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June 12
The Employer Brand

​This article originally appeared in the Spring 2018 edition of Partners:

A strategic tool to give your farm business a leg up on the competition

By Beth Barker, SPHR
Chief Human Resources Officer

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In today’s competitive agriculture environment, finding and keeping good employees can keep you up at night. Turnover and training costs your business valuable time and money. So what is a small business owner to do? Define your employer brand and weave it into your recruiting efforts, training programs, compensation and benefits package, and work environment. Once you do that, you have given your farm a leg up on the competition.

An employer brand is essentially what the business communicates to potential and current employees about what it is like to work there. It is similar to and compliments your marketplace brand. It is grounded in your history, mission, values, culture and personality. A positive employer brand communicates that your farm is a good employer and a great place to work. Your employer brand affects recruitment of new employees as well as retention, job satisfaction, and productivity of managers and workers alike.
 
To develop an employment branding strategy, think about the following:
 

What do you love about your farm business?

As you think about your business vision, mission and values, write down your farm’s unique attributes. Define what your company stands for. Understand your organization’s objectives and what talent is needed to accomplish those objectives. Your employer brand should capture the essence of your company in a way that is exciting and engages employees and stakeholders.

What is your employer value proposition?
 

Today, employees want to know “what’s in it for me?” Specifically, what are the benefits of working for your farm over all the others? Ask your best staff members what they like about working for you? Today’s employees they like about working for you? Today’s employees are looking for
1) respectful treatment of all employees at all levels; 2) fair and equitable pay; 3) trust between employees and management; 4) job security; and
5) opportunities to use their skills and abilities on the job.

Develop an employee marketing strategy.
 

Your efforts should focus on two areas. The first is attracting future employees whose knowledge, skills, work ethic and attitude are a good fit for your business. Pay attention to the words and adjectives you use if you have a recruiting site, social media or other external recruiting sources. The second centers on consistently communicating your employer value proposition to current employees to retain and engage them. Consider using employee testimonials in your advertising and training materials. Capitalize on any and all community service activities that your farm participates in. All of your general marketing, advertising and support of the community youth programs like 4-H and FFA will translate to your employer brand.

Finally, ensure that your management practices support your employer brand. Training, coaching, compensation and other HR-related practices can be used to support the brand. As you onboard new employees, clearly communicate your values and discuss specific work behaviors that do and do not correspond to your expectations. Keep tabs on your pay levels. As the economy has improved, wages have risen. You do not want to lose good employees over small increases in pay. Pay satisfaction is tied to pay level, pay structure and raises. Competitive pay levels won’t keep good employees if the work environment is poor. Your business must hit the sweet spot between good work environment and fair pay.
 

In summary, job candidates want to be a part of something meaningful, something bigger than themselves. A job in the agriculture field is naturally one that lends itself to that. If your employer brand and employee value proposition can demonstrate that they will be paid fairly, develop new skills and be treated well, the time and money you save in turnover turns to profit. As an employer of choice, you will reap the rewards for retention, productivity and employee satisfaction, which are ultimately reflected in savings for the bottom line. ■

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