, says there is no question that developing a human resources strategy on a farm is a good investment.

Worth the investment

Spending money and devoting resources to HR will result in more motivated, committed workers, who perform better on the job and are more apt to stay with their employer.

“One of the biggest challenges when it comes to human resources is convincing farmers and farm owners that investing in HR practices is worthwhile,” Mann says. “When you’re trying to measure the success or return on investment of an HR practice, it’s very difficult to do that because there are so many other confounding variables. We find it very difficult to show there is a direct relationship between HR and the bottom line.”

Still, Mann says research shows that spending money and devoting resources to HR will result in more motivated, committed workers, who perform better on the job and are more apt to stay with their employer.

Use talent management

She also encourages farm operators to use talent management with employees.

“In all industries, we want our employees to be motivated to perform highly on the job, to be engaged. Will talent management do that? Of course, it will,” Mann says. “There’s no question that investing in hiring, attracting, selecting and retaining the best employees will result in an improvement in profitability.”

Mann says that not making that investment means a farmer will never “really be able to understand, predict or influence how employees will behave, and will not be able to attract, select and retain the best people.”

Think about HR strategically

Depending on the job on the farm, some operators may focus on minimizing costs of human resources. However, others may need and want the farm to be known in the community as one with a strong human resource plan.

Mann explains that if the positions to be filled are unskilled and don’t require much training, it may not make sense to put a lot of farm money and resources into HR. More complex jobs, however, may need a more detailed strategy.

“If you are the type of company where attracting and selecting the best employee really would make the difference - if you have a very specific skillset you’re looking for, a very skilled job you’re looking to fill - then you need to brand yourself as an employer that devotes money and resources to HR to try and attract and retain the best people."

Motivation goes beyond monetary

Mann also adds that employee retention, satisfaction and performance doesn’t always come down to dollars and cents.

“There are a lot of other things you can do, aside from offering a high wage, that will motivate and encourage your employee to perform more highly on the job,” Mann explains.

She says research shows that supervisors, managers and owners often underestimate the importance of intrinsic motivation, such as feedback, telling people they’re doing a good job and instilling feelings of accomplishment.

“That doesn’t cost money, but it does take some training for people to realize that’s an important thing that they need to look at as a supervisor or manager,” Mann says. “Providing continuous feedback is key to this approach.”

She says it’s also crucial to recognize that different employees are motivated differently. Some employees are motivated by money, others by much more intrinsic feelings.

“Understanding what each employee is motivated by and then altering your management approach to each employee based on this will make a big difference.”

Bottom line

Developing a human resource strategy is a good investment on the farm. It can help attract and retain employees who are the best fit for an operation. As well, research shows that spending money and devoting resources to HR will result in workers who are motivated, more committed and will perform better with fewer turnovers.

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