New Years Resolutions for Equine Employers
How to ensure a strong start to 2022
The current Covid ‘situation’ brings challenges that make it difficult to know what to expect next and when, but perhaps things are not quite as precarious as they were last year. Given the activity on the site over the Christmas period with lots of registered Grooms updating their profiles and lots of new ones coming on board, 2022 looks like it might get off to a strong start in recruitment terms at least.
Traditionally the early part of the year in January is one of the busiest times in equine recruitment. The blank canvass of the new year stretches ahead, full of potential, promise but let’s face it, sometimes dread too as finding good staff these days can be…er…challenging, to say the very, very least!
It goes without saying, having the right team around you is paramount at the best of times and with so many Grooms resolving to move on at the start of the year, January is a prime time to assemble that team and/or plug any gaps. To help you through this, we’ve put together a quick and hopefully useful guide for you as an equine employer…
1. Brush up on employment law
It may be tempting to do this after you’ve sourced and secured your new employee, but you do need to be clear on not only your obligations but your employee’s too, before easily avoided and potentially costly mistakes are made. Not many people realise that an employment contract begins when your job offer is accepted. By reading up and being clear on employment law you can save an awful lot of headaches should you run into any complications throughout the recruitment process. We have a catalogue of blogs which explain various aspects of employment law in bite-sized portions within the context of the equine industry. Follow them in a step-by-step order of the recruitment process in our Employers Zone. By the way, there’s no need to buy a subscription to access this information.
2. Always be thinking ahead
The recruitment process is, more often than not, a very time-consuming process and you need to factor this in. For example, don’t wait until the start of your season to recruit new staff members. If you can, allow yourself the luxury of a minimum of 8 weeks – that’s what we would recommend you need to comfortably allow time to:
- Establish your needs vs nice-to-haves
- Construct your job advert
- To wait for applicants day’s off to interview candidates who’re already in full-time work
- To complete a trial period, possibly with more than one candidate
- To wait for your appointed candidate to complete up to a month’s notice on their current job
- A time-contingency for unforeseen circumstances/things going wrong
By allowing yourself a comfortable time-span you are more likely to secure the right candidate, rather than just any candidate which rarely ends well.
3. Time is of the essence
A common pitfall employers encounter when tackling the recruitment process in their own time, is that they fail to factor in the needs of the job seekers they’re hoping to attract. It may seem like a sensible, time-efficient strategy to review all your applicants at once towards the end of your advertising/subscription period so you can devote your attention to comparing suitable applicants. Always remember, the reality is that your job vacancy is never going to be the only vacancy each candidate has applied for. While you’re waiting for your optimum time to review your applicants, other employers are interviewing and offering them their job. All too often we speak to employers who are bitterly disappointed to find that the perfect candidate has applied for their job but has already been snapped up by a more reactive recruiter. You snooze, you lose!
4. Lead by example
Do respond to all of your applications, even those that are unsuitable for your current vacancy. It’s a small world in the equine industry and the candidates who’re too junior for your role now may be perfect for your team in a couple of years’ time. If a younger/more junior candidate feels they were wrong to have applied for your vacancy, or worse still simply never hear back from you, they might be disinclined to apply for your vacancies in the future and you could miss out! This is particularly important if you rely on local live-out staff. Some employers have difficulty with candidates not getting back to them, while they themselves are not getting back to candidates who’ve contacted them! It’s exasperating when you find and contact a promising candidate and you’re left to slowly draw the conclusion that they’re not interested – candidates feel exactly the same when they find a promising job opportunity and never receive a reply to their application or enquiry!
5. Grow your own team
There is a clear shortage of experienced grooms and the reality is that this won’t change unless employers train the enthusiastic junior grooms! Be realistic about your current needs – do you need another groom who is capable of turning out for HOYS? Or could you/your existing team train someone to that standard?
Maybe you have an existing groom on your team who could step-up to a more challenging role within your team, allowing you to take on a new junior team member? If an existing team member isn’t getting a chance to progress within your employment you could find that they’re looking elsewhere for career development opportunities in 2022! It’s always worth enquiring within your team first!
NB: a word of caution about “Working Pupil” roles!
From a legal perspective, there is no such thing as a “Working Pupil” – a worker is either an Apprentice Groom gaining qualifications via a bona fide registered Training Provider earning no less than the official National Minimum Wage for Apprentices, or they’re a fully paid groom in a trainee capacity, earning at least the National Minimum Wage for their age. Please do seek advice before offering training and riding as full payment, or as part-payment alongside a reduced salary. You are welcome to contact us for free, impartial advice on employing a trainee groom.
