Business owners, both on farms and across all industries, want to capture higher profit margins. They want teams to produce at a higher level with less turnover and more individuals thinking versus just doing their work.
The secret recipe to achieving these results is two simple words: employee engagement. It's not just a fluff term someone in human resources made up; there are staggering statistics on the benefits of engaged versus disengaged employees.
Your employees can be put into one of three buckets: engaged, not engaged and actively disengaged.
Engaged employees are emotionally committed to the organization and its goals. In short, they care about their work, and they want to do well and help the organization succeed. These individuals go the extra mile, share the passion of the company and look for more ways to contribute than just performing their assigned roles. Engaged employees ensure they are focused on landowners and how they would want things handled in the field. They offer up new ideas, stay extra time to do the job right and help in other areas. According to Gallup, one of the leading trackers of employee engagement, roughly a third of employees (32%) are actively engaged.
Employees who are not engaged are not emotionally connected, simply putting in time running through tasks but not going the extra mile. A disengaged employee notices a flat tire on the tractor but proceeds to head to the next field as if it were fine. Or, the employee has been hearing a funny noise in the truck, but since it is still running, the employee doesn't bother to tell the mechanic; then, in the heat of harvest, the truck breaks down.
These employees are not as energetic, not willing to put in the extra effort and certainly not adding additional value to the team. Interestingly, about half of employees (51%) fall into this sleep-walking mode of production.
The last category is the most disturbing: Actively disengaged employees are not focused on doing a good job but also act out on their lack of satisfaction and disappointment in the company. These are your gossipers, your naysayers, those who have the rebuttal and bring the rest of the team down. We've all had some employees on the farm who could do the job, but their attitude damages their production and the production of others around them. This group represents about one of five employees (17%) in a company.
Many people confuse employee engagement and employee satisfaction, assuming the aim should be making everyone happy in their roles and getting along outside of work. However, engagement comes from building a culture of success, where employees can bring up ideas, be part of solutions and share pride along with owners on the accomplishments of the team.
First, business owners need to identify where their current employees fall. The goal is to get the disengaged employees moved up to the engaged status, where their productivity hopefully increases.
At the same time, identifying the actively disengaged individuals and placing them on a performance-improvement plan with clear expectations is crucial. If that doesn't work, recruit new individuals to replace them. Some business owners spend too much time on the bottom performers who are not going to be a long-term fit versus spending time on the top, engaged performers most likely to influence the bottom line the most.
If you are looking to take a deep dive into this area, there are companies that provide engagement survey questions to ask employees and even take it a step further by offering management training. If you have a smaller group of employees and are looking to gain insight from your current staff, holding one-on-one conversations with each employee is a great way to get feedback and gain a sense of each one's engagement to the business.
With engaged employees producing more than 20% more than less-engaged employees, and companies receiving revenues 2.5 times more than those that have poor engagement cultures, it's surprising that fewer than one in four companies has an engagement strategy. Focusing on your culture and your current team is critical to the success of your farm.
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