Small Bites: Using Data to Plan for Labor for Next Season

Authored by Coach Polly Shyka

Small Bites are short, informational articles with practical ideas about stress reduction, improved communication, and farm and family well-being. They are written by coaches from UMaine Extension’s Farm Coaching team. Farm Coaches are available at no cost to work remotely with farmers and farm teams. Read more collected Small Bites.

Using Datascarbbles pieces spelling PLAN

This is the time of year when I spend hours per day with spreadsheets. Spreadsheets are an indispensable analysis and planning tool. Planning for labor needs for the upcoming season lets us foresee times when labor is short or flush, and helps us plan accordingly.

Analysis begins with adding the past year’s labor actuals to an existing labor planning spreadsheet. I bring over two or three years worth of monthly labor totals (in hours and dollars) to this document (to compare 2019 to 2020, for example). The spreadsheet is organized by month so that I can look at August labor actuals and predict August’s labor needs for 2021. The columns contain: Employee names (Column A), Actual 2019 monthly hours worked (B), Actual monthly 2020 hours worked (C), 2021 projected hours per week (D), 2021 projected hours per month (E), Hourly wage (F), Projected total wages per month (G), Projected withholding taxes per month (H).

In this one spreadsheet, I am able to look at the past and plan for the future both in hours and dollars. The financial pieces move over to a cash flow projection document. But the projected hours per week that our employees are intending to work really tell us if we are going to hit our labor needs per week/per month throughout the whole season.

Developing recordkeeping systems that yield useful data is a great way to improve your quality of life, clarity on your team, and a better bottom line.

Reach out to the Farm Coaching program if you would like to talk through recordkeeping systems that can improve role and financial clarity.