Keepin’ it real

Some advice on how the ag community can maintain its workforce well.

By Ainsley Andres

According to new labour market data from the Canadian Agricultural Human Resource Council (CAHRC), agriculture in Canada, including farm businesses, support services, and agricultural wholesalers, had a workforce of 420,000 in 2022.

Of that number, 17 percent of the labour force consisted of foreign workers, including workers from the Temporary Foreign Worker Program and the Seasonal Agricultural Worker Program.

According to the CAHRC report entitled “Sowing Seeds of Change,” that’s increased by more than 30 percent since 2017. For a more detailed look at the report, read the article What’s New in the Canadian Ag Labour Market?.

As for what the data means for CAAR members, it simply means we have to learn how to be more creative.

It is time to focus on those skilled team members who, for a variety of reasons, might have left the workforce but are now looking to return.

Many companies have employee return programs that are set in place to help skilled professionals re-enter the workforce after a career break.

Most employees looking to relaunch their careers typically return to the same or similar role as the one they left, or they may have solid transferable skills that could be applied to a new field.

There are ways to attract and hire employees who haven’t worked in a few years but who are highly skilled and experienced. Here are four of them.

1. Offer a Flexible Workplace
Who would ever believe that the pandemic did something good?

The global COVID-19 spread resolved a problem that kept returning professionals from the workforce. Many people couldn’t have full-time jobs because they needed more flexibility.

However, more people can now realistically consider returning to work full-time because companies offer more flexible working arrangements—something unheard of in the pre-COVID era.

Perhaps taking its cue from kids who did their learning remotely, working virtually from home has been ideal for many returning candidates.

The virtual return offered a more gentle transition back into the workforce, especially for those with children or aging parents who need to be cared for.

Allowing candidates to work remotely (at least part of the time) is a significant selling point.

2. Use a re-entry program
Programs that help professionals re-enter the workforce can also be a win-win for the employer and the returnee.

It provides the employer a chance to gauge whether the returner is a good fit for the firm, and it helps returners gain the skills, confidence, and connections they require for success—and also if the firm is a good fit for them.

A break in a professional’s career can provide an opportunity to reflect, find focus areas, and return better equipped for the next phase of their professional journey with a new sense of purpose.

3. Offer part-time positions, even for skilled positions
Even 75 percent of a qualified person loyal to your company—25 percent of which would be up for a change—is better than having a vacant position.

To avoid piling on tasks for a new position or employee, think about how some of the tasks for any job could be redistributed to other employees—perhaps creating a path for them to earn a promotion in the future.

Take a long look at the role of every company position and determine what is an essential must-have versus a nice-to-have.

By relieving the burden, you will make it easier for employees to do their job without all the undue stress.

4. Offer a strong culture and opportunities
Job candidates re-entering the workforce are considering much more than salary when applying for jobs.

For them, benefits, location, perks, work-life balance, and career advancement opportunities are all things returning candidates consider when applying for jobs.

It’s essential to be competitive with what you offer to your employees because, like it or not, they have many options in today’s job market.

Revaluate your company’s core values. Collaborate with leadership to set better examples for employees and craft a company culture that will attract and keep all types of employees.

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