Developing Your Harvest Team – Peter Coyne, Vita Plus
Click here to download Coyne’s PowerPoint Presentation.
As rural populations decrease, farms and harvesting crews will have to be competitive to attract new employees to their teams.
Workforce demographics are rapidly changing, explained Peter Coyne, Vita Plus dairy service specialist, during his presentation at the recent Vita Plus Custom Harvester Meeting. He said more “help wanted” signs are posted now than 1980 and the unemployment rate continues to decrease. Every day in the U.S., 10,000 people turn 65 and exit the workforce, but the same number of people turn 21 every day. That means 10,000 jobs are in transition between someone with years of experience and someone who is brand new.
Coyne said both culture and engagement are key to retain quality employees. He defined culture as “who we are and how things get done around here.” Engagement is “how people feel about how things get done around here.”
Managers need to continually communicate and demonstrate the business culture to team members. Employees are more effective when they clearly understand the team’s purpose and strategy for achieving goals. For example, a harvesting crew may have a culture of “working hard and getting the job done, but we will make sure we don’t work on Sundays.”
Coyne said culture is shaped by leaders, but sustained by employee behaviors. That’s what makes employee engagement so vital. Research shows the employee turnover rate at businesses with high employee engagement is 40 percent lower than it is at businesses with low engagement scores. The profitability of businesses that rate in the top quarter of engagement scores is twice that of businesses in the bottom quarter. Revenue growth is 2.5 times greater.
According to Gallup, an employee has two primary needs:
- I know what’s expected of me at work
- I have the tools and materials needed to do my job
Meeting those needs is the job of the manager. He or she must work closely with employees to clearly define job roles and ensure they have the necessary tools to succeed. For example, it’s hard for an employee to sanitize the inoculant applicator if he or she doesn’t know where the bleach is stored.
Next, employees want to know they and their contributions are valued. They want the opportunity to do their best every day, to be recognized for good work, and to feel their employer cares about them. Employees are more likely to be engaged in the business if they feel their opinions count, their job is important, and they have a friend at work.
Coyne said training goes a long way in developing engagement. Managers should provide instruction, demonstration, opportunities to practice and feedback. These steps should be repeated regularly as responsibilities and roles evolve.
Although every team and manager is different, great bosses share some common attributes, according to Coyne. He said great bosses:
- Provide opportunities for growth
- Provide exposure to senior members of the team
- Make connections and open doors
- Develop skills and fix flaws by working side-by-side with employees
- Inspire, raise the bar and demand excellence
- Go beyond the job by offering career advice and guidance
This kind of attentive management isn’t just nice, it’s a must if a business is going to recruit and retain quality employees for future success.
Coyne said, “You will have to become a leader in management of people in order to get people to come work for you.”