Ag Employees First Day on the Job vs. Employee Retention Back »

Many employers complain, including those in agriculture, that they can’t keep people around. Statements such as “we just get them trained and they leave” are common. If this statement is all too familiar, you may need to take a look at your “onboarding” program. Many have heard that statement that “first impressions are lasting impressions”, this is also true when it comes to retention of employees.

First days are critical

The first day is critical if you plan to keep employees around. A recent Career Builder survey found that “47% of new employees begin searching for their next job within 2-3 weeks of starting their new job”. Additionally, in a white paper by TalentWise (2013) which evaluated employee retention they stated, “A new hire’s first day may be the day an employer is most scrutinized by that employee. A good experience will give an employer a start on building employee loyalty – but a poor experience will almost certainly have a new hire start thinking about other options and resuming a job search”. In another article written by Roy Maurer (2015, April 16.) for the SHRM (Society for Human Resource Management) he states “one-third of approximately 1,000 respondents to a February 2014 survey by BambooHR said they had quit a job within six months of starting it. Between 16-17 percent of the respondents left between the first week and the third month of starting their job”.

Tips for a good first impression

So what does this mean in agriculture where we are hiring people to typically do high manual labor jobs? It means you don’t overwhelm people the first day on the job with paperwork. You take the time to welcome them, personally, to your operation. Honestly, they are no different than anyone else the first day on the job, in regards to first day on the job anxieties. So what should you cover as they walk in the door? Even though you may have covered some of the information ahead of time, before the first official day, you may want to go over it again and ask if there are any questions.

  1. Start with the purpose, vision and mission of your operation. Provide some background about the operation, who the “boss” or “bosses” are. What is important to the operation and why it is important?
  2. Give them a tour of the operation. Make them feel welcome. Show them where to park, where they can put their personal belonging, where the bathroom is located. Introduce them to other people along the way, especially those that they will be working closely with.
  3. Show them how to log their hours if they are being paid on an hourly basis and where the work schedule is posted.
  4. Talk about appropriate attire. Consider what you will be expect them to wear to perform the job safely. Cover what you will provide and what they will need to provide.
  5. Show them where to store their food and eat lunch.
  6. Go over the job description – it should include such things as tasks they may be expected to perform, who their direct supervisor may be, rate of pay, hours of work, any certifications that may need to be obtained, any policies regarding tardiness, sick days, break times, drug policies, animal handling or safety protocols for certain jobs, etc.
  7. Show them where the employee handbook is located or provide them with a copy for their personal records.
  8. Give them any pertinent phone numbers they may need, along with where the emergency phone numbers are posted and farm location/911 address.
  9. Hook them up with a mentor buddy who will help them along the way in the training process.
  10. Don’t overwhelm them with paperwork the first day. Have a packet of necessary paperwork either prepared ahead of time for them to take home with them to look over or complete a day or two after being on the job. This is especially important regarding benefits in which they may need to review items to make an appropriate decision about. Be prepared to have a list of any necessary documents that you will need them to bring with and they may need to fill out to make a retained copy of and/or they will need to complete on location.

Just prior to an employee completing their first day on the job, take the time again to personally ask if they have any questions that they may need clarified. This will help clear up unanswered questions, along with giving you the opportunity to correct any wrong assumptions.

The bottom line

In summary, you probably will only train them on a small task or two for the first day on the job as you start the onboarding process. However, it is important to remember that making employees feel welcome and that they are an integral part of the operation will go a long ways towards employee retention and not having to go through the process all over again in a short time.

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