; Onboarding Farm Employees: Safe, Productive and Engaged from Day One | Conferences | AgRisk Library


Conference Name Onboarding Farm Employees: Safe, Productive and Engaged from Day One

Mary Kate Wheeler


The first days and weeks on the job set the course for new employees. Onboarding is a human resource management practice that orients new employees to their role within the business, equips them with safety and performance knowledge and skills, makes them feel connected to a worthwhile team, and ensures compliance with labor regulations. Given the tight labor market, a successful onboarding program can help farmers improve employee safety, productivity and job satisfaction while reducing employee turnover. Viewed through a risk management lens, employee onboarding is a strategy to manage human and legal risks associated with hiring new employees and complying with labor laws. This topic is of special concern to farmers in New York State as they prepare for new agricultural labor regulations beginning in 2020.

The Onboarding Dairy Farm Employees Project, funded by the New York Farm Viability Institute, focuses on training and supporting dairy farmers in NY to implement an onboarding program and improve associated human resource management practices. Project leaders have developed an Onboarding Template that functions as a checklist to guide managers through the four levels of onboarding: compliance, clarity, culture and connection. Program participants work directly with an extension educator to customize the Onboarding Template for their business. Throughout the process, participants identify additional HR needs and develop management resources, including job descriptions, employee policies, standard operating procedures, and training materials.

The first cohort of 20 farms is scheduled complete the Onboarding Template and implement onboarding for new employees by March 2020. The project uses a detailed before and after survey to document risk management impacts and outcomes. We expect to see short-term program impacts, including increased adoption of HR best management practices and better compliance with labor regulations, by the March 2020 deadline. We will use survey data to document longer-term outcomes, including changes to employee performance and turnover. After completing the first round of this project, the project team will make an updated version of the Onboarding Template available to farms, educators and agricultural service providers.