What is a Farm Team
Farm team is a baseball reference applied to businesses that train employees only to have them leave for competing companies. Farm teams in baseball (also known as the "minor leagues") identify and train talent that will progress through the ranks until they reach the top professional level, Major League Baseball. Given the cost, time and energy required to find, hire and train new employees, a company that acts as a de facto farm team for other companies should either consider whether the cost of playing such a role is cost-effective or commit to increasing employee retention.
BREAKING DOWN Farm Team
Some companies may unintentionally act as suppliers of vetted and trained talent for other organizations for a variety of reasons. Being known as a farm team supplier of talent is largely detrimental to companies but may also work to their advantage to some degree. On one hand, putting the effort, time and cost into training an employee only to have them leave soon thereafter is not cost-effective. On the other hand, a constant flow of new talent increases the chances that truly motivated and talented people will be discovered, hired and focused on for promotion and retention. Companies can avoid becoming a farm team by focusing on creating paths to career advancement and mentoring programs, offering competitive benefits, providing continuing professional education and creating a work environment that is collegial and collaborative.
Farm Team Company Characteristics
Companies that act as farm teams tend to be smaller and less prestigious than the companies that poach their talent. In short, they are less able to compete with larger, better capitalized companies. They may offer less competitive health care, retirement savings, paid leave and other types of employee benefits. They may also have a lesser commitment to helping employees achieve a work/life balance. One reason newer, younger and less-conservative companies tend to offer free lunches, massages, happy hours, free snacks and other perks is to keep younger workers happier, as they are more likely to leave than older, more established workers.
Farm Team Business Model
Some companies, by the nature of their business model, have employee rosters that skew far younger. Younger workers who are just out of school are cheaper and may be a better fit for many types of roles. For example, the kind of cold calling and networking needed in sales, reporting and other demanding jobs requires a certain kind of energy and persistence that younger, hungrier workers may be a better fit for. The other side of this equation is that such jobs tend to lead to faster burnout. With a steady churn of new workers coming on board, there is a better chance of finding workers with both aptitude and endurance.