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How family farms can improve staff morale to help boost the bottom line

Many family farms have now expanded to become businesses with several employed staff, so it is vital farmers are able to manage and motivate larger teams of people.

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How family farms can improve staff morale to help boost the bottom line

Speaking at an AHDB meeting held on a Leicestershire farm, Saviour Associates director Heather Wildman said: “Farming is not easy, let us not kid ourselves. But what job is? An ambulance driver, firefighter, NHS nurses? How many happy farmers do you see?”

 

She said motivation had to start with those at the top of the management ladder. If the boss was motivated and set a good example, this would work to motivate their employees.

 

She said: “Ask yourself, ‘would you work for you’? In places where there is a good energy and people love what they are doing, it is contagious. Other people want to work there too and feel part of the business.”

 

Research showed there was evidence it cost double the salary to replace an individual who had left the business. Ms Wildman said it was worth looking after staff well and making sure the right ones were employed in the first place.

 

This double salary figure included the cost of covering the work of the absent person when the team was short-staffed, advertising costs, interviews and the time and money spent to train a new individual.

 

She said farmers often paid little attention to the cost of the loss of knowledge and experience when an individual left the business.

 

Additionally, the non-monetary cost of stress and strain on the rest of the team, including the family, was also often overlooked.

 

“We are changing as bosses. Some people are leaving school without some of the basic core value skills and sometimes as a boss it is our role to teach them how to wash, how to eat and the importance of turning up on time.


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“People think they should not have to do that but actually you are a mentor and a role model and you should be inspiring them.”

 

Ms Wildman said it was important to give credit where it was due, to praise people and encourage growth.

 

She said: “People do fly and grow and leave the nest. If that is for the right reasons it is a great credit to you. Wouldn’t it be wonderful if your legacy was enabling a whole new generation of farmers going forwards?”

 

She said simply saying thank you and well done cost nothing but meant so much to people.

 

“Sometimes you may feel like a councillor to your staff but a lot of people have a lot of crazy things going on in their lives. Some people come to work to get away from that.

 

“For some people, work is their family and for others work is just work and you have to accept that too.”

 

It was also important to be flexible and allow time off for yourself as well as staff, and to take into consideration the hours people are working.

 

“Great bosses value people over money. In farming we kill people; incidents happen all the time because we are tired and cutting corners, which is not good enough. Taking time off and being refreshed is so important.

 

“We have this mentality that if we are not working 10-12 hours a day we are lazy. It is not sustainable; people are cracking. Where is the manual which says to be a farmer you have to be tired all the time?

 

If staff and management are rested they are ready to work harder and are more efficiently,” she said.

 

Farmers on the whole do not have to commute to work, which Ms Wildman said can sometimes be a luxury. However, it also meant any frustration or anger was often taken home with them which impacted on family life.

ADVICE: Heather Wildman
ADVICE: Heather Wildman

She said: “I encourage all my managers and owners to finish their jobs half an hour earlier and sit down at their desk, review what has gone well. Leave their phone in the office, go home and start fresh the next day.”

 

Not everyone was driven by money, so it may help with motivation to offer flexible benefits. For example, some staff may see more value in an earlier start or finish time to allow them to be with their family or to help their partner at home.

 

"It was important to take note and pay an interest in their home life too,” she said.

 

In 2012, Ms Wildman completed a Nuffield Scholarship looking at communication and how to motivate and influence change. She visited businesses around the world looking at how some were successful and succeeded while others did not.

 

“The successful businesses all had a vision and a goal, they all knew where they were and where they wanted to go.

 

“A dream or a goal kept in your head is just a fantasy. But a goal written down is 80 per cent more likely to happen, which is pretty good odds.”

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