Recruitment: Cultivating engagement and job satisfaction keys to retaining staff

Sheep Central April 2, 2015

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sheep handling recruitment staff

This is the second installment of a two-part series examining findings from a recent MLA project looking at attraction and retention of staff in the red meat industry. The research was based on an industry-wide survey, which repeated a similar exercise conducted back in 2007. Click here to view last week’s introduction to this report.






MEAT and Livestock Australia’s recent survey project focussing on attracting and retaining staff highlighted that the red meat industry continues to have highly-engaged employees.

In other words, employers are meeting employees’ most important expectations to a high degree, employees enjoy their work, and most intend to stay.

Analysis revealed several things that strongly and significantly predict higher levels of engagement with work. The top 5 were:

  • Being trusted and valued
  • Managers being concerned with developing individuals and building a supportive environment
  • Overall job satisfaction
  • Effective communication between managers and staff; and
  • Attractive conditions of employment i.e. hours, leave, non-cash items.


Conclusions and recommendations

The results of the most recent study support many of the major findings found in a similar survey conducted back in 2007. It identified that employees working in the red meat and livestock industry continue to be highly-engaged in their work, and an even higher proportion than in 2007 intend to stay long-term.

However, there are still difficulties with labour shortages and turnover. The results provide several clues on how beef and sheep enterprises of all sizes and sectors can improve their practices in the areas of attraction, recruitment and retention, as well as highlight some industry wide strategies that are likely to be of value.

Some of these recommendations at the industry level included:

  • To address the lack of skilled workers available for employers, it was recommended that an integrated industry approach be developed to encouraging students to enter into agriculture courses at university as well as Vet courses and traineeships.
  • Continuing to work on developing a campaign to improve the image of the on-farm red meat industry as a career choice, especially for young people. Key aspects that can be leveraged include the lifestyle benefits, working outdoors and with animals, job variety, community orientation, high levels of job satisfaction and a highly-engaged workforce.
  • Utilising existing databases/industry platforms to connect employers to job seekers or agriculture students.
  • Facilitating more opportunities for community networking and connectivity with a careers focus in mind, with the intent to connect employers with people in the local community who may have an interest in farm and livestock work. To support retention of staff, provide opportunities for owners/managers to develop their non-operational management skills, for example how to have career-focussed conversations with staff, succession planning, people management skills, workforce engagement, building a high-performing team, how to provide effective feedback, and having performance conversations. This may be especially beneficial for people on small to medium-sized livestock enterprises.
  • Set up mentoring or ‘buddy’ programs for new recruits across multiple businesses as a method of connecting workers with other, perhaps more-experienced workers in the industry (not necessarily working for the same employer). This is a way of keeping workers connected with others in the industry as well as learning from each other.

Recommendations at the farm level included:

  • Continuing to utilise a targeted approach to recruitment, i.e. approaching potential people directly, but increasing scope to advertise more broadly to high schools, Vet colleges and universities, through agriculture groups and societies, and advertising online and through social media.
  • Ensuring that when advertising for a position that, the key attractions and ‘features’ of the job and lifestyle are also included to ‘sell’ the job.
  • Though the amount of pay does not seem to be important for staff retention, a fair level of pay may still be an important influencer of job satisfaction.
  • Developing the working environment by focussing on the key drivers of staff engagement. This includes ensuring employees feel trusted and valued, developing their skills and capabilities and providing a supporting working environment, as well as ensuring a good flow of communication between managers and staff.
  • Reviewing current workloads of employees, remembering that each individual will have different ‘limits’ so it is important to explore the issue on a person by person basis.
  • Monitoring job satisfaction and engagement. Gathering regular feedback from staff on how they are feeling and their intentions will allow employers to recognise potential problems before they develop into big ones. Ensuring that career progression opportunities are clarified with employees, and that employees do have a clear idea of opportunities available within the business

Read the full report here.





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