Engaging Your Team in a Time of Workforce Changes
The labor situation continues to cause pain for a lot of companies right now, and it presents specific challenges to ag retailers. Overcoming those challenges takes new ideas and an evolved approach to attracting and retaining top talent for just about every position from the office to the field.
Realistic work experience requirements from the employer and similar realism in the job candidate’s expectations for filling a vacant position are hugely important in building and maintaining an effective, high-performing team. What’s considered “realistic” on both fronts has changed, especially in the last two to three years, according to Grow West Human Resources Vice President Samantha Hanley.
It’s a cause for an evolved approach to assembling the right team, something that’s always high on Hanley’s daily priority list. It requires breaking the sometimes generations-old mold for personnel management.
“We’re always reviewing job descriptions and requirements to make them more realistic. With increased wages and benefit costs, we’re re-evaluating the definition of what makes someone an ideal new hire,” said Hanley, who’s based in the Grow West Woodland headquarters. “Sometimes, that means hiring someone who has a good foundation and can be trained for a specific role. We are looking more at skills and knowledge versus education and formal training alone.”
Why transparency matters when discussing benefits
Sometimes a job candidate or experienced employee sees current or prospective basic wage or salary and considers that the only important number. Benefits like health insurance, retirement savings and profit-sharing are increasingly important things to account for in total compensation.
That acknowledgement is important not just during the recruiting and job-seeking processes, but also with existing team members. Transparency with benefits, their cost to the employer and value to the employee is key to a productive relationship between the two, whether it’s a job candidate or seasoned worker.
“We create total rewards statements so everyone sees the total cost of their benefits. People tend to look at just the dollars they make, but when you start laying out company benefit, all of a sudden they see what they are actually getting,” Hanley said. “Being transparent about these benefits helps showcase what a company is really investing in its workforce. And when it comes to interviewing new candidates, realism and transparency make it so you’re not wasting anybody’s time in the process. You want them to apply for the job and realistic pay, and you want to be realistic in what you can offer them.”
Evolve to stay competitive in the labor market
The labor marketplace is always changing; while it’s challenging employers like Grow West right now, it’s possible to attract and retain top talent by staying attentive to and evolving with the general market trends. In Grow West’s territory, one trend Hanley watches isn’t even in agriculture. Construction companies compete with ag businesses for many jobs, so when home-building and commercial construction is booming, it pulls potential job candidates away from Grow West. The opposite is true when building slows.
“You have ebbs and flows to watch in so many other markets. When we start seeing housing slump and mortgage interest rates rise, construction slows. When that happens, we start seeing an influx of job candidates since they are very complementary skillsets for a lot of our positions,” Hanley said. “Staying on top of trends like that helps us plan things like employee recruitment that help us maintain the right workforce.”
Aligning with the right people and organizations can also help you evolve in the right ways to maintain a productive labor force. Industry associations like Western Growers can provide resources on things like property and casualty insurance, medical benefits and salary guidance to help assure you’re offering employees the right incentives and evolving to stay ahead of the HR curve. Such membership arms ag businesses with up-to-date industry information and enables us to listen to workers’ needs with an informed ear.
“We always ask what employees are looking for when it comes to compensation and benefits, and most importantly, whether they’re happy. It gives me an idea of how we need to evolve to continue meeting their needs,” she said. “Just listening, then adjusting things like holiday pay, performance incentives and benefits really makes a big difference.”
Engage with community to increase awareness
While there are cases when job applicants are simply seeking improved wages, Hanley said part of her strategy for attracting and retaining top talent revolves around the Grow West commitment to being engaged in the communities it calls home. That presence — whether helping out with local high school activities and food drives or simply having the Grow West brand being visible around town — affirms the company’s commitment to the communities it calls home. While that’s fundamental to the entire Grow West family, it also demonstrates to job candidates that being part of the company goes beyond a simple wage.
“We attract a lot of potential employees just because they’ve seen our name around the community. Along with maintaining low employee turnover and a safe work environment, that’s something that definitely helps us evolve to attract and retain talented workers,” Hanley said. “I think when you sit down and talk about these things with employees, they realize these things have value in what we can offer them.”
Contact Hanley at email@example.com if you’re interested in learning more about how you can evolve your business operations to optimize labor.