Money talks, or so the saying goes. But is that all a candidate needs from an employer? And what does it take to secure a candidate in today’s ag job market? Knowing current compensation trends is a good place to start to keep your ag company competitive.
Gallup recently conducted a study with over 13,000 U.S. employees, and what they found rose to the top is an increase in income/benefits, work-life balance and job security.
In the agriculture industry, there are two main reasons for a necessary shift in pay perspective. First, wages have been increasing at a faster pace. Jobs are open and eligible employees are in low supply. This leads to the second reason: agriculture recruiters are no longer simply looking for someone who can drive a truck or feed livestock. They are seeking individuals who are tech-savvy, think for themselves, solve problems and add value to a team.
It’s not surprising that 64% of people said wages were a critical factor when it comes to job selection. In fact, in recent years, it’s risen from job seekers’ fourth priority to the very top of the list. That’s why it’s critical for ag businesses to come to the table with competitive offers to secure a candidate.
But wages aren’t the only part of a compensation package a candidate will be analyzing. Although pay increases that meet or exceed inflation are certainly an emphasis, compensation trends show competitive plans also include drug coverage, more financial health offerings, dental and vision insurance, mental health resources and retirement plans. At least 56% of companies today offer 401k options. Paid time off is also a highly considered factor, with many companies offering two weeks’ vacation immediately and three weeks total per year.
While it can often be difficult for a farm or small ag company to supply a large salary or extensive benefits package, a combination of a few may prove to be competitive in the ag job market. Be innovative and think outside the box. What makes sense for your company and budget? Consider employees from outside the industry or early on in their careers who can be trained and give you a return on your investment. Or create an incentive or bonus program that rewards a worker for a job well done without increasing the base salary requirement.
Many ag companies can provide industry perks, like beef, a company truck, housing or a gas card. Leverage your resources and understand what a suitable candidate might need.
In the pursuit of a well-developed benefits package, don’t forget the value of pay transparency. In addition to increasing legislation requiring it, job applicants also now emphasize the need to know when applying. Aspen Tech Labs reports more than 30% of U.S. job descriptions now include salary information. If yours doesn’t, it’s likely a candidate will ask. In fact, a LinkedIn survey recently found that 91% of job seekers are more likely to apply for a job with a salary range stated. This could be the difference in a response, or lack of, to your ag job posting.
When determining a range, do your research. Understand the industry and local job market. What are they offering and how can you be competitive? Calculate median salaries and align the compensation with your company goals. Conduct a job analysis and classify your jobs to have a clear understanding of responsibilities. Create a thorough job description, then consider its requirements. Set a range based on the candidates. Are you looking for a recent college graduate with little to no experience? Or are you looking for a senior-level manager with a high level of education? Use the requirements to determine the scale and where a candidate might land on it.
Once that’s determined, develop a pay structure, including when and by how much pay raises will be executed, and how employee performance will be related and tied to their compensation. Don’t forget to regularly evaluate your pay structure to ensure its alignment with your local market and industry.
In the end, don’t avoid compensation conversations. Remember that transparency with potential and current employees is key, and communicating both your criteria for pay and the structure thereof will gain you more success in the recruiting process than the alternative.
Wellbeing and Culture
Right behind compensation, coming in at 61%, is the desire for a work-life balance. In a world where burnout and unhealthy stress levels are common, all while remote or self-scheduled jobs are an option, many candidates are seeking a position with more freedom. In the ag industry specifically, that can be easier said than done. But a workplace with wellbeing as a priority will statistically win over one without.
Part of a person’s satisfaction in the workplace is company culture. Do employees feel like a valuable part of the team and that they are appreciated, or as if they are just another number? Is there a feeling of contentment and loyalty to the company, or is there a high turnover rate and feeling of stagnation? Are your employees comfortable going to supervisors with challenges, or do they fear them? Do your employees look forward to coming to work, or dread it? Identify your company culture so you know which candidates might find themselves content and thriving within it.
Stability and Advancement
Also in the top five was job security, with 53% of workers saying they would actively seek out career opportunities with more stability. That number has not changed in nearly 10 years, but it may have a different level of severity post-pandemic as many people lost jobs or had their careers disrupted. Do they feel you are as loyal to them as they are to you? Are they confident your company has longevity and the ability to retain them? Are there opportunities for them to grow or advance in their career within your ag business? As employees set expectations for their futures, they want to have confidence in their future with your company.