Agriculture has a higher need than any other industry for seasonal and temporary workers. These roles tend to last for 4-6 months and can be incredibly difficult to fill –usually the openings are for general laborers and are on-farm with long hours during the growing season.
Let’s take a look at some of the key factors to keep in mind when hiring seasonal or temporary staff.
What to Consider when Hiring Seasonal or Temporary Workers
You may naturally assume that this new hire won’t be around for long so you don’t have to spend too much time on training and safety, but the exact opposite is true. Even if they have prior farm experience, the hire doesn’t know you, your operation, your machinery, or the unique hazards that as an owner you probably don’t even think about anymore. Pair that with a new hire that is eager to please and just get the job done, and it could be a recipe for an on-farm accident. Don’t assume that they know everything. Take one day to do a walk around. Talk about confined space, talk about the chemicals you use on your operation, and even which animals may act unexpectedly or which loader has a hydraulic leak to be careful when the bucket is lifted. This kind of walk around also creates the right open dialogue that will continue through this employees’ term. No question is silly and you would rather be approachable and informative than have an accident on your farm.
Desperate times call for desperate measures. If you’re having trouble finding the right person, you may be tempted to advertise the role like it’s a full-time job. While this may get you the right person, it’s best to just be upfront that it’s a temporary job for the growing season and that they are expected to work long hours most days. Even if they are only with you for 4 months, they are a part of your community. If they feel tricked, they may spread the word and they certainly won’t be back next year.
This varies between countries and states/provinces; each region is unique according to the requirements, so do your research. Look into everything: minimum wages, liability insurance, weekly/daily hour maximums and break/lunch requirements; your hires’ driver’s license status and level, emergency contact information, and safety gear; your operation’s first aid kits, eye wash stations, drinking water availability, etc. Additionally, if you are hiring seasonal or temporary foreign labor it becomes even more complicated. You may want to get set up with a farm coach/consultant to walk you through the steps of exploring domestic labour as a minimum requirement before securing your international hire.
Even though it’s only temporary, you want your staff to have a good experience. Chances are you’ll have a similar employment need this time next year, and you can’t afford to have an ex-employee in the community that wasn’t happy with their term of employment with you. Best case scenario: that person is still available next year and your onboarding will be that much easier. Take them out for lunch on a Friday, or grab them a coffee if you are getting one. It’s the little things that will break up their day and make it a more positive experience for them.
Your first reaction may be to pay minimum wage to your new hire. However, that’s probably what everyone else is paying and if they have a bad day on your farm, nothing is stopping them from walking down the road and finding the same job with a better manager. If you set your wage just a bit higher than the going rate in your community they will be more motivated to stay for the duration of their term, spread the good word, and hopefully return next year.
Using the tips above and doing your research will put you on the right track to be a well-known employer of temporary/seasonal staff. Each issue is an opportunity for you to grow and learn as a manager.
If you’re looking to add to your seasonal or permanent farm team check out AgCareers.com to post your job and search through our database of qualified applicants to find the hire you need.