Ag Retailers: Gauging The Work/Life Balance

After some internal brainstorming at Ag1Source and discussions with CropLife Editor Eric Sfiligoj, we decided that a basic survey to get real world comments and results from sales agronomists within retail organizations could be a great resource for employee retention strategies in the next crop year. We wanted to understand the thoughts and opinions of retail agronomy employees after the spring rush was immediately done and all emotions were in clear focus. The intent was to ask questions about spring stress, their thoughts on how their employers treated them and their desire to change jobs or employers.

In June, Ag1Source put our recruiters on the phone and completed 238 surveys with sales agronomist respondents. Our pool of respondents was spread across 38 states.

This article — as well as two upcoming articles in CropLife — will dissect the results and bring a focus on salespeople and how people in that position feel about their manager, their responsibilities, how the organization takes care of them and whether they want to stay in that role at all.

We’ll focus on work/life balance and overall attitude coming out of spring. We first asked the respondents how this year compared to previous years. With the early start to spring and the calm weather most experienced, we expected the quality of life to be a bit higher. This was actually the case, with 60.9% of the respondents finding this spring more tolerable than prior years.

Our next question asked them how their employer could have improved working conditions (hours, activities, expectations, etc.) this spring. Many answers to this question mentioned there probably wasn’t much that could be done because it’s the nature of the business. However, another very common answer was “hire more people to spread the load” or “bring on more seasonal help” and lastly “as margins allow hire more help.”

Outside of additional people or seasonal help, a few answers truly pointed to the employees just wanting to be recognized for their hard work or being provided tools to succeed. Some examples given were “buy outdoor uniforms, I’m tired of ruining my clothes.” Another respondent recommended bringing in food for supper on a long day for the crew. A last response — given many times over — was “treat their people as if they are appreciated!”

A final group of responses to handling the long hours were around tactical management issues. For instance, one respondent wanted his retail organization to split sales and operations so they both could be more effective. In some cases, it was noted that inventory was either out of position or short and it hampered the employees’ ability to be efficient. The final tactical management comment was to have the location managers be strong on agronomy technical knowledge so they could answer the questions instead of relying on the salesperson to get back to the customer, thus slowing down the entire decision process.

Finding Patterns

When we stepped back and looked at the data as a whole set, a clear pattern was revealed. Across multiple questions, we started to see three distinct populations of respondents appearing. The first group is clearly very satisfied with their company, the role they’re in and how the company handles the demands of spring. This group is also promoting their company and furthering the “employee brand” we talked about in a previous article. Statistically, this group comprises about 20% of the sales agronomists we spoke with.

The second group of respondents comprised 45% of the population and this group was neither satisfied nor unsatisfied with spring. While they may not be out actively hunting for a different job, they are tired and looking for solutions and wouldn’t ignore a good opportunity if one presented itself. This group is ripe for management to be asking questions of them about how we could do next spring better or how our processes could be streamlined. They need to feel appreciated, feel like things are moving in the right direction and believe that there is opportunity with their current employer.

You don’t want employees in this group to leave your organization because they feel the “grass is greener” with another organization, when in fact, it likely isn’t. You just missed the opportunity to explain that to them!

The last group of respondents is the portion we wanted to ferret out from the beginning of the survey brainstorming. How upset and irritated are the employees that will seek out change? Fully 35% of our respondents were negative, wanting to change jobs and, in many cases, wanting out of retail. We as recruiters talk to many of these people and we’ve noticed a trend that is not too surprising. In June, when nerves are frayed and people are tired, negativity goes up because work becomes a grind with little or no recognition from management. Whether it be the workload or the desire to be with family, many of these individuals will seek other employment.

Reaching Out

Many managers unfortunately assume that a disgruntled post-spring employee needs to leave. We would advise looking at these three groups of employees and communicating with each group using a different message. For your positive or “brand building” employees, cheer them on and ask what other tools they need to keep on making a difference. For the 45% group of neither happy or unhappy, coach them through a thinking process for how they can change their behaviors and prepare for next spring to make it easier for the team.

Lastly, for the 35% you identify as negative about the entire experience, a more thorough conversation may need to be had. You need to “head them off at the pass” and meet with them before they have time to act on seasonal feelings. Perhaps they have ideas that would resolve their concerns and give them reason to stay. Perhaps the show of concern from a manager is the shift in attitude they need. Give them ownership in how your team operates in the spring. Have them be part of a team to review spring and create solutions (for example hiring more isn’t a solution — the solution is how we improve financially so we can hire seasonal help).

The ag industry does a great job training top sales people to recognize complaint and customer concerns as potential opportunities. An agronomy department manager can increase their success and employee retention by using that same approach. The complaints and concerns of spring can be your best opportunity to retain your employees and find the future leaders of your organization — you just need to leverage that opportunity and have those conversations.

