Hanging On To Talent

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EmployeesIt is a cliché, but also very true: A crop inputs business is only as good its team of employees. And having a great team means hiring great employees — and then keeping them dedicated and productive. We know that some turnover is a given; indeed, you periodically want some new faces and the energy they bring. But many managers know too well the sickening feeling that comes when a valued employee walks out the door.

Let’s review some of the keys to hanging on to your talent.

Recruit The Right Employees

Retaining your key employees starts with hiring the right individuals. Simply put, you won’t keep an employee who from the beginning didn’t understand their place in the organization, or the nature of the work. Your interview process must provide a prospective candidate an unfiltered, up-close examination of the duties he or she will perform if hired by your firm and an honest evaluation of the firm culture, as well as their relationship to management.

Compensation, needless to say, is an important factor in employee retention. Does this mean that if you can’t pay top dollar you won’t keep people? No. But, it does mean the further you are “out of the market” (and we mean all forms of compensation, including benefits), the more challenging retention will be.

Competitive Compensation and Benefits

Compensation, needless to say, is an important factor in employee retention. Does this mean that if you can’t pay top dollar you won’t keep people? No. But it does mean the further you are “out of the market” (and we mean all forms of compensation, including benefits), the more challenging retention will be.

Balance And Flexibility

Many managers believe the main factor affecting employee retention is compensation. While important, compensation is typically not the most important factor. Research has shown that many employees value a balanced lifestyle over a higher salary. (We know: “balance” in the retail crop input business?!) But think: some employees have family obligations, such as elder relatives or children in school. These employees will value an employer who provides a flexible work environment. But don’t kid yourself — make sure the “flexibility” you can offer has value to your employees.

Challenge And Empowerment

Today’s top employees are more entrepreneurial than ever before. Employees in general are expecting more independence and will resent micromanagement. An employee who feels empowered