We all have heard of the growing pressure related to immigrant labor recently. That comes as the economy is providing full employment and the number of jobs in sectors like health care, construction, and manufacturing are in a full growth mode. All of those factors are making it that much more difficult for dairy farmers to retain good employees.
On top of that, the demand for labor among dairy farms has kept equal pace. The economic conditions are still fueling consolidation of the dairy sector. Tight profit margins and economies of scale have favored larger enterprises that rely heavily on hired labor.
Since 2012 the number of dairy farm workers in the U.S. has increased by 2,500 employees per year, and Wisconsin accounted for almost 25 percent of that total. In Wisconsin, there previously was one hired employee for every 200 cows in 2003 . . . now there is one employee for every 90 cows.
What can you do about it?
First, if you have employees make sure you are fulfilling your legal obligations as an employer. Second, we’ve all heard of the cost of employee turnover. Every time you lose an employee you face productivity loss, as well as recruitment, hiring, and training costs.
There is clearly a value in being a good boss!
As the competition for labor intensifies, among farms and with other sectors, the value of being a good boss should grow. Recently, a producer in Wisconsin told me that he succeeded in retaining one of his good employees despite paying a salary that was $3 per hour lower than the nonfarm job the employee was offered. That’s because he offered good working conditions and was considered a good boss.
If being a good boss could save you just $1 per hour in retaining your good employees, would that be valuable to you? Between reducing the cost of employee turnover and having the ability to retain your good employees for less, I will let you assess the value of good human resource management skills on your farm.