HR audit helps farmers set priorities

  • 3 min read

All farms, even those where the only employees are family, should have a human resources plan, says Michelle Painchaud, a human resources consultant based in Winnipeg, Man.

“HR should be a component in any organization, regardless of size,” Painchaud says. “With more people, you need someone completely dedicated to it, while in smaller organizations, the owner can lead HR initiatives.”

Jennifer Wright, a senior advisor at the Canadian Agricultural Human Resource Council (CAHRC), agrees.

Before building the HR plan, Wright recommends farmers examine and evaluate their current workforce practices to identify areas where practices work well, where practices need improvement and collect the information needed to make better decisions.

To help, CAHRC has templates needed to create an HR plan and implement HR best management practices on the farm. Training and tools are available to individuals through subscriptions or at no charge to members of CAHRC partner organizations.

Find the gaps

To help her clients spot the gaps in their current HR management procedures, Painchaud conducts a human resource audit. This audit becomes the basis of a plan that will position the farm’s labour force and leadership.

Some of Painchaud’s checklist questions include:

  • Does the farm business have a clearly defined and well-communicated vision, mission, core values, goals and objectives? Is there an up-to-date organizational chart and current employee manual detailing policies and procedures?
  • With regards to recruiting, are there defined competencies and job descriptions for every position and job-specific, behaviour-based interview questions?
  • Is there a welcome package for new employees and scheduled, new employee check-in meetings?
  • Do the farm performance management goals include having an explicit workforce planning strategy linked to the organization’s vision and strategy? Are expectations and performance measurements clearly defined? Is there a quarterly or annual formal feedback program to help employees become high performers?

Many farms include a rewards and recognition component to their HR plan.

Many farms also include a rewards and recognition component to their HR plan. This could include a structured compensation strategy, a performance bonus program, a health and safety program, policies and procedures for disciplinary measures and a rewards and a recognition program that encourages and rewards high-performance behaviours.

  • To develop employees, does the farm have a new and existing employee training program that can help build competencies to achieve the farm’s goals? Is there management and leadership training in place to help steer employees and the organization toward its vision and goals?
  • To aid staff retention, does the farm business use surveys to measure levels of employee satisfaction and engagement and have ways to measure leadership effectiveness within the organization?

HR management tools, like an HR audit, can help farmers focus on the areas of their human resource management most in need of attention. The audit can also work towards the overall HR plan.

HR check-in

Wright says once completed, a farm’s HR plan should be reviewed periodically, since day-to-day operational needs and priorities change.

Jenn Doelman, a grain farmer in Renfrew, Ont. says her farm needs an HR plan – and working without one can create conflict between the owners and staff. Each partner has different ways of handling issues, so there are perceptions of a lack of fairness and consistency, Doelman says. As well, staff can get discouraged.

A transparent HR plan can be a good tool for empowering staff to take on additional training, responsibilities and leadership development because it creates a structure to adapt the role to suit the person’s strengths and set mutual goals, Doelman says.

Bottom line

An HR audit can help farm managers focus on priorities and ensure the farm has clear goals, job descriptions and set expectations outlined for new employees. Once the HR plan is in place, experts recommend regular reviews to ensure goals still match up with the business objectives.

Article by: Helen Lammers-Helps