HR helps businesses to grow and thrive

By Charlotte Bate, MAD-HR
MAD-HR has worked with numerous business owners whose organisation is centred in, or focused on, food or farming. Here I answer six key questions which all leaders (in any sector) can learn from.
Published in Norfolk Director Magazine Spring | Summer 2023
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Human Resources : MAD-HR

Six key questions we are often asked:

I am fourth generation of the family business. How do I tackle succession planning, particularly when it involves sensitive family conversations?

We see this often, and yes it needs to be handled delicately. It’s always helpful to appoint an external party to enable you to explore and conduct discussions, which allows everyone’s expectations to be managed. Shying away from big decisions is not an option!

Mental health is something that I’m increasingly worried about. Many of my staff work long hours, remotely and without a constant reminder of what support is available. How do I help?

Suicide and poor mental health are rising among the farming industry, and it’s great that you’re aware of how your conditions might impact your staff. It’s wise to put a policy in place for the reporting of mental health matters; addressing how sickness and leave is allocated, and paid if someone is unwell. It can help to get a ‘Mental Health First Aid’ course delivered to your staff, upskilling everyone to understand more about recognising signs among colleagues.  Regular ‘check-ins’ with the team is a must, as is being able to signpost your team to specialist support.

Have you any tips for managing issues around labour, particularly as we used to recruit from across Europe?

This has indeed become more challenging for businesses in recent years, impacting both recruitment and retention. Plan well ahead, utilise your current workforce to help you source new staff, and consider practices and processes (including shift length and locations), which would make working for you more viable.

Farming is a hands-on business where I’m rarely desk based. What’s the best way to stay on top of HR matters?

We have created our digital toolkit for just these situations. It allows business owners like you to manage their various duties and responsibilities – or access advice and resources – whenever and wherever they can. Do contact our team to find out more.

We take health and safety very seriously. How do we better enforce a policy around staying away from work if you are unwell?

In some workplaces, and when people feel vulnerable about their job security, there can be a tendency toward presenteeism, and staff being in work when they should be off sick. Do make every effort to publicise your policy on this in your enrolment documentation, but also on material displayed in the workplace, and at regular team meetings.

We’re a very small food firm, and production cycles are tight. With one of my key staff now going on maternity, how do I fill the gap?

Staying flexible is usually the best option, so ensure that whether using an agency or recruiting directly that you make the person aware this is a ‘temporary’ cover role. Many people may find a shorter term contract is a better fit for them.

HR helps businesses to grow and thrive 1

Charlotte Bate is a Director at MAD-HR. If you have a query about the food and farming sector – or any industry, MAD-HR would love to help.

T: 01603 791256
Or visit

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