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Top tips for communicating with farm staff and contractors

In this article, FRS discusses communicating effective and easily with farm staff and contractors and provides Covid-19 guidelines.

Spring can quickly lead into summer, and farm jobs will move from calving, lambing and animal husbandry to grass management and making silage, hay and straw.

With lots of activity and different tasks to be completed, farmers often rely on farmworkers and contractors to undertake and complete key jobs on the farm.

During this busy time, communication is critical. Good communication includes giving clear instructions and requests that the person receiving them understands, actively listening, asking questions and relaying information with ease.

It also includes avoiding misunderstandings or being unclear. Farmers must prepare themselves and practice good communication skills when managing new or returning farm staff.

Firstly, it is the farmer’s responsibility to have an introductory conversation with new farm staff and contractors. They should do this before they start any jobs. Depending on the role and duties of the person, the farmer must outline essential information.

During this conversation, list the tasks you expect them to do and point out safety information and the farm’s general rules.

A farmer should also do a farm walk and demonstrate the workings of machinery if necessary.

We recommend that farmers take time in advance to think of key points and essential information about the farm or the task at hand. Write them out on paper, on a whiteboard or in a message for reference.

It is also important to listen and answer any questions that a farmworker or contractor may have. Encourage them to raise any concerns at this initial stage as it will benefit both parties in the long run.

It also gives the farmworker or contractor a chance to clarify an expectation set by the farmer. This is important as it will save time going forward.

Covid-19 guidelines

With current Government guidelines in place for Covid 19, we encourage farmers, farm workers and contractors to adhere fully to these.

Where possible, use the phone to discuss any jobs that need to be completed. Send pictures or short video demonstrations to explain what needs to be done. Ensure the line is clear and the sound and picture quality are good.

Also, sending a pin location of a field will be useful if the worker is unsure where they are going.

If you must be present to introduce the worker or contractor, keep to Covid-19 guidelines. Always remain at least two meters apart and avoid enclosed spaces.

Wear face masks, and it is the farmer’s responsibility to have hand sanitiser stations around the farm.

We have developed a set of Covid-19 guidelines for farmers, which you can find here.

It is essential to have the right environment for conversions. Farms are busy places with lots of noise and activity.

If the introductory conversation is taking place on the farm, it is important that both parties are paying full attention and are not distracted.

No one should be trying to complete other tasks or be in an area with lots of external noise from machines or animals.

Communicating with farm staff – Learning styles

When communicating, consider different personality types and the best ways to communicate. Many people are visual learners and will learn best by observing pictures or diagrams.

Others are auditory learners who learn best by listening and repeating information. Kinesthetic learners learn best from a hands-on approach. Farmers can adopt these styles of learning for their farm.

Farmers can do this through routine demonstrations, or perhaps a whiteboard and a daily list and some diagrams that could help.

It is also beneficial to be open with staff about objectives, plans, and your farm’s performance.

Keep them up-to-date with what is happening and consider asking their opinion for any changes. This will help them feel that their work is valued and help build trust.

Being open with plans may also mean that farm staff are more aware of what is happening on the farm, be able to detect small changes that will help or be able to research certain ideas.

Review

Lastly, farmers can also consider carrying out reviews of work carried out on the farm. A performance review or feedback can help keep motivation up, address any issues or personal challenges that either party may have.

A review is also a good opportunity to chat about potential business improvements or new processes.

Further information

If you require help this spring or summer, contact your local FRS Office. FRS have a range of skilled operators available. You can click here for more information.

You can access more top tips and advice by clicking here.

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