Hugh Pocock Agri Recruiter

Attracting and retaining good staff

Since starting Cultura Connect, a specialist agri-business recruiter, Director Hugh Pocock has learnt how to attract and retain the right people. He shares some of his tips to help farming businesses survive the recruitment rollercoaster.

Much like most industries in the UK, agriculture is facing a labour shortage. Therefore, attracting and retaining good people has never been more important.

“As it becomes increasingly hard to find the right people, it is crucial you make your business an attractive place to work,” explains Hugh. “This is relevant whatever size business you are running, whether a small family farm or a much larger farming enterprise. Failing to do so can make it much harder to recruit.”

Laying good groundwork is essential before you start recruiting, he says. “Think about your company profile and the awareness of your business. If you are a small farm, how does the local community perceive you? Do you have a Facebook page? Have you ever held an open day or school visit? The businesses that find it easier to recruit are the ones people have heard of, so try to be as proactive as you can.”

Creating the right culture also helps make your business attractive to potential employees. “It may sound daunting but building a good culture doesn’t need to be difficult.

“Think about how you communicate and nurture your staff - don’t underestimate the importance of informal staff meetings, 1-2-1s and generally staying in touch with employees. Also think about how you can offer flexibility and extra support. If you are flexible, your employees are much more likely to help you out when you need it.

“Ultimately a good culture comes down to creating a happy place to work – it’s not just money that retains good people, so consider what little things you can do to make your workplace better.

“For example, dairy farms may be seen as dirty working environments but having good protocols in place can reverse this. Maintaining a tidy unit can create a sense of pride among staff. Having clean facilities and somewhere hygienic for employees to eat their lunch is essential for people to feel valued.”

When it comes to recruiting for specific roles Hugh recommends ensuring the job sounds attractive and you are offering the right level of pay for that position.

“The applicant is likely to be looking at several opportunities so make your position stand out. If you are not sure what the going rate is for the role, do some research to make sure you are offering a competitive salary.

“Some farms offer housing for staff which can be the deciding factor between someone taking a job or not. Accommodation you’d stay in yourself can make all the difference.” 

Not being complacent once you’ve secured your new employee is also important Hugh warns. “You’ve already done the hard work, so don’t let it go to waste by not looking after new employees.

“Always have an induction plan in place, and include details about their first week, as well as ensuring they have all the equipment and information they need to do their job successfully.

“Keep in regular contact with new employees through informal 1-2-1s. Not only does this make them feel valued, but it will also help you address any issues quickly before they become a bigger problem.”

While this may seem time-consuming, Hugh believes creating the right workplace for employees is vital if you want to keep and retain talent: “It can be hard finding the right people for your business and if you have taken time to invest in recruiting someone, can you afford to let that go to waste by not looking after them?”