New farmers: How to manage your payroll effectively

payroll management

Mbali Nwoko, CEO of Green Terrace in Bapsfontein, Gauteng, shares her farming experience with new farmers. Photo: Supplied/Food For Mzansi

Grouping your employees into teams and paying them according to the work they complete will both simplify your payroll and help you get the most out of your staff, advises Green Terrace founder Mbali Nwoko.

As with any business, monitoring financial comings and goings is both a science and an art. This is especially the case when it comes to farming, given all the elements that go into running a successful farming operation.

An approach that has worked well for many farmers when managing payroll costs, is to hire by task. By this I mean that when you employ people it is advisable to make a point of dividing them up into teams per task. This way you will have a team on your books specifically for harvesting, a team for weeding and one for sorting, packing, washing and so on. 

In other words, group your workers as field workers, as pack house workers or according to the area in which you need them to work. By doing this you’ll be better able to get the most out of your team and each team member, and you’ll be in a better position to manage their working hours.

Pay per task completed

Whether you pay these employees per hour or per crate or box packed, this up-front agreement will set the tone in terms of the pace at which your employees need to work.

This approach puts the onus on workers to determine their own salary based on their output. For instance, if you pay workers in a specific team per task, then you’ll find that when they arrive at the farm, they come ready and willing to work. They won’t be inclined to waste time on other things that could distract them from their jobs. Instead, they’ll be really focused and keen to make as much money as possible during their working day. 

Another benefit OF grouping employees per task or assigning specific roles to a group of individuals is that, as a farm owner, you have the opportunity to provide training and further up-skill your workforce to become qualified in a specific role. 

For instance, you can identify a small team working in the pack house to become qualified quality control (QC) professionals. Once they are qualified, they can assist by compiling policies and procedures for specific certification standards required for your pack house.

Field workers, specifically those who harvest, can be given the opportunity to go for food handling courses. Tractor drivers can be certified as mechanics and repair vehicles on site instead of outsourcing the work.

There are several benefits to this for both your business and employees. 

What about payments?

While allocating teams and duties comes down to good old-fashioned people management, it is possible to lean quite heavily on technology when it comes to streamlining your payment system.

There are various options available when it comes to monitoring employee output and digitally calculating your payroll. Making use of generic cloud payroll systems such as QuickBooks, Sage One or FreshBooks will save you valuable time and ensure all wages are accurately calculated. 

Alternatively, there are data management systems expressly designed to meet the needs of farm owners. For example, Farm Costing Solutions and Agrigistics measure the production of each worker and calculate how much to pay each one. Agripay by Payslip is designed to monitor the payment of employees regardless of the size of your farm. 

ALSO READ: New farmers: How to diversify your markets