We’re hiring… five steps to get it right

young farmer beside grain truck

Eighty per cent of employee turnover in the first year is the result of hiring and interviewing errors that in the long run can end up costing you a lot more than a departed employee’s annual salary.

The most obvious cost is the time and money spent recruiting replacements. Then there’s the negative effect high turnover has on the morale and productivity of your other employees, not to mention the impression it leaves with your customers.

These hidden costs may linger with your operation for years.

Fortunately many of these hiring errors can be avoided, says Canadian Agricultural Human Resources Council (CAHRC) executive director Portia MacDonald-Dewhirst. She was instrumental in developing the council’s online AgriHR Toolkit and offers some proven tips that will help you avoid this costly problem of job mismatches.

“There are five key steps in the hiring process and it’s important to do the whole process well,” she says.

Knowing what you are looking for is the starting point. If the position is fuzzy in your mind, it will come across that way to job seekers. Describe the position clearly so that potential employees reading your job ad will think, “yes, this is a job that makes sense to me and something I’d be interested in doing.”

Next, figure out where job seekers are looking and advertise your job opportunities there. More and more these days people are looking online, but they may not happen across your company website so look for additional places to post your listing, such as an industry job board, online classifieds, Kijiji, Facebook and Twitter.

The CAHRC’s AgriJob Match, a national job board with supporting tools for employers and job seekers, is expected to go live this summer.

Recruitment agencies are another option, but don’t forget to look internally as well, she adds. You or your supervisors may know of someone already on staff who might be interested in applying.

It also never hurts to spread the word around through your networks of professionals, friends and family.

Learn how to advertise effectively. A common shortcoming at this step is not putting much thought into making the position compelling.

“Include clear details on what the position requirements are, but also think about what makes your business unique and interesting and the benefits of working there. At the same time, you need to balance exciting with realistic,” she explains.

Now, you are getting down to the nuts and bolts of deciding who to hire and bringing the successful applicant on board.

Streamlining your screening, interviewing and selection processes is important, not only for efficiency, but to make sure your decision is defensible.

“Decision-making needs to be rooted in the job description — the tasks and responsibilities of the position and the knowledge and skills required — not based on favouritism, for instance, just because the person happens to be a family friend or you have common interests,” she stresses.

Review every application against the job criteria to shortlist candidates most suitable for interviews.

Treat everyone the same during the interview by interviewing them in the same place using the same interview process and the same job-related questions.

“Consistency helps to avoid picking someone because he or she has good skills at being an interviewee,” she says. “Some people are verbally skilled and get you talking about other things. Before you know it, the interview time is up and you won’t have learned much at all about the person’s suitability for the job.”

Most of the interview questions should be behaviour based because it’s a proven fact that past behaviour is the best predictor of future behaviour.

Behavioural-event interviewing is a researched method that goes beyond questioning on training and skills to help select a person with the experience and wherewithal to handle situations that are bound to come up.

Avoid starting your questions with “what would you do if,” because people will likely guess at what they would do or tell you something they think you want to hear.

Instead, start with “tell me about a time when.” Phrased this way, the person will most likely describe the situation, action taken and results.

A scenario might follow along the line of “tell me about a time when you were faced with making a decision because nobody else was around.”

Perhaps he or she recalls dealing with an irate customer and describes how listening to the customer had a calming effect, making it easier to determine what needed to be done to resolve the conflict.

Applying this response to a ranch or feedlot situation would give you a sense of how that person would react in a similar situation.

Take notes during the interview and allow time immediately afterward to go through them, jotting down additional points that could help in your final decision and support a defensible selection.

Rate the candidate on each question before interviewing another candidate.

Your rating system could be a scale from one to five with one being well below expectations, three being meets expectations, and five being clearly above expectations. Think hard about your expectations and how a successful candidate should rate. Were the expected indicators addressed? If not, did the missing points have to do with important job functions? Did the response leave you thinking that the person would be capable of doing the job? From the middle, work up and down the rating scale listing your general expectations for each level and leave room at the bottom to note your rationale.

Each candidate will have stronger and weaker points, so you will really need to consider all of the answers on the whole in making your final decision.

Summing up the selection step, MacDonald-Dewhirst says fairness and consistency in the shortlisting, interviewing and rating process, along with behavioural-event interviewing will lead you to the top candidate for the job.

This is the time to check references, starting with the person at the top of your list, or the top two if they are close on paper and in the interview.

“Checking references is the single thing that’s left off the table most often,” she says. “It doesn’t take much time and you’ll be surprised what you can learn from past employers and with their candidness,” she says.

Your search ends at step four, but be sure to complete the whole hiring process by having a plan for bringing them on board and follow through to make sure your new hire sticks.

Overall, 22 per cent of staff turnovers across all job sectors occur within the first 45 days on the job. On the bright side, 60 per cent of new employees who receive support and orientation are more likely to still be with the organization after three years.

On-boarding doesn’t have to be fancy or costly, but it does need to be timely. It begins the moment your new employee arrives to make sure their first time at your workplace is a positive experience. Little courtesies such as introducing the new person to everyone on the team and making sure he or she has someone to sit with at lunch will go a long way in making the person feel comfortable.

Let your new employee know how to find resources and information needed to do the job and arrange to have a go-to person to help with questions as needed. Make sure the plan around job training is clearly understood, whether it’s as basic as required reading, more structure job shadowing, or formal workshops.

You, your manager or supervisors need to make a point of checking in with the new employee frequently during the first couple of weeks and regularly for the first two or three months. Simply ask if everything is going OK and whether anything else is needed to be sure the new person gets as much help as possible.

Know what you don’t know

“People in agriculture are skilled at many jobs, but we always say it’s important to know what you don’t know, says MacDonald-Dewhirst.

“If human resources is a weakness, don’t be afraid to put your hand up and say you need help. We are here to help. We have deep roots in agriculture, we work with the industry and we have developed meaningful human resource management tools based on what industry said is needed.”

One of the most comprehensive resources for owners and managers in all walks of agriculture and food is the AgriHR Toolkit. It’s an online program that details the recruitment process, how to develop an HR plan, create a policy manual, effectively manage people, succession planning, set compensation and benefits standards, create training and orientation processes, ensure workplace wellness, and improve health and safety. It includes a sample HR policy manual that can be customized for your own business and templates for job descriptions, advertisements, exit interviews, emergency plans and letters for job offers, rejections, suspensions and terminations.

Ninety-nine dollars gets you a full year of access to work through the kit at your own pace. Better yet, encourage your commodity association to bring an HR101 training workshop to your region because all participants receive a complementary link to the kit.

Related to the AgriHR Toolkit and AgriJob Match 20 the CAHRC researched the exact job skills needed to fulfil 20 positions in the beef, pork, sheep, poultry and aquaculture sectors as a guide to employers and job seekers.

For information on these and other programs and services, visit the CAHRC website.

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