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What Does Workforce Management Mean Right Now?


By Erika Osmundson, Director of Marketing


COVID-19 is taking its toll on employment across many industries.  Within agriculture, as an essential business and critical to the food supply, many employers in the agricultural industry have not been faced with the difficult decisions as it relates to workforce management.  In fact, according to a recent survey conducted in mid-April, 78% of responding agricultural businesses in North America said they had not taken any workforce management action.

What do we mean when we say workforce management? It is the activities and actions put in place by employers to manage staff numbers and functions to direct business performance. During downturns this typically relates tocompany actions such as furloughs, job rotation, reduction in staff and layoffs.

While agriculture is essential and current outlooks on employment seem steady, the industry is not immune to potential employment consequences due to COVID-19. In fact, the recent survey shows that 20% of agricultural organizations participating have had to act. This was a slight increase from the 15% reported in an earlier survey conducted in April.

With all the terminology, we want to provide a basic look and definition for some of the most common workforce management practices. In the chance that you find yourself in this unfortunate scenario, we hope this helps you better understand what this change may mean to you.

All definitions are provided by the Society of Human Resources Management.

Reduction in Force (RIF) –This occurs when a position is eliminated without the intention of replacing it and involves a permanent cut in headcount.

As you’ll see in the survey results, 20% of organizations have implemented a reduction in force of less than 5%. This is a more permanent situation and means that you should probably begin looking for new career opportunities. is here to help you!

Layoff – A layoff is a temporary separation from payroll. You do not work for the company during this time.

According to SHRM, typically employees can still collect unemployment during this temporary timeframe.

This option keeps the connection between the employer and employee with hopes that employment can restart down the road as the employer’s hardships lessen. Employers can deploy several different incentives to maintain the work relationship during the layoff period.

Furlough – An alternative to a layoff. This option asks employees to work fewer hours or take a certain amount of unpaid time off.

This option provides a little more flexibility for the employer and typically helps spread the burden among the whole employee base, versus specific individuals. A furlough may look like fewer hours in the workday, a week or two off, or work rotations. These time adjustments are unpaid.

We don’t know how long this pandemic will go on and many are feeling uneasy about what that means for their employment status. Continue to look to the positive that the agriculture industry is essential, and research is currently showing that more than 75% of agricultural employers aren’t taking these types of workforce management measures yet.

Be prepared. Hopefully this is the first step in understanding the scenarios. Learn more and understand what this means for you. Keep in mind that government regulations are different across countries, perhaps states/provinces, and there are programs to assist. Learn what those are. Talk with your employer if you have concerns. They may not be able to be completely candid but can hopefully help guide your direction. If you need to prepare for the worst-case scenario, update your resume and be ready to begin your job search. If you feel more secure in your job, dig in and be the best and most accountable employee you can be to help your employer out during this difficult time.

Trust in the fact that our industry, needs good, hard-working employees. Despite the situation you find yourself in, opportunity is there! We wish you well and if you find yourself in need of job searching advice, please reach out to us at

For more COVID-19 information as it relates to agricultural employment and for updated survey results, visit’s COVID-19 pages. USA / CANADA

*The information included in this article is not intended as legal advice, but rather informational context and to the best of our knowledge is accurate and factual.