Productive farms must work together as a team. Each employee plays a role on the team, whether it's to operate heavy equipment or manage finances from behind a desk. The team should be built on a solid foundation of communication, trust and accountability. The question is: How can a group of employees create and sustain this type of bond?
When there doesn't seem to be enough hours in the day to run the business, troubleshoot challenges, and keep staff abreast on policies, rest assured that there are tools available to help.
Technology changes with the seasons, making it a challenge to stay current. While it takes time and energy to utilize the newest resources, it ultimately improves efficiency and communication among the staff. Imagine having a snapshot of productivity at the end of each day. Everyone would be on the same page, ready to hit the ground running the next morning.
Research shows that effective team communication generates highly engaged employees which improves retention and productivity, leading to quantifiable financial returns.
STEPS TO IMPROVING COMMUNICATION
1. Create and follow a formal communication process. As the farm grows, creating protocol for planting/harvest updates and to plan changes are vital to streamlining operations. The danger in not having a formal process is that employees will communicate at random or use various mediums leading to dropped communication or miscommunication.
2. Choose one main communication channel for daily correspondence. It can be cumbersome to check text messages, emails, and the intranet for updates, particularly in the farming industry when most employees are mobile. Use one main method to communicate.
3. Keep material relevant. Messages should be short, simple, provide clear direction, and ask for a response if one is needed.
USING TECHNOLOGY TO YOUR ADVANTAGE
Clear and real-time communication is what will keep a team productive. Regardless the size of the team, there are technological solutions available, from team messaging to field tracking devices. How often has a phone call come in while the operator is driving a piece of equipment? There is no pen, and it's dangerous to stop and take notes.
Here are some ways to help:
1. Tetra (https://asktetra.com) is a program that will take notes during a phone conversation so the listener can focus on what is being said. This tool will turn the phone conversation into text documents immediately after the phone call is over. Notes can then be shared with team members.
2. Wrike (https://www.wrike.com/…) and Basecamp (https://basecamp.com) are both useful project management programs. With multiple employees working on a project, files must be shared and tasks must be assigned. These programs allow those involved to check on progress, create to-do lists and documents, even message back and forth.
3. GroupMe (https://groupme.com/…) is a free app which allows users to have a private chat room for different groups. Consider a text when a large storm is moving in and the planters need direction. A GroupMe text may be the easiest solution when a cattle manager is looking for someone to work late on evening.
4. Harvest (https://www.getharvest.com) and Tick (https://www.tickspot.com) are time-tracking apps where you can track how your team is doing by tracking their hours and deciding who is overworked and who can take on more tasks. You can also track their hours by project and see how much time is being spent on each acre.
There are several options for your company to stay updated on technological advancements without falling behind in the field. For example, take an online training course or hire an intern. Every small step in the right direction will yield better results.
Are you unsure about adding more technology to your operation? Stick to the tried-and-true team building activities that organization were first built on. Don't let obstacles, such as time restraints, get in the way.
While opportunities to host weekend retreats or after-hour events may be limited, make it a priority to fit team-building activities in a regular workday. They can also help employees work better as a team instead of individually and help them adapt to change or simply boost morale.
(Note: The software mentioned in this article are not endorsed by AgHires)
Editor's note: Lori Culler grew up on a vegetable and grain farm and is the founder of AgHires (https://aghires.com/…), a national employment recruiting service and online ag job board based in Temperance, Michigan. Email firstname.lastname@example.org and find other labor management tips under Resources at www.dtnpf.com.
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