Improve both worker and bottom-line performance
Nothing is easy about managing employees, which becomes exceedingly important the larger your operation becomes. Improving how you manage your work force not only improves employee productivity, but also that of your farm. This can make your farm a desired worker destination so the best and brightest naturally gravitate toward you.
The best rules for managing your work force, based on interviews with farm employee management consultants, are these:
GIVE WORKERS RESPONSIBILITY, NOT JUST TASKS.
"Many operations have grown to the point that to continue to grow and stay world class, they need people to take on more responsibility," says Bob Milligan, a farm management consultant based in Minnesota and professor emeritus of ag economics at Cornell University. This requires a systems approach in which the farm’s vision and mission are communicated.
It’s important to have regular weekly or monthly employee meetings, at which time feedback and expectations are provided in a specific way. Provide regular feedback, but go beyond either criticism or accolades, Milligan says.
If a goal is not met, reasons why need to be taken into account, so that the only feedback categories are not just "positive" and "negative." A problem for many farm owners is that their expertise is often crop or livestock production. "Corn plants and cows don’t need feedback," he says.
Too often, employees don’t know what is expected of them, says Felix Soriano, president of APN Consulting, a Pennsylvania farm employee management consultant. Poor communication is often the cause of high turnover rates, which can be costly, he explains.
BECOME A GREAT PLACE TO WORK.
"You want to become the Microsoft of agriculture," Milligan says. "Microsoft is such a great place to work that it doesn’t have to advertise." This means that supervisors must be very good at how they deal with employees. While there is no relevant data on agriculture per se, in the general economy more than two-thirds of people who voluntarily leave their job do so not because they don’t like the job, but because they have issues with their supervisors.
GIVE JOBS MEANING.
- January 2013