Upward Mobility as a Recruiting and Retention Tool

When implementing your HR system, it is critically important that you begin with the end in mind. Taking time to consider how to include upward mobility, or the opportunity for employees to “climb the ladder”, in your farming operation could save you time and stress later.  The ability to advance from an entry level position, such as calf feeder, to a more challenging, higher paying role is often important to employees, and may even lead to succession options for farm families that don’t have one in place.  

Done correctly, succession planning can identify long-range needs and cultivate internal talent to meet those needs. Succession planning as part of employee development typically focus on a one- three year process of preparing employees—not preselecting them—for new roles in the organization.

The first step in this process is to ensure that career development and succession opportunities are communicated in your HR practices (especially during recruiting and hiring phases) and reinforced in your work environment. Your HR or Hiring Manager must consider HRM approaches that keep employees engaged, motivated and excited about a future on the farm.  Over the years, companies have realized that workers who feel trapped in one role may not stay; one study conducted in 2013 found that 26% of employees leave their workplace because they don’t have career development options.  

Best practices in building mobility include individual development plans, internal promotions, job enlargement or enrichment, cross training, “stretch” training, peer coaching, job shadowing, job rotations and leadership development programs – all addressed in subsequent blogs.. Hiring a “career achiever” over a “job seeker” can be accomplished if organizations make talent management and employee development a shared business and HR responsibility. Your leadership team must consistently emphasize the importance of talent management and actively engage in the employee development process at all levels, not just for middle management. 

Why Employee Development is Good for Business 

  • Increases worker productivity. Workers who receive training and educational opportunities are more productive. 
  • Reduces turnover. The more money an organization spends on employee training and development, the greater the concern that the highly skilled people will leave and take their knowledge somewhere else; however, research has shown that employee training actually reduces turnover and absenteeism.  The old adage, “what if we develop them and they leave?” has been replaced by, “what if we don’t (develop them) and they stay?”
  • Aligns employee development with the organization’s needs. Employers should let strategic needs drive development. For example, facing impending retirement of older workers, a farm might broaden coworkers’ skills so they can add variety to their jobs and take on new responsibilities. Such measures could encourage experienced workers to stay on the job.

Workers have made it clear that they want chances to grow on the job. Sixty-two percent of responding employees cited “opportunities to use skills and abilities” as a very important factor in determining job satisfaction, according to the Society for Human Resource Management’s 2011 Employee Job Satisfaction and Engagement research report. That came second to job security (63 percent) and was the highest percentage for the “skills and abilities” category since 2004.  

In addition to the developmental track, HR must also ensure that the business entity provides ways for employees to be more effective in their current roles. For HR, the challenge is to show both owners and employees that development brings benefits. Without a clear payoff, owners will balk at training costs and at lost productivity time. Moreover, employees will be less enthusiastic about development programs if they fail to see gains in their job performance and career opportunities.

Employment Development Methods 

On farms, most employee development occurs on the job, with a supervisor, manager or an experienced co-worker leading development activity in the context of the actual work environment.   If technology is not a barrier, the new Pure Michigan Talent Connect elearning Soft Skills Program, can be useful for developing important character traits that we desire in long term employees.  Leadership and management development typically occur off site, and must include strategic thinking and initiatives to align long term career development with succession strategies.

Lastly, employees of diversity are often faced, by percentage, with less opportunities for advancement than other employees.. Proactive employers who are hiring Hispanics must ensure that there are adequate opportunities for advancement and job security for everyone.

Contact Kristine Ranger at 517-974-5697 or kristine@knowledgenavigators.com