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Top 3 dairy workforce trends for 2021

Becky Rodriguez for Progressive Dairy Published on 25 January 2021

As we settle into the new year, many of us are looking ahead to what this year may bring. Although 2020 proved to us that the unexpected is very possible, I thought we would share our predictions for what will be the top three workforce trends in 2021.

1. Housing

The trend of providing housing for employees has grown in popularity, and we believe employees will continue to request (and favor) employment that offers housing as a benefit. There are many benefits to providing housing to your employees – as long as it is managed correctly. Providing housing can give your farm an advantage in your recruiting efforts, as well as aid in retention. When you provide housing, you are able to recruit candidates from across the state (and country), not just rely on finding someone in your local area. A few quick tips to managing your housing well: Have a written housing agreement that includes rules, a cleaning schedule and your move-out policy (have this available in English and Spanish). Schedule regular walk throughs to monitor the conditions of the housing and keep tabs on any maintenance issues. Monitor utility usage to keep costs in check.

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2. Benefits

Although benefits are not a main request of dairy employees, we do see a trend of more employees utilizing and asking for benefits through their employment. Some farms provide health insurance, and although in our experience this hasn’t been a top concern for employees, we recently have seen a trend in more employees being interested in obtaining coverage. Another popular benefit that many employees request is paid vacation. Last year, we conducted a survey of over 150 Latino dairy employees; one of our survey questions asked which benefit they wished their employers provided (Figure 1). Of the respondents, 46% responded health insurance, 32% responded paid vacation, 14% responded a retirement plan, 5% responded other and 3% responded none/not important to me. This revealed to us that benefits are becoming increasingly important to employees. 

3. Increased wages

This likely will not come as a surprise, but we also are seeing a trend of increased wages. Most candidates are looking for jobs with a decent pay and 40-plus hours per week. To ensure you are within an appropriate pay range, look at what other farms in your area pay for the same job. Consider the size of the farm, work hours and if any benefits are available (housing, vacation, insurance, etc.). By researching what other farms offer, you can gauge if your pay is in the proper range for the position and area where you are located. In the same survey referenced above, we also asked respondents what their biggest consideration was when applying for a job (Figure 2). Thirty-eight percent responded that pay was their biggest consideration, followed by 36% responding housing. Additionally, 18% considered employee benefits, 6% other and 2% considered the size of the farm as their top consideration. This shows that pay is of high importance when candidates are looking for a new position.

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By staying on top of workforce trends and adjusting your offerings accordingly, you can help keep your farm at the top of the list when it comes time to hire new employees.  end mark

Becky Rodriguez is an operations manager at AgriStaff USA. Email Becky Rodriguez.

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