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Do you have the right people on your bus?

iStock/Getty Images school bus driving on blacktop road on bright winter morning
…and what is the condition of your bus?

You have probably heard the phrases, "we need the right people on the bus," and "we need the employees in the right seats" on that bus. These phrases imply we need to find the right people to join our farm operation and then make sure they are in the right spot. This sounds reasonable.

But is there another question you need to ask?

It's not a secret that farms have a competitive advantage when they consistently find good employees and keep them. Part of keeping an employee is placing them in a role that is right for them. Hence the "employee in the right seat" analogy.

But there is a third question.

What is the condition of the bus?

Keeping the bus metaphor going here; What shape is your bus in? Is the bus well maintained, or has it been neglected?

Management neglect is a major reason why good employees don't stay. It's not the only reason, but it's a big reason. Let's look at three areas where managers can focus to attract and keep good employees.

Reputation:

  • Sticking with the bus analogy, every bus has a reputation. Some are hard to get started. Some tend to break down. What we want is a bus with a reputation for reliability.
  • What sort of reputation does your farm have? Is it a place where an employee feels proud to go to work every day? Is the reputation in the community good? Does it have a reputation for having a high-quality team? After all, everyone wants to be part of a great team with teammates that pull together.

Destination:

  • The purpose of a bus ride is to arrive at a designated spot. A destination you want to get to. 
  • You know where you want to take your farm. You know your goals, your destination. But do you know what your employees want?  Do you know how to help them get what they want?
  • Employees are more inclined to go the extra mile and stay on your bus long-term if they believe you will help them get what they need. Some are family orientated, so time off is important. Some employees want to be challenged and advance. Some want to learn and improve. Some employees are content to be steady and solid. Understanding their life motivators makes happy employees and builds loyalty.

Driver:

  • Whether on a tour bus or a school bus, there are both good and bad drivers. With a good driver, you feel safe and comfortable. You have confidence in them. A great driver is skilled, calm, can work out of tight spots, and have fun. Passengers can count on the driver to get them to the destination safely.
  • How would you feel if your bus driver lost his cool on the road?  Full of road rage or snappy with passengers. A driver that was easily distracted and not organized? None of these things make for a good time on the bus.
  • As the bus driver of your farm, you control the ride and the experience of everyone. All the passengers take their cues from the management team. Time spent honing your leadership, communication, and management skills is seldom time wasted. There are plenty of resources and coaches that can help. 

As a new year dawns, we all have a chance to improve things in 2021. Last year taught us all that we can't control everything. The wisdom lies in understanding what we can control or at least influence. And then have the will and the gumption to tackle it.

Is your bus ready for 2021? Your employees have plenty of farms and plenty of other "buses" to choose from. Why should an employee choose yours? This third question is hard to contemplate. I get it. We all get uncomfortable when taking a deep look in the mirror.

But for those who can look into the mirror and ask the third question, it's an advantage that is hard to copy.  What is the condition of your bus?

Tim Schaefer is an executive management coach and succession planner for farms and agribusinesses. Read his blog, Transitions and Strategies, at FarmFutures.com. If you have a management or succession planning question, contact tim.schaefer@encore-consultants.net 
 
The opinions of the author are not necessarily those of Farm Futures or Farm Progress. 
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