Labor management tips: How to welcome new farm employees
Tips for all new employees
As you may already know, the owners of Jyga Technologies also own a 2200 head sow-farm in Quebec, Canada. And just like in many other countries, finding good employees and keeping them is a challenge. This is the reason why the Lefebvre family has welcomed workers from other countries to make sure every task was done properly on the farm.
Although the majority of their workers are from Central America, what they have put in place to welcome their new employees became a guideline for employees onboarding from any country. It helped to keep employees longer and have them be proud and happy to work at ALDO Farm.
Here are the tips the Lefebvre management team implemented at their own farm to help them attract and retain local and foreign employees.
1. Have resourceful people for new employees (local and foreign)
It is more than important to assign a responsible person to welcome new employees at the farm. Let’s call this person the host! We want new staff to feel welcome. The host is always present when the new employee comes in and introduces him/her to everyone.
Also, we want to make sure that current employees feel confident and not overwhelmed with new arrivals. They may feel stressed to have new additions to the team because it will add to their workload in the beginning. Therefore, having someone in charge of new employees is a must.
From what we have experienced ourselves, the host needs to fit different criteria:
Speak the language of local and foreign workers
Have experience in the farm
Can answer questions and discuss with the team
In addition, the host must make sure that the new employees become autonomous. He will also have to match them with the best person they can to learn their tasks. In general, pairing a newly arrived employee to an experimented one is efficient as well as highly beneficial to their integration.
At ALDO Farm, before implementing the ‘’host’’ concept at the farm, we struggled with current employees feeling overwhelmed and left aside. Since we put that in place, we have experienced a better global team spirit on the farm with employees that really feel they are a part of a team.
2. Organize social events to which everyone is welcome
Social events are great to create team bonding. Since we spend more than 90,000 hours at work over a lifetime, it is important that employees feel good coming to the farm.
Organizing social events on a regular basis is a great idea. However, it is imperative that everyone is invited and feels welcome to join. Having friends at work is one great key to keeping employees longer.
We keep it simple! It does not have to be complicated. Examples include drinking a beer on a Thursday night, playing a game together, forming a sports team or just sitting around a firepit while grilling smores.
3. Get organized and available
When welcoming new employees, we must be organized. Spend some time with them one on one. We make sure that our schedule is free on their first day. We want to get to know each of them and we want to make them feel important. During this, we do not want to be seated in our office signing paperwork. We prepare paperwork before their arrival and ask new employees to sign the forms after their first day.
Here is some material we have ready upon new employees’ arrivals:
Computer log in
Documentation for farm work. EX: how to pressure wash.
Also, we always make sure that we have documentation in their own language. It helps everyone by easing the communication process and reduces mistakes.
4. Be human
We may have said that at least three times before, but we want to make all of our team members feel good. No, it won’t always be perfect, but if you make sure that you tell them when they do things right when you will tell them something is wrong, they won’t take it personal. You must treat employees the way you wish to be treated.
Humans have strengths. See and seek them. We want to make sure we use employees to their full potential. Some will want more challenges, others just want to feel safe and stay within their comfort zone. See how far you can go with each of them so they will continuously improve.
5. Get them involved
One thing that was put in place at ALDO farm is that there are farm meetings four times a year. Every employee must attend the meeting. We discuss what goes right and what goes wrong. We see what can be improved. But the best part of those meetings is that we consider everyone’s opinion. We debate procedures and we make sure everyone approves them. Then, employees feel involved in the process and are proud when the performance increase.
Finally, we make sure that we share the dirty work. Having a variety of tasks makes the heavier ones lighter and the lighter ones even more rewarding.
6. Offer living space for rent close to the farm
This is, of course, when possible. But, believe us, it makes a huge difference. Employees that lived closer to the farm, most of the time, became a cornerstone for the company. Living closer, they develop a sense of responsibility and loyalty and want to make sure everything is all set.
In our case, we decided to buy two houses, a maximum of five minutes away from the farm. We took the decision to rent the houses at a cheap rate to accommodate our employees. The ones benefiting from the living spaces are grateful for the opportunity, and they tell us often.
And for foreign workers
1. Ask questions
We partner with organizations (agencies or the government) that provide resources in other languages such as Spanish. Often, they have material ready that will cost a little bit of money but save a lot of time.
We also provide a resource network for our workers. Several organizations can provide support on different topics such as housing, health care, driver’s license, social insurance, etc. Providing this list to the new employees gives them autonomy. Also, in case of need, they may try to contact these agencies by themselves. One thing that we tried to gather is, a doctor’s office where someone from the staff speaks Spanish (or other languages as applicable). It was a relief to our employees that wanted to discuss some health matters that are private without needing a colleague of theirs to translate.
2. Explain to them the context in which they work/live
This may seem silly. However, the way we interact and live can differ a lot from place to place. It is a great help to foreign workers to get explanations on their new social context and cultural differences. For example, we explain :
How to dress properly for winter and where to find those winter clothes
How and when to interact or not interact with other people
How to interact with the opposite gender
What are the rules (social and legal) related to alcohol: you can’t drink and drive
How the health care system works and how to use it
What kind of activities people do for fun and if they could join in those activities outside of work
Where to find grocery stores with international food
3. Offer them a living space
Our foreign workers often want to spend as less money as possible to send as much money as possible to their families back home. Therefore, by offering them a living space you make sure that :
They have comfort in their apartment
They have enough space in their room
No employee lives alone since they, often, come here alone without their families
However, offering a living space comes with responsibilities for the farm owner. Here are what we have put in place to have only minimal interventions with our foreign workers and have them feel the best we can.
Prepare house rules and tasks for everyone to be involved in housekeeping
Offer each foreign worker an equal space for their stuff (fridge, room, clothes, pantry, etc)
Provide a room to every worker (1/room)
Make sure there are neutral zones that are big enough to gather everyone
Offer them local language classes
Offer a vehicle or means of transportation
Yes, labor management is a huge part of owning and managing a farm! We have had to invest plenty of time, money, follow-ups and energy to make sure everyone is happy. However, having employees that stay for a long period of time, having foreign workers that come back for several years and having everyone feel like a family is probably one of the most rewarding things that has happened to us since implementing these processes.
At ALDO Farm, we are happy to have created a place where everyone feels welcome and appreciated. We are proud to feel our employees can rely on us if needed.