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Build a team of best friends

If your top employees have a best friend at work, are they likely to stay?

Think about it. If your best employees have a best friend at work, are they likely to stay?

If your employee doesn’t have any social connection to the rest of your crew, will it be easier to leave? How important is it to enjoy the people they spend most of their waking hours with?

The benefits of creating a team culture on your farm are many: Lower turnover, higher productivity, lower overall headcounts, more profits andfewer safetyincidents. If you want a simple metric to show if you are on track to building a team, then read on.

“Do you have a best friend at work?”

How would your best employees answer this question? Right now you may be inclined to quit reading because the question seems silly. What does this have to do with anything?After all you are running a farm with lots of work, nota social club.

Business and social don’t mix. Or do they?

The research organization Gallup has been asking this question of employees across every segment of our economy for over 30 years. Gallup found that employees who answered “yes” to this question were over twice as likely to be fully engaged – that is, “all in” with their work compared to those who answered no. They have found a concrete link between having a best friend at work and how much effort employees put into their work and employee turnover.

If your farm could use more employees who are “all in,” then keep reading. 

Today, many employees are looking for more than a paycheck. There are many components that make up a farm’s culture. Trust, belonging to a team, and a belonging to a larger purpose areimportant.

We spend more time at work than at home with our families. As an owner, you want to work around great people; your employees feel the same way. In absence of a trusted and liked coworker, your employees will feel unattached and isolated.

However,if they have at least one best friend at work they will have many attachments to that person, a history of working together, and history on your farm. Why is that important? It will be hard for your employee to leave your farm if they will also be severing deep friendships by leaving.

On the flip side, they also are more productive when they enjoy their work and part of enjoying work is working around people they like.

How can you begin fostering employee friendships?

  1. Ensure you have met your employee's basic needs. First, your employees must be convinced your farm can get them to their dreams. Their basic life needs must be met. They also need to be the right person for your farm and in the right spot where they can best use their talents. If you don’t have this dynamic nailed down, please stop reading and work on this today.
  2. Don’t force friendships. Rather prepare the seedbedso friendships can grow. Promote open communication and collaboration amongteam members. Allow them to problem solve their issues together instead of bringing every challenge to you. Provide time and locations for them to talk and collaborate about work. Some of the communication should be face to face and some can be virtualwith phone apps, etc. The common denominator is that the communicationhappens across the farm among employees and not top-downfrom management. Note: cross collaboration will not just happen. It takes a thoughtful approach and consistent
  3. Encourage people to get to know each other. Don’t let employees get stuck in a rut and only associate with just a few on the team. Think of new ways to make connections for your employees. This can include cross training, job shadowing and special projects. Think about ways to create as many opportunities for employees to get to know each other as possible. This can also be done with social events the farm hosts, or work anniversary parties. The possibilities for creating connections are endless.

Is there any farm in North America that would not like to have fully engaged employees coupled with low turnover?  Fostering friendships at work are best used to fine tune an already great work culture. But this fine-tuning will create connections that your employees will be loath to break by working someplace else. The tight labor market will not loosen its grip any time soon, so new tools will need to be employed. Fostering friendships at work is an important tool in your employee toolbox.

The opinions of the author are not necessarily those of Farm Futures or Farm Progress.

TAGS: Management
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