WISCONSIN AG CONNECTION
A study conducted by the University of Wisconsin-Extension Farm and Risk Management Team shows a clearer picture of who's being hired to work on Wisconsin farm operation these days and what opportunities and challenges are arising between managers and their employees. The report states that more than 76,400 people are employed directly by Wisconsin farms; and those workers have varied backgrounds, skills, education and experiences.
The study looked at human resource management in agriculture including how farm labor is recruited, retained and compensated. On average, farms in the survey hired three new, non-family employees in the previous year. Many hired a mix of employees with different background characteristics such as immediate family members, non-family teenagers and/or adults, and immigrant employees. Eighty-one percent of the farms recruit employees through referrals via word of mouth.
It showed that even though hiring outside labor is becoming more commonplace on Wisconsin farms, few actually implement basic human resource management practices, typical of most industries. Farm managers said communication barriers was their biggest challenge in terms of human resource management. Hiring and recruiting employees, training, and dealing with conflicts were other challenges that ranked high with farm employers.
When asked whether farms perform regular performance reviews with employees, only 42 percent of managers responded that they do. Sixty-nine percent said they do not have an employee handbook and 57 percent do not have written standard operating procedures for employees.
For compensation, the survey indicated that farm employers take many factors into consideration when determining an employee's wages. They include the type of position on the farm, whether the position requires experience or inexperience, and the region of the state. For both the inexperienced and experienced workers, the highest paid job on the farm is herdsman at $11.42 and $14.31 per hour, respectively.
Besides wages, farm employers offer compensation in the form of fringe benefits and bonuses. Thirty-six percent of farm employers offer a bonus or incentive plan to their employees. Of those who offer a plan, 59 percent base it on the somatic cell count. For others, they base it on such factors as other herd health and milk quality factors, and Christmas. Some other factors are work productivity/ job performance, attitude, dependability, time worked, and loyalty.
Vacation, sick leave, holidays, and personal time are usually offered. Seventy-three percent of farms offered other forms of compensation for their employees such as housing, free dairy products or meat, and continuing education.