Contrary to the excuses we often fall into as employers, pay is not the first thing many employees cite when leaving a job. During a presentation at the Purina Leading Dairy Producers Conference, Elanco’s Michelle Calvo-Lorenzo outlined the employee perspective of a job.

She cited a 2018 study that included data from a variety of industries. Although not specific to agriculture, career development was the No. 1 reason for leaving a job followed by work-life balance, manager behavior, well-being, and compensation. The toughness of agriculture work might change those answers to some extent, but the crux of the point holds true.

“Labor retention issues are more than just money,” Calvo-Lorenzo emphasized. “Yes, it costs money to invest in people, but productivity gains because of that investment will return to the farm through improved productivity.”

For that reason, farms should consider how they interact with employees, and perhaps more so, how employees are brought into the operation. Calvo-Lorenzo recommended three steps for onboarding new employees to the farm and its culture.

  1. Acclimate. This entails setting company expectations and showing how employees fit into that culture.
  2. Engage. Foster supportive relationships and reinforce the farm’s commitment to helping the employee grow professionally.
  3. Retain. Keep the good ones. The costs, upfront and hidden, of employees leaving makes retainment and continued effort important tools.

“Onboarding is an ongoing process. Real comprehensive and effective onboarding really takes time,” Calvo-Lorenzo said. “Some organizations spend 12 months on this.”

Whatever your farm’s onboarding process, a focus on employees is key. “There’s no silver bullet to fixing labor issues,” she reminded attendees. “Find what works for your operation and its culture.”

To comment, email your remarks to
(c) Hoard's Dairyman Intel 2020
January 27, 2020
Subscribe to Hoard's Dairyman Intel by clicking the button below