Productive farms must work as a team. Each employee plays a role on the team, whether he or she operates heavy equipment or manages 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 don’t seem to be enough hours in the day to run the business, troubleshoot challenges and keep staff abreast of policies, rest assured there are tools available to help.
Technology changes with the season, making it a challenge to stay current. While it takes time and energy to utilize the newest resources, doing so 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 effective team communication generates highly engaged employees, which improves retention and productivity, leading to quantifiable financial returns.
STEPS TO IMPROVEMENT. Create and follow a formal communication process. As the farm grows, creating a protocol for planting/harvest updates and plan changes are vital to streamlining operations. The danger in not having a formal process is that employees will communicate at random or using various mediums that could lead to dropped communication or miscommunication.
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.
Keep material relevant. Messages should be short and simple, and provide clear direction. Ask for a response if one is needed.
TECH TO YOUR ADVANTAGE. Clear and real-time communication is what will keep a team productive. Regardless of team size, there are technological solutions available, including team messaging and field tracking devices. Avoid phone calls coming in while the operator is driving a piece of equipment and has no access to a pen. It’s dangerous to stop and take notes.
> TETRA (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 operation team members.
> WRIKE (wrike.com)and BASECAMP (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, and even message back and forth.
> GROUPME (groupme.com) is a free app that allows users to have a private chat room for different groups. Consider a text when a large storm is moving in, and planters need direction. A GroupMe text may be the easiest solution when a cattle manager is looking for someone to work late one evening.
> HARVEST (www.getharvest.com) and TICK (www.tickspot.com) are time-tracking apps that allow users to track how teams are doing by tracking hours and deciding who is overworked and who can take on more tasks. Users can also track hours by project and see how much time is being spent on each acre.
ADDITIONAL STEPS. 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 tried-and-true team-building activities on which the organization was first built. Don’t let obstacles, such as time restraints, get in the way.
While opportunities to hold weekend retreats or after-hours events may be limited, make it a priority to fit team-building activities into a regular workday. They can help employees work better as a team, help them adapt to change or simply boost morale.
The software mentioned in this article is not endorsed by AgHires.
EDITOR’S NOTE: Lori Culler grew up on a vegetable and grain farm, and is founder of AgHires (aghires.com), a national employment recruiting service and online ag job board based in Temperance, Michigan. Email her at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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