Lead, Not Manage, Employees with A.R.C.

Do you want your farm to be the farm of choice, the place where employees want to work?

Jennifer Blazek, dairy and livestock educator with the University of Wisconsin Extension, said many employees become disengaged when the “boss” tries to manage employees instead of leading them. “When employees are just managed and not led, that can lead to turnover, and employee turnover is expensive,” she said. Blazek said managers and leaders have different focuses. Managers concentrate on planning, budgeting, organizing, staffing and problem-solving, whereas leaders establish direction, align people, inspire and propel into the future. Blazek said, “When looking at why some employees leave, think about what makes people tick and how to apply that to your farm.”

Three of the basic needs humans have can be remembered with the letters ARC. Blazek explains the A stands for autonomy. “People need to feel they have some power and are trusted to make decisions on their own,” she said. R stands for relatedness. She said, “People need to feel they belong to something greater than themselves. Humans are herd animals and need to feel they belong.” The C stands for competence. “Employees need to have the skills and training to feel competent in what they are doing,” she stated.

Employers cannot force people to be motivated, but they can make their employees feel like they are a part of something bigger, which can help them to be motivated. Having such things as employee handbooks, standard operating procedures, team meetings and good feedback is important, but Blazek said it can also be very helpful for a farm to have a mission, vision, and value statements. Mission statements communicate to employees a “greater purpose” or the all-important “why” behind what they do. It also sets the expectations of the culture of the farm and the job itself to employees, ensuring managers set their employees up for success from the moment they start, she said.

“Younger employees-millennials-generally want to feel like there is a purpose to what they are doing, like they are working toward a greater good,” Blazek said. “Having a mission and vision statement can help that happen.” She added that having a mission and vision statement can also help to ensure your employees’ passions are aligned with your own. She said it creates a foundation for communicating with employees. For example, when an employee is not following standard operating procedures, and employer can point out the employee’s actions are not following the mission statement and give him or her the choice to follow the SOPs or leave. “This gives the power to the employee to choose how they would like to handle the situation.”

Written value statements may also be helpful. For example, do you have cutting-edge technology, or are the old ways of doing things more important to you? Is it more important to maximize profits right now or stick to practices that will ensure long-term economic and environmental sustainability? Talking about your values with your employees can be insightful, and it can help build the employee/employer relationship to be flexible enough to consider incorporating their values into yours. “While the culture of the farm is primarily influenced by the owners and managers, employees contribute as well. Each farm is its own stew pot of culture as the people who work there share their own values,” she said.

It is important for employers to share with their employees why they started farming and what the farm means to them and their family. “It can be helpful for employees to know what you and they are doing is not just about money.” Although family members who are employees may very well know the reasons for why they farm, communication is even more important in those situations. “When where you live and where you work are the same, it’s easy to have blurred lines,” Blazek said. “When it comes to family and business, it’s important to try to keep the tow as separate as possible. Formalizing conversations about the business, such as having agendas for meetings and not having meetings around the kitchen table, can help to keep family baggage from seeping into the business.”

Source: Kelly Boylen, progressivedairy.com

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