Communicating Effectively with Farmworkers: 5 Ways it Helps Your Farm
Communication may not seem like a big deal to farmworkers and agribusiness, you may only have your workers on-site for two or three months before they move on to other regions to harvest other fields.
However, effective communication can reduce labor costs, increase worker engagement, and save lives. The CDC estimates that about 100 farmworkers suffer a lost-work-time injury every day in the United States, usually due to sprains or strains.
How many of these injuries could be prevented by more effective communication? Were the farm employees working too long without hydrating? Were they aware of what not to do? Was a heat-related illness part of the cause of their injuries? Did a language barrier affect their safety?
We’re going to talk about the impact of effective workforce communication on agribusiness.
5 Ways Effective Communication can Help your Farm
Effective communication is a recruiting tool in many ways. Word-of-mouth spreads from unit to unit. Farmworkers trust what their peers suggest and recommend; good and bad. When you treat workers well and communicate with them, they will tell their families and friends. In addition, effective communication during the offseason can be a great way to get workers to return.
You can use the Ganaz communication tool to send past employees recruiting messages highlighting open positions, pay, benefits, or upcoming job fairs, and also let them know when the season will be starting.
2. Farmworker Retention
Farmworker retention was one of the key factors in trying to keep California’s agribusiness stable during recent labor shortages. A vital way to maintain an experienced pool of farmworkers is through good communication.
The California Department of Agriculture conducted a survey among Napa Valley vineyard workers, both seasonal and permanent. Common issues that vineyard workers talked about included long commutes that use a lot of gas, concerns about heat-related illnesses and pesticide spraying, being uninformed on important topics, and how to report grievances to crew leaders. However, overall the number one reason for turnover was poor communication.
Sometimes, simple communication from ag employers to farmworkers through text messaging in their native language can go a long way to improve relationships between growers and workers, leading to better engagement and retention.
COVID-19 adversely affected the agribusiness industry because migrant workers suffered devastating losses due to the illness. Farms like Good Farms, and other agribusinesses like AgSocio share how safety messaging in a timely manner better enabled them to protect their workforce.
Everyone on your farm must be safe so they can work their best and most efficiently.
Some days, it’s just too hot to pick crops. Ag employers need to communicate this to farmworkers because the weather forecast may necessitate moving the start and end of shifts from day to day. It also affects what supplies workers will need in the field that day.
A simple text message at the end of the day outlines expectations for the following day. For example, an ag employer’s message can say “We’ll have extra water stations every quarter mile because it will be hot tomorrow. Once the temperature reaches 95 degrees, the day will be done, so expect to start at 5 a.m. to get ahead of the heatwave.”
A text like this can get farmworkers ready for the next day to know what to expect. See more examples in our Heatwaves Are Coming: 5 Things to Communicate to Farmworkers.
One issue cited in the survey of Napa Valley vineyard workers was a lack of information on crucial topics. Training, or lack of thereof, is cited as one reason why injuries and deaths occur on farms.
You’ve heard of “an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure” over and over.
This is especially true when it comes to farm work. Effective communication through training can prevent a lot of injuries due to overwork, using equipment the wrong way, and not following safety protocols. Following up on your tailgate safety training with regular safety reminders and preventative measures may help prevent injuries on the farm.
When every worker on your farm knows they are being treated fairly and safely due to receiving the right training, they will want to work for you again and again.
5. Preventing Sexual Harassment
In California, the number of farmworkers has declined drastically over the past decade. To make up for the shortfall, farms used a three-pronged approach. They hired more women, used more technology to make their existing workers more efficient, and studied ways to foster better worker retention.
As more women have entered farming, a study performed by Murray State University in 2021 shows that it also creates an unfortunate opportunity for exploitation. The study says “the combination of a male-dominated work environment coupled by language barriers represent dangerous power differentials and place women in vulnerable predicaments”.
Relying on English-speaking foremen who serve as translators and problem solvers, this represented a power dynamic that affected the lives and well-being of the female farmworkers. With a two-way auto-translating messaging tool like the Workforce Communication module from the Ganaz People Platform, managers and employees can communicate directly without a middleman.
How Conducting Surveys Helps With Effective Communication
You know the basics of what your farmworkers need to accomplish their jobs. But what about issues they may not readily talk about? How about issues you don’t know that are concerns to your farmworkers?
Conducting surveys offers one way to determine how best to engage with farmworkers because they will tell you honestly about what they need. The key is anonymity. Many workers may be afraid to speak out if they feel they face reprisals from supervisors for saying something negative about them.
Surveys in Spanish
Knowing how to communicate in Spanish is a given. Thanks to technological tools and smartphones, you don’t have to know Spanish to communicate in Spanish. Take this to a new level with surveys conducted in Spanish. Ganaz’s workforce communication platform helps you conduct surveys with auto-translated questions and answers.
Keep in mind, you don’t want to inundate your farmworkers with lengthy surveys every day. However, two or three quick questions a day can help.
Surveys, especially anonymous ones, give you the lay of the land in terms of your farmworkers. Ask open-ended questions in addition to yes/no questions. Request feedback. The questions don’t have to be elaborate. Sometimes, workers just want a platform to vent or be heard.
Job satisfaction. How was your job today? Did you feel your needs were taken care of today? What can we do better tomorrow?
Training comprehension. Did you understand today’s topic? Did you feel like the topic was fully covered? How should one properly use a ladder?
Exit interviews. Will you be back next year? What can we do to improve? How would you run things if you could?
Overall sentiment. How do you like working for this farm? What can we do that’s better? What do we do better than other farms?
Take a look at our survey writing tips to learn more!
Need to know more?
Book a discovery call with Ganaz, and we’ll show you why a people management platform can make your farming operation more efficient, effective, and people-friendly when you employ the right communication tools for your workforce.