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Hiring labour for your farm

Ask the right questions, tell people about the job, and make sure you’re on the same page

At the Farm Forum Event in Saskatoon this winter, Leah Knibbs, a human resource management expert from Kn/a HR Consulting, gave farmers some tips on finding and keeping the right farm employee.

Knibbs offered several pointers to use during job interviews. “The best predictor of future behaviour is past behaviour,” she said. When you’re asking questions at a job interview, try having your potential employee tell you about a time when they’ve overcome a challenge in the past. For example, get them to tell you how they handled a situation where they were running a piece of equipment and it made a strange noise.

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These days, many potential employees interviewing for a position haven’t had an opportunity to operate farm machinery in the past. In these cases, ask the potential employee what they would do in any situation with an equipment breakdown.

During the interview, Knibbs said, be realistic about the job you’re offering. “If there’s a part of the work that’s not great, name it.” When it’s -40 C, someone still has to feed the cattle. There will be a hot July day when someone needs to clean out a bin.

Once you hire an employee, make sure that person is rewarded for doing that job that “isn’t great.” Remember, not all rewards need to focus on money. Some employees just want to be recognized and thanked for doing a dirty job. Others might be motivated by a little extra time off in return for working on the hot July day.

In every employee/employer situation, communications are key. Knibbs pointed out that, during an interview, it’s important to ask even what you might assume are basic questions, like “What does an 8:00 a.m. start time mean to you?” Your potential employee might assume pulling up in the driveway at 8:00, ready for a pre-work coffee, will meet your expectations. But you might be expecting your new employee to already be in the shop in their overalls, ready to pick up a wrench at 8:00 on the dot. The sooner you can clear this up, the better the experience will be for everyone involved.

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