6. You get what you pay for when it comes to skills and experience
The subject of experienced vs junior grooms leads to the common question of how much an employer can expect to pay an experienced, skilled groom. Regardless of whether a groom has qualifications, experience and skills come at a price!
The starting point of all salaries is the National Minimum Wage of the country of employment. Even if you are providing accommodation with the job, paying bills, liverying a horse, the starting point is always the hourly wage set by the government, then add to the remuneration package to reflect your requirements (by law you cannot deduct anything more than the accommodation offset rate from the National Minimum Wage, regardless of the bonuses included in the salary package).
It might be tempting to limit the salary to the minimum you can pay by law but, the reality is, a groom that is going to head your team/manage your yard/train your horses/take sole charge/drive your horses to shows is not going to be attracted to an entry-level salary! An example of this is the need for a groom with a trailer or HGV licence; it costs a not inconsiderable sum of money to gain a licence to drive anything other than a car these days, and any groom that has invested in this has done this to lift their earning capacity, and it’s unrealistic to expect to get this on the National Minimum Wage.
If you’re concerned about advertising a high salary then having to compromise on the skills and experience of available candidates, it’s perfectly acceptable to advertise a salary range. As long as it complies with the National Minimum Wage and anti-discrimination law, you can specify a salary range that is negotiable, depending on age and experience.
7. Don’t struggle on alone – call us!
Give us a call for advice when you find your recruitment drive moving with less ‘gusto’ than you had hoped. We can advise on some simple solutions the employer hasn’t thought of just because of our weight of experience.
One issue that can be insurmountable is the time required to produce a successful outcome. If you can’t put in the time your chances of a timely, favourable outcome is much reduced. In this case, do consider using our unrivalled bespoke recruitment service. It’s an investment that will pay back dividends when Caroline and her team of experienced, specialist equine recruiters source, screen, and send you profiles of candidates you’re most likely to want to interview – like most of our bespoke clients, you will wonder why you haven’t done it sooner! You’ll be able to exhale and enjoy leaving someone else to make all the pre-employment checks before helping to organise your new employee’s start date, all backed up by an 8-week guarantee from when your new employee starts with you. Contact us for a friendly, confidential chat about the options available to you. Caroline will always get back to you quickly.
8. Don’t neglect your existing staff!
Enable career progression
As recruitment consultants, the no.1 reason we hear from grooms for wanting to change jobs is looking for new opportunities/career progression. Ironically, it’s not unknown for the former-employer to then advertise their job vacancy as the very type of opportunity the outgoing groom has moved on to:
- The employer re-evaluates their team and their needs and decides to take on someone to shoulder more responsibility
- The employer makes their job vacancy look attractive in order to fill the vacancy quickly, without thinking ahead to when the new recruit realises the job is not what they understood it to be
Either way, this breakdown in communication is entirely avoidable and, sadly, contributes towards the issue of job-hopping within the equine industry. Every employment relationship goes beyond fulfilling a requirement in return for remuneration – for equestrians it’s a labour of love as much as anything else and, like their employers, the majority of equine workers want to enjoy development, progression and a sense of achievement. Making yourself aware of your worker’s aspirations is only going to benefit you:
- you can train and develop someone’s skill-set and enjoy a fruitful working relationship together
- if you know you’re unable to fulfil a worker’s career aspirations you have the chance to prepare for the inevitability of them moving on at some point
Keep track of time/progression
Don’t let time run away without re-evaluating your existing team members and issuing pay-rises:
- re-evaluate salaries every April when the National Minimum Wage increases. With every National Minimum Wage increase, the relativity of your more experienced workers’ salary decreases!
- for younger staff members, keep track of birthdays so you can ensure you’re paying at least the National Minimum Wage for their age
- retain loyal workers by increasing their pay in line with their years of experience and growing skills. (It’s not unheard of for a person to graduate to the Head Groom position yet still be earning the same salary they earned as a starter!)
Remember to show appreciation
Remember to show appreciation to your workers; it’s easy to get caught up in day-to-day pressures and be perceived to take others for granted. A person who feels appreciated will almost always go the extra mile. In 2019 the Equestrian Employers Association made a great suggestion of “Give Your Staff a Pizza Day” as part of their Good Employment Week in November. Small gestures like this can really boost morale and cannot be underestimated!
If you would like a friendly, free, no-obligation chat about your recruitment needs please do contact us; our experienced, knowledgeable team will be more than happy to advise.
Whatever your plans for the year ahead, we wish you a happy, healthy and prosperous New Year.