FirstFruits Farms Shares How They Simplify Hiring
FirstFruits Farms Puts People First - Fast
Employers in the agriculture industry face unique challenges in developing effective workforce solutions. In this article, we examine how one company is blazing the trail forward with tech-based agribusiness tools that improve productivity and streamline the hiring process.
Meet the man at the helm of FirstFruits Farm’s HR team, Steve Bradbury.
When your farm employs 2800 workers and hires up to 50 new employees a day, you learn a thing or two about the hiring process. FirstFruits Farm’s Payroll Manager, Steve Bradbury, was recently interviewed about some of the tools and methods that his team has incorporated into their hiring packet.
Find out how FirstFruits Farms is improving productivity and streamlining the hiring process. Steve also shares a few exciting revelations and sheds light on workforce management solutions with us. Let’s learn a little more about the First Fruit Farms’ operation, and some of the challenges they’ve had to overcome to get to where they are today.
FirstFruits Farms: Leading The Way in Agricultural Onboarding
Let’s establish something right off the bat - FirstFruits Farms cares about its people. Their story is based on the idea that an individuals’ dream can come true with the help of a nurturing community. If this was a small operation, that might not sound like a huge deal, but when you examine how this orchard puts that concept into action at scale, their commitment becomes apparent.
FirstFruits Farms has been in business since 1980 when they planted their first acreage. It didn’t even take them a decade to adapt to the needs of their people in a way that would put them way out in front when it comes to valuing employees.
In 1988, the leadership became aware of a problem that didn’t sit well with them. They learned that some of their employees were forced to leave their children at home alone during working hours. This potentially horrifying problem became one of FirstFruits Farms' first huge HR success stories, but it certainly wouldn’t be their last.
That year, they implemented on-site childcare, and two years later, they would even address housing concerns. When the leadership became aware of the issues regarding the housing of their employees being unsafe and inadequate, they acted again.
They invested $5 million into single-family homes and apartments, creating low-rent, affordable, and accommodating housing right on-site. The residents named the community “Vista Hermosa”, Spanish for “Beautiful View”.
That should give you an idea about the kind of vision this business is built on and the cultural foundation that Steve Bradbury is a part of.
With all of these achievements in mind, it can be easy to forget what kind of challenges he and his team face every day. Of course, the greatest challenges yield brilliant results, strategies, and methods - solving problems is how industries evolve.
One of the main challenges here is the sheer scale of the workforce that FirstFruits employs. The number comes in at well over 2500 employees, and during peak season, they are running 20, 40, 50 new hires a day. So, what did that look like before FirstFruits Farms updated to software?
One word: time-consuming - According to Steve:
“...We had paper hiring. That process of hiring an individual could take us anywhere between 15 to 20 minutes. When you have a large ag industry and multiple employees coming to get hired, that could mean that the time it takes to get them in the door and out into the orchard would be very long. It's not a good thing for the company.”
Clearly, that is a lot of time for any team to spend on paperwork on any given day. This isn’t a challenge that Steve and his team are alone in facing.
Seasonal and day workers are a huge part of the agriculture industry, and as long as farming revolves around crops and harvests, they always will be. With these seasonal and often migrant workers, come a unique set of HR challenges.
One survey of human resource-related agricultural data found that over 50% of those questioned reported labor & recruiting challenges. Ranking recruiting challenges as the 2nd most common issue in the industry. So, how does FirstFruits Farms go about streamlining the process of workforce onboarding?
With their ag industry-leading HR management software.
Solving Ag-Industry Onboarding Challenges
According to Steve, it was helpful to use an industry-specific tool to help deal with the time-consuming issues of his workforce management situation. He and his team went with HR software that is built specifically for agricultural employers and businesses in the food processing industry. It was time for Steve to leave the paper behind, and the platform he chose made the transition super easy.
This new, innovative agriculture software was designed specifically for the industry's challenges. Steve explains a bit of how that helped with their company-specific documentation in the farm’s employee hiring packets:
“We have two specific hiring packets. One of the most commonly used out here is for our orchard hires. Within the ‘orchard hiring packet’ is the standard information for hiring: the I-9, W-4.”
Steve elaborates on the company-specific documents:
“Then there are individual documents that are company-specific and every company is going to have a specific document: a notification of this or that. …A policy, handbook, those are pertinent documents that every company is going to have.”
Simplifying paperwork is huge for a business that relies on hundreds of hired farm laborers. Ganaz is a people management platform that features paperless onboarding, training, communication, and workforce analytics. When FirstFruits Farms incorporated the Ganaz platform into their hiring packets and workforce development, they didn’t just improve their onboarding process.
They improved their HR team capabilities and their ability to follow through with their people-first philosophy. When asked about the effects that Ganaz had on streamlining the onboarding process, Steve went on:
“So with the Ganaz tool, we were able to speed up the process of hiring. [This meant] quicker implementation for the employees to be input into our payroll program with the .xml file data input. So the whole process was a lot quicker and we very much enjoyed that”
Steve wanted to get a solution that was a custom fit. He did just that.
Agribusiness-specific software was essential to Steve and the team at FirstFruits Farms. To hear Steve speak of the effects of implementing Ganaz’s HR Onboarding software, he sounds proud with the strategy’s success:
“Well, Ganaz was created for the ag industry, its tool is able to read the documentation provided to us in the hiring process. It does it correctly, legally, and gives us the data - Specifically what we need.”
He also spoke to some other benefits:
“It also eliminated the problem that we had, which was bad handwriting. Sometimes, the handwriting of the hiring individuals could be questionable, so with the Ganaz hires, it is obviously typed out. It's perfectly easy to read, very legible, so that was a great benefit to us.”
Perhaps the most compelling part of his case for using this software was when he explained the difference that Ganaz had made for his team.
“It's been the time-savings. That was something that you couldn't put a value on. For most people when they purchase new IT solutions, you think of the immediate cost savings that you're going to have. Those immediate cost savings could be generally material things, but you can't put a cost on time - At least not easily.”
Steve goes on to explain the true difference this agribusiness tool has made in the lives of his team:
“But for us the time savings that we have because of Ganaz allows us to be able to be more productive in the jobs that are required of us…”
It sounds to us like getting things done quickly is a game-changer. Now, Steve and his team can better spend their time addressing the labor challenges in agriculture. The enthusiasm in his voice cannot be ignored:
”...putting information into a new hire is absolutely necessary, but if you can do that through an application that speeds up the process, well, kudos to you. This is fantastic!”
Given labor shortages and recruiting challenges in the ag industry, agribusiness-specific workforce management tools are needed now more than ever. With the Ganaz HR software platform, leaders like FirstFruits Farms have found an easy way to save time and money while providing a better experience for their workforce.