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How can ag business owners retain good employees?

The workplace culture has a lot to do with it.

The other day, I was building fence with my next-door neighbor. He had operated his own business and worked in management with a landscaping company. While peering over a fence post he made a very profound statement, “People do not quit their job, they fire the management.”

This may be a generalized statement because some people do outgrow their work or need a change of pace. However, there is much credence to his comment. The workplace culture created by the owners and management can go a long way in attracting and retaining the “people coefficient” in the business equation.

Having clarity in job responsibilities and roles is very important for productivity in the workplace. This is particularly true for millennials and Generation Z who want structure in a world that is often filled with vagueness and uncertainty.

Another factor that is high on the list to retain good employees is in the area of accountability and direct reports. In small businesses, like farming and ranching, direction often comes from numerous sources, which can create confusion. In some cases, there is no direct feedback, or the timing is very infrequent.

Another people skill that creates issues is in the area of training and development. In today’s agriculture and business environment, changes occur at an accelerated rate. An employee development plan should not only include business responsibilities, but also personal development opportunities. Providing these benefits to employees can improve retention.

Successful work cultures often embrace bottom-up communication, rather than top-down. Front-line employees can often identify and solve problems that are unknown to management. A culture of bottom-up communication can not only improve efficiency, but also empowers employees to take ownership of their workspace and process.

Finally, the work culture of an organization is very critical and can be fragile in today’s world of social media. Many of the successful businesses I have observed care about people, families, and personal lives. However, management has very firm expectations. These organizations are very good at demonstrating the AREs: Appreciation for a job well done; Recognition in special ways that are important to the employee; and Encouragement along the way as employees grow and develop employment and life skill sets.

Wow! That fence building exercise by the river in front of the Blue Ridge Mountains provoked many thoughts from the type of everyday person that make the world go round!

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