Leave a Reply

Employees Stories

Allen Summers Asmark Institute PSM Training
EmployeesAsmark Institute Sponsors 25 ResponsibleAg Auditor Training Scholarships
June 21, 2016
The Asmark Institute has announced plans to provide 25 scholarships through their affiliated State fertilizer and agrichemical associations to help encourage Read More
EmployeesASMARK 2016 Retailers Live! Tour: 10 Things We Learned
May 10, 2016
In the Midwestern ag retail world, the last week of April and the first two weeks of May are akin Read More
Purdue Online Course Screenshot
EmployeesPurdue Center Offers Online Course For Ag Sales Professionals
March 16, 2016
A new online course from Purdue University’s Center for Food and Agricultural Business will help sales managers and advanced salespeople Read More
Agronomist and farmer on iPad inspecting weeds
EmployeesLand O’Lakes: Ag Industry Failing To Attract Next Generation
March 15, 2016
The world’s demand for food will surge by 2050, with a projected 10 billion people requiring a 70% increase in Read More
Trending Articles
Food IT
Industry NewsCalifornia Event Will Mix Ag And Tech Professionals To Explore IT Solutions
June 20, 2016
Silicon Valley is hot on agriculture, and an upcoming event in California will bring together the food and tech industries Read More
Monsanto Luling Plant
Eric SfiligojWhat’s Next For Monsanto?
May 31, 2016
For the folks at Monsanto’s headquarters in St. Louis, MO, it has been an eventful few weeks. Back on May Read More
Soybean Plant closeup
Industry NewsMonsanto Rejects Bayer Bid; Open To More Talks
May 25, 2016
Monsanto Co, the world’s largest seed company, turned down Bayer AG’s $62 billion acquisition bid as “incomplete and financially inadequate” Read More
Eric SfiligojPity The Monsanto Haters
May 23, 2016
An old saying goes thus: “Be careful what you wish for. You just might get it.” Given current events, there Read More
Monsanto Luling Plant
Crop InputsReport: Bayer Eyeing Monsanto For Possible Mega-Merger
May 16, 2016
Bayer AG is exploring a potential bid for U.S. competitor Monsanto Co. in a deal that would create the world’s Read More
Aerial Drone
Precision AgA Deeper Dive Into The Future Of Precision Ag
May 9, 2016
For about two decades now, through the good and the bad times, the ups and the downs inherent in agriculture, Read More
Latest News
Valent David Nothmann
Crop InputsValent Names David Nothmann Vice President Of Marketing
June 27, 2016
Valent U.S.A. Corp. has announced the appointment of David Nothmann as vice president of marketing. Nothmann will be responsible for Read More
The Andersons Waterloo
ManagementFirst Indiana Facility Certified Under 4R Nutrient Stew…
June 27, 2016
The 4R Nutrient Stewardship Certification Program has announced that The Andersons, Inc.’s Waterloo, IN, facility has been added to its Read More
CropLife 100BRANDT Contributes To Mayo Clinic
June 27, 2016
BRANDT, a leading agriculture retailer and manufacturer of specialty agriculture products, has pledged a sizable donation to the Mayo Clinic Read More
ManagementReport: U.S. Farmland Values On Average Continue Gradua…
June 27, 2016
Land price movement has been in the forefront for farmers, landowners, lenders and land brokers for a decade now during Read More
AdjuvantsPrecision Laboratories Introduces Intact Xtra For Use W…
June 27, 2016
Precision Laboratories announces the launch of Intact Xtra, an adjuvant designed for applicators who want to maximize spray applications and Read More
Key Cooperative’s new liquid fertilizer, crop chemical, and seed facility in Grinnell, IA stores 1.5 million gallons of liquid fertilizer and 120,000 gallons of crop chemicals.
Retail FacilitiesKey Cooperative Facility Features The Latest In Murray …
June 27, 2016
When Key Cooperative wanted to improve the overall efficiency at its new state-of-the-art facility in Grinnell, IA, it turned to Read More
Allen Summers Asmark Institute PSM Training
EmployeesAsmark Institute Sponsors 25 ResponsibleAg Auditor Trai…
June 21, 2016
The Asmark Institute has announced plans to provide 25 scholarships through their affiliated State fertilizer and agrichemical associations to help encourage Read More
Kennebec Elevator
CropLife 100Wheat Growers Celebrates Kennebec Elevator Grand Openin…
June 21, 2016
Over 250 patrons and guests were on hand to celebrate Wheat Growers’ Kennebec Elevator grand opening. South Dakota Secretary of Read More
Land O Lakes
Industry NewsLand O’Lakes To Acquire Ceres
June 20, 2016
Land O’ Lakes, Inc. and Ceres, Inc. have announced that they have signed a definitive merger agreement under which Land O’Lakes Read More
Food IT
Industry NewsCalifornia Event Will Mix Ag And Tech Professionals To …
June 20, 2016
Silicon Valley is hot on agriculture, and an upcoming event in California will bring together the food and tech industries Read More
LegislationVilsack Christens WinField Crop Adventure, Talks Monsan…
June 17, 2016
The WinField Crop Adventure grand opening ceremonies at Fair Oaks Farms (near Winemac, IN) welcomed USDA Secretary of Agriculture Tom Read More
Crop InputsFields of the Future: WinField Doubles Down with Agri-E…
June 16, 2016
Land O’Lakes, Inc., joined by Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack, today will host Fields of the Future, a live broadcast about Read More
Bayer sign
Crop InputsMonsanto Turns Back Bayer Again
June 14, 2016
Bayer AG’s bid to buy Monsanto Co. for more than $60 billion has hit an impasse that could pose a Read More
Young Corn Field
Crop NutritionNext Generation Of Nitrogen Efficiency Technology Conve…
June 13, 2016
Commodity price projections indicate farmers will continue to face tight margins again this year. Delivering higher yields and more bushels Read More
Industry NewsLa Crosse Seed Acquires Cover Crop Solutions Brand
June 10, 2016
La Crosse Seed announces that it is the new and exclusive owner of the entire family of brands of Cover Read More
ManagementTravel Plans and EU Rejection of Glyphosate, Biotech Cr…
June 9, 2016
Editors Paul Schrimpf and Eric Sfiligoj talk about upcoming trips and the latest in the European Union’s moves against glyphosate Read More
Aspire with Boron
Crop InputsStudy: Aspire with Boron Ups Alfalfa Yields
June 8, 2016
Alfalfa growers are successfully improving yields through the cutting season by applying an important micronutrient. In a recent study, The Read More