Endgame 2024

The employer’s focus has shifted to retention.

by Bonnie Johnson, AgCareers.com

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Photo Credit: Uuganbayar- stock.adobe.com

Regardless of the organization’s size, whether a small farm or a multi-site corporation, employers have long been concerned about recruiting challenges in the competitive labor market.

However, there has been a sizable pivot towards prioritizing retention as the primary focus moving forward.

Agriculture and food employers express that employee retention is their top human resource concern, according to the latest AgCareers.com HR Review. This survey offers an annual HR trend analysis of the agriculture and food industries. Discoveries enable producers to examine industry trends in people management and remain competitive.

Many organizations have conducted extensive hiring in the past couple of years to meet business demands.

Now they are focusing on keeping the employees they already have aboard, as turnover is costly. Obviously, losing top performers affects not only productivity but also the employee morale of those left behind, which can create a domino effect on turnover.

When AgCareers.com asked employers about their recruitment focus for the upcoming year, the majority also indicated a focus on employee retention practices. Employers also reported increasing hiring internally and recruiting their own staff, likely to keep well-performing employees.

The pivot to employee retention is not a complete redirection of goals and processes but a change in mindset related to staffing longevity. Many of the strategies employers have utilized to attract and hire employees in the past years continue to be some of the most effective methods for retaining them.

Pay increases

Employers reported that regular pay increases were their primary tactic for retaining staff. Nearly all agricultural employers (96 percent) reported increased salaries in 2023.

In the past several years, companies have experienced market pressures to increase wages quickly at higher-than-normal rates.

While employers must stay aligned with market trends to remain competitive, the prevalence of predicted higher salary raises has diminished compared to last year. In the US, the predominant salary increase was over five percent last year. In 2024, the predominant range reported will be in the 3.6–4.0 percent range.


In addition to pay increases, employers noted that they most commonly utilize flexible schedules and remote or hybrid work options to retain employees, with a notable increase from the previous year.

Flexibility in the workplace is also a key theme for employee retention. Flexibility will differ among organizations and may hold different meanings for each employee.

Hybrid work arrangements were the most common tactic, allowing employees to spend time on-site and at home. Remote and work-from-home jobs in the swine industry are commonly the most posted in the business development and sales career types on AgCareers.com.

However, on-farm and operational jobs are the most frequently posted career types in the swine industry overall on AgCareers.com.

Work-from-home is not feasible in many agricultural operations, especially production and processing. These sectors may alternatively refocus flexibility on scheduling.

Offering flexibility in schedules can also be rewarding to employees, enabling them to adjust their schedules while meeting the organization’s needs.

Regardless of the type of flexibility, listening to employees’ needs is crucial, as this can enhance retention and productivity efforts.

Motivation & Incentives

Factors contributing to employee motivation in their roles will also likely influence employee engagement and retention. An engaged employee feels a commitment to their employer and is invested in their role.

The top two strategies that are used by agricultural employers to motivate and challenge employees are the provision of bonuses and training and development.

A bonus can reinforce and reward excellent performance. Over 70 percent of US agricultural employers report that staff performance is linked to rewards. Bonuses were the most-used incentive to keep staff motivated and challenged.

Specifically, retention bonuses were a top retention strategy that experienced a sizable increase in use over the past year, reportedly used by nearly 20 percent of employers.

Providing training and development programs to employees was also a top tactic used by agricultural employers to keep staff motivated. Training and development are essential to achieving results, providing employees with the tools they need to be successful.

By offering continuous learning, it showcases an employer’s investment and commitment to retaining and developing current employees, showing you want them to remain a part of the team.

Agricultural organizations offer training and development programs to compete against other employers in recruiting and retaining talent. Offering employees several growth and development options can help give them a clear picture of their career path and how they can best support the organization.

Financial assistance for external study or tuition reimbursement remains the most common staff development and training method offered by 63 percent of respondents.

Retention Endgame

Focusing on retaining top talent is a crucial initiative for pork producers as they strive for a sustainable future for their operations. Keeping top talent sets up an organization for the long haul, increasing productivity, achieving goals, and exceeding them. It’s not just about the pigs—it’s also about the people!

To learn about more human resources trends and to view the full Agriculture and Food HR Review, download a free copy under Market Research at www.AgCareers.com.