“The world is short-staffed. Be nice to those who have turned up”

We saw a sign recently in a shopping centre with the above wording, and it sums up so much about the current situation. Many farms, factories, shops and other businesses are struggling to find the right staff and to deliver to customers as they have come to expect.

In the meantime, customers are getting impatient at not getting what they want.

Dairy farms labour shortage

In this article, we will discuss the challenges with labour shortages facing the dairy industry, and what you can do to overcome these issues.

What’s the cause?

There are many causes that have cumulatively led to the situation we currently face.

Brexit has certainly had an impact, with fewer people available for work from the continent. The shortage of workers from abroad has been made worse because fewer people are wanting to or are able to travel abroad because of the pandemic.

The pandemic has certainly caused global supply chain issues across Europe, the US and in China.

In the UK and US, a new trend is also emerging (known as the “Great resignation”) where people have realised since the pandemic that there’s more to life than working long hours doing something they don’t enjoy.

Add all of this to the challenges of staff having to self-isolate and you have a crisis where businesses can’t get the workers that they need.

What can you do?

While the situation is challenging, there are a number of things that can be done to improve things.

At Douglas Green Consulting, we are a dairy farm consultancy that provides support with various aspects of running a dairy farm and have experience helping businesses to manage staff shortages. Below are some ideas to consider:

Make the work more flexible:

Dairy farming can involve long hours and work often needs to be done at set times throughout the day. This doesn’t, however, mean that you need to be strict on the working hours.

Flexible working hours help attract workers who can’t do the usual daily work schedule but can help out at peak times. You might, for example, offer work to someone that’s fewer hours in a day or week, but they must be available during milking or feeding times. Farm labour therefore doesn't have to be full time all the time. They can cover the rest of their working week at times to suit them. It doesn’t matter with some tasks when the work is done - so long as they get it done!

Promote the benefits of the role:

As well as flexible hours, there are other ways that you can make a role appealing. Research shows that many people are taking part in the Great Resignation by leaving office jobs in favour of working outdoors. Fresh air, exercise and not having to stare at a laptop all day long are great benefits you can promote.

Other benefits can also include employee benefits such as paid time off, training, pension schemes and other perks.

Empower staff:

As UK agricultural advisors, we have seen how employees that take on more responsibility are more likely to be happier and stay in their role for longer. As well as helping to retain staff, this also helps with attracting new staff.

Instead of a job description or advert saying, “You will do this” try words such as “You will be responsible for…” and job titles that have words such as Manager in them.

Automate & systemise:

If investing in new equipment or automating processes can reduce workload then this is something worth considering. Farm business consultants often talk about how much money can be saved from automating and systemising a process, and this can help further with labour shortages.

If you can automate a process rather than hire someone then the issues of labour shortages go away. In some cases, you might need to automate parts of what you do so that you can focus more on activities that someone else would do… if only you could hire them.

Need more advice from our dairy farm consultants?

At Douglas Green, we have plenty of experience as a dairy farm consultancy helping dairy farms to grow. We would be happy to have an initial chat with you to understand your current processes and challenges. For the best possible support from experienced farm business consultants, give us a call today.