For small enterprises, family members can be reliable employees. They will work extra hours when needed and will undertake the obligation to maintain efficiency greater than most employees will. As family members mature they can be given management responsibility and oversight of important production areas. Unfortunately the use of family members in Ag enterprises has decreased extensively in the past few years. Family run farms have been replaced by corporations that hire experienced managers. Family members seek opportunities off the farm and prefer to secure positions where the fluctuations of income are not so apparent. Family run enterprises are still very important in agribusiness, but they are not as commonplace as in the past.
Many agribusiness enterprises incorporate a mixture of full and part-time employees. This is an important mix that should be studied carefully to maintain quality and efficiency in the operation. Some production and many processing functions are seasonal. Between periods of intense operations are extended times of inactivity. It may be difficult to keep full-time employees under these situations, but having an experienced foreman is often essential to a smooth running enterprise.
Most Ag enterprises employ seasonal employees for a part of the year. These can be from the local labor pool or transient workers that move from one area to another as production increases. Managing part-time employees of any kind is a challenge. It is difficult to time the need for the employees with their availability. They wish to get paid and are not willing to stand around waiting for the weather or some other part of the process to cooperate. They are also an expensive resource that needs to be used in an efficient manner. If you have too many they are disappointed in the money they can make – if there are not enough you will find the processing getting backlogged and inefficiencies increase greatly. Not having the labor when needed and having labor when they cannot be utilized are constant problems in hiring part-time employees.
Is there a solution? – Possibly, but not in every operation. Advanced equipment may replace some of the need for part-time labor. These may be expensive solutions, but if the operation can operate with more full-time labor and much less part-time labor the tradeoff may be worth considering. It can often be justified if the full-time employees are able to move from one type of production to another. This can add efficiency and eliminate the headaches of scheduling part-time and/or seasonal employees.
Hiring Full-time Employees
In agribusiness, experience is often more beneficial than general education. Typically Ag enterprises find that employees that have a general knowledge of a wide range of skills to be the most useful. The ability to work with other, to take and give commands in a respectful manner, and the ability to adapt to changing conditions are worthy traits. When employees are giving management status they should have some background and/or training in a supervisory position. If not, some additional training may be warranted.