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

Guy being interviewed
EmployeesThe Importance Of Understanding Employee Behavior
March 1, 2017
People-related issues can tear at the fabric of a company. They chip away at even the most solid foundation built on Read More
Employee Interview
Employees1 Simple Step To Hiring And Retention In Ag Retail
February 2, 2017
There are three significant trends pertaining to the ag industry workforce which merit consideration: A growing shortage of qualified workers, Read More
AgHires.com
EmployeesAgHires Launches Redesigned Job Board, Recruiting Platform
November 8, 2016
In an effort to better serve job seekers and employers in and around agriculture, AgHires has launched its new redesigned job Read More
EmployeesOABA Program Develops Future Generation Of Agribusiness Leaders
September 29, 2016
The Ohio AgriBusiness Association will select up to 25 promising leaders to participate in a leadership enhancement program early next Read More
Trending Articles
Migrant farm workers
LegislationTrump: Immigration Crackdown Won’t Impact U.S. Agriculture
May 16, 2017
President Donald Trump said he would seek to keep his tough immigration enforcement policies from harming the U.S. farm industry Read More
AGCO Ratliff featured
Eric SfiligojRemembering Robert Ratliff
May 15, 2017
With all the fast-paced happenings in agriculture this spring, with multiple mergers in the works and planting season in full Read More
Case sprayer nozzle closeup
EquipmentSpray Application: A Nozzle Renaissance
May 2, 2017
If you had asked four-decade ag veteran Mark Bartel, President of Wilger Inc., just a few years ago what lay Read More
ManagementWashington Update, Dow-DuPont Earnings, and the Passing of an AGCO Legend
April 27, 2017
Editors Paul Schrimpf and Eric Sfiligoj talk about the latest Beltway news, crop protection company 1st quarter numbers, and the Read More
Crop InputsFlying Under the Radar No More, FMC Goes Big
April 13, 2017
Describing FMC as “under the radar,” admittedly, is probably a stretch. But in a snap of the fingers, FMC upped Read More
Young Corn Plants
Crop NutritionStill Hunting Yields
April 1, 2017
There’s no denying it — the agricultural marketplace today is undergoing a fundamental shift in fortunes. Not too many years Read More
Latest News
ManagementTrip Report, PSM R.I.P, and Ag’s Reaction to Federal Bu…
May 25, 2017
Editors Paul Schrimpf and Eric Sfiligoj talk about their recent travels, the end for Process Safety Management (PSM), and how Read More
Corn soil
LegislationARA Member Testifies Before Senate Ag Committee
May 25, 2017
Agricultural retailers stand on the front-lines of the American economy. As trusted advisors to America’s farmers, ag retailers are uniquely Read More
Young corn plants in soil
Crop InputsFortenza Insecticide Seed Treatment Receives EPA Regist…
May 25, 2017
Fortenza seed treatment insecticide from Syngenta has received registration approval from the U.S. EPA for use on corn and cotton Read More
ManagementFarm Market iD’s Agriculture Database Now Covers More T…
May 25, 2017
Farm Market iD, farmmarketid.com, has announced the release of its 2017 Annual Update of its farm and land database. The Read More
Food IT Fork-to-Farm
Precision AgThe Mixing Bowl Event Connects Technology, Food, and Ag…
May 24, 2017
For the fourth consecutive year, The Mixing Bowl presents FOOD IT, under the theme “Fork to Farm.” Action-oriented entrepreneurs, industry Read More
Photo credit: The United Soybean Board/The Soybean Checkoff.
Seed/BiotechKansas State University Researchers Find New Pathogens …
May 24, 2017
A single seed seems so simple. Put it in the ground, give it some care, and you’ve soon grown food. Read More
Soybean Field
HerbicidesNew Dicamba Herbicide Premix Coming Soon from Syngenta
May 24, 2017
Syngenta has announced the name of its new herbicide featuring the active ingredients of S-metolachlor and dicamba. Upon registration by Read More
Eric SfiligojMonsanto ‘Picks Its Battles’ by Nixing Deere Deal
May 23, 2017
Having been in the trade journalism game since the mid-1980s, I remember several watershed moments during my career. One of Read More
FungicidesSyngenta Launches New Seed Treatment Fungicide
May 22, 2017
Syngenta has announced the launch of PLENARIS seed treatment fungicide for the control of downy mildew in sunflower. PLENARIS contains Read More
Corn close up
Crop InputsMonsanto’s First HPPD Herbicide Garners EPA Appro…
May 19, 2017
Monsanto announced today that EPA has federally approved Harness MAX Herbicide, the first herbicide in the Monsanto portfolio to provide Read More
ManagementPrecision Planting Deal, China Developments, and Enviro…
May 18, 2017
Editors Eric Sfiligoj and Dan Jacobs discuss the latest news on John Deere’s now dead deal for Precision Planting, China’s Read More
Soybean aphid leaf
InsecticidesMulti-state Research Reveals IPM Best Option for Treatm…
May 17, 2017
About 89.5 million acres of soybeans will be planted across the U.S. in 2017 — a record high, according to Read More
GROWMARK-2017-Interns
CropLife 100GROWMARK Names 2017 Summer Interns
May 16, 2017
Forty-two college students are exploring agricultural career opportunities this summer as GROWMARK interns. They are working at FS member cooperatives Read More
Migrant farm workers
LegislationTrump: Immigration Crackdown Won’t Impact U.S. Ag…
May 16, 2017
President Donald Trump said he would seek to keep his tough immigration enforcement policies from harming the U.S. farm industry Read More
Flooded corn in Indiana
FertilizerBoth Wet and Dry Conditions Threaten Nitrogen Loss
May 15, 2017
The weather is notoriously unpredictable, leading to challenges for planting, harvesting and applying the nitrogen (N) your corn crop needs. Read More
farmer Kip Tom
Precision AgAg Tech: On the Cusp of Something Big?
May 15, 2017
The investment and ag-tech sectors’ continuing courtship of agriculture, smoldering for three or four years now, was well in evidence at Read More
AGCO Ratliff featured
Eric SfiligojRemembering Robert Ratliff
May 15, 2017
With all the fast-paced happenings in agriculture this spring, with multiple mergers in the works and planting season in full Read More
Greg Musson, Gar Tootelian
ManagementOpinion: Shaking Your Perspective in Ag Retail
May 12, 2017
Some of you I’m sure have encountered our recently retired salesman extraordinaire, Dan Bellanger. He worked in the industry for Read More