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
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
Nutrients for Life Foundation Teacher
FertilizerNutrients For Life Foundation Celebrates 10 Years Teaching Fertilizer Education
March 23, 2017
Those in agriculture know fertilizer is a vital ingredient to grow strong, productive crops. In fact, fertilizer is responsible for Read More
AdjuvantsA New Weed-Control Era Begins: But First, One Last Obstacle
March 4, 2017
There is trepidation, there is reluctance, and there is excitement. Ag retailers feel it all about the new dicamba and Read More
LIFT Academy video screenshot
Crop InputsLIFT Agriculture Academy: A Q&A With West Central Distribution’s Dean Hendrickson
March 1, 2017
West Central Distribution recently launched its LIFT Agriculture Academy, a new, premiere training and professional development resource for West Central’s ag Read More
Farmer and aptop
Matt Hopkins10 Warning Signs Your Website Is Grossly Outdated
February 8, 2017
Your Website is often a visitor’s first impression of your ag retail business. A positive first impression can set the Read More
Latest News
AGCO Ratliff featured
EquipmentAGCO Mourns Passing of Company Founder, Industry Vision…
April 25, 2017
AGCO Corp., a worldwide manufacturer and distributor of agricultural equipment and solutions, mourns the passing of founder and former President, Read More
Engenia soybeans
Crop InputsINNVICTIS CROP CARE Introduces VANDAL MOC Soybean Herbi…
April 25, 2017
INNVICTIS CROP CARE, LLC has announced the U.S. EPA registration for VANDAL MOC, a combination of sulfentrazone plus metolachlor. VANDAL Read More
Kochia
HerbicidesINNVICTIS CROP CARE Launches STAVE Post-Emerge Broadlea…
April 25, 2017
INNVICTIS CROP CARE, LLC has introduced STAVE as the newest addition to­ its expanding portfolio. STAVE will be a great Read More
Sonny Perdue
LegislationSonny Perdue Confirmed by Senate as Next Agriculture Se…
April 25, 2017
After months without a secretary of agriculture, the Senate voted Monday evening to confirm former Georgia Gov. Sonny Perdue to Read More
BPIA logo
Seed/BiotechBPIA Files Comments with USDA
April 24, 2017
The Biological Products Industry Alliance (BPIA) has filed comments with the USDA’s Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service (APHIS) Plant Read More
Eric SfiligojHope for Application Equipment Sales
April 24, 2017
The old saying goes that a “rising tide lifts all boats.” If this is indeed the case, then things may Read More
Stewardship video screenshot
ManagementNew Video Raises Awareness of 2,4-D Stewardship
April 24, 2017
A new public service video developed and produced by the 2,4-D Research Task Force, in conjunction with the American Soybean Read More
ManagementAn Inside Look at Award Winning Ag Retailer Gar Tooteli…
April 20, 2017
CropLife Editor Eric Sfiligoj discusses An Inside Look at Award Winning Ag Retailer Gar Tootelian Read More
Students Soybean Field
Industry NewsMACA Announces 2017 Young Leader Scholarship Recipients
April 19, 2017
The Mid America CropLife Association (MACA) Board of Directors selected 11 college students to receive the MACA Young Leader Scholarship Read More
Growmark FS Outlet
SoftwareKnoa Software Solution Helps GROWMARK Boost System Perf…
April 19, 2017
Knoa Software, a leading provider of user experience management (UEM) software, has announced that GROWMARK, Inc., a regional agricultural cooperative Read More
Crop InputsFBN Publishes ‘Voice of the Farmer’ Agricul…
April 17, 2017
Farmer’s Business Network (FBN) released today its “The Voice of the Farmer”, which the company is describing as “a special Read More
ManagementTalking Responsible Ag
April 13, 2017
CropLife Editor Eric Sfiligoj discusses the Responsible Ag program with director Bill Qualls. 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
Crop InputsWhat do Roundup and Mickey Mouse Have in Common? Califo…
April 13, 2017
(SOURCE: East Valley Times) Glyphosate, the active ingredient in Monsanto Co.’s Roundup and many other weed killers, is being added Read More
Syngenta headquarters in Basel, Switzerland
Crop InputsSource: ChemChina to Divest Assets to Adama Following S…
April 11, 2017
China National Chemical Corp. plans to redistribute agrochemical assets to its Adama unit after the $43 billion takeover of Syngenta Read More
Farming drone air
Eric SfiligojThe Interest in UAVs for Agriculture Grows
April 10, 2017
At times, it seems as if experts have been predicting “big things” for unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs) for several years Read More
OpinionOpinion: Taking On The Farmers Business Network
April 8, 2017
Well, another round of venture capital funding has come to Farmers Business Network (FBN), followed up with the obligatory feature Read More
Drone
EquipmentFarming Drones: The Future Of Agriculture?
April 7, 2017
Chances are, you already know drones are amazing. After all, this is something DroneLife readers just understand. But if you’re Read More