Advocate For Consistency

Innovative solutions solve common employee issues.

Lori Culler
By  Lori Culler , DTN Farm Business Adviser
Image by Jonathan Kirshner

To run a successful farm, you need your team members consistently performing at their best. Unfortunately, even your best team members can be habitually late or a little too chatty on their cell phones. Whether it’s your best mechanic that happens to be the negative one on the team or your greenhorn who’s taking a little too much sick time, there are ways to get them back on track.

Unless there are multiple issues, you don’t want to jump right to letting a good employee go for one setback. Going to that extreme could cost you the time and money of hiring and training someone new.

Here are five solutions to common employee difficulties most farms may need to tackle at some point.


Tardiness ranks as one of the most common complaints since the beginning of the employer/employee relationship. Establishing a guideline of what’s acceptable and using technology to highlight bad habits are good ways to tackle the problem. I suggest common sense guidelines on tardiness and attendance expectations.

Also, consider using a time clock system where employees can clock in at the shop or on their phones in the field. It’s easier to hold concrete discussions about tardiness if you accurately track time and can show how frequently employees are tardy.


Farm employees typically need to carry their cell phones to communicate throughout the day, but creating a cell phone use guideline in writing should help keep the team productive and off their phones. Outline when use is acceptable and the frequency which employees can to use cells phones for personal use. We’ve seen policies that simply suggest an occasional two- to three-minute personal phone call is acceptable.


Negativity breeds negativity. If you don’t address the issue, you are at risk for losing others on the team or, worse yet, pulling other employees into the negative mind-set. The first step to address negativity is to hold a constructive conversation about your observations and laying out expectations. If you don’t address the situation, your employees won’t either. Most often, negative individuals already know they struggle in that area, and half the battle is bringing it to light and setting expectations.


The best way to combat excessive sick time is to create a policy and stick to it. Clearly outline the farm’s standards and expectations. If someone isn’t keeping with the policy, identify and discuss the issue with the employee before it worsens. Find out the cause of the issue and help to resolve it. Also, try encouraging the proper use of sick time by offering incentives, such as cashing out unused sick time at retirement or the end of the year.


There are a few strategies to try depending on the situation. When you are finished with a lengthy conversation covering many topics, recap the final takeaways. Or, have the employees recap what they understood of your instructions. It helps to be mindful when stating instructions with the word “we.” It leads to confusion on who it is you’re referring to.

Technology can be our best friend when it comes to creating consistency. Text instructions on what tasks need to be done in what order. Keep the entire team in the loop through group texts about which field is next or to set expectations of tasks for the next morning.Editor’s Note: Lori Culler grew up on a vegetable and grain farm, and is founder of AgHires (,
a national employment recruiting service and online ag job board based in Temperance, Michigan. Email her at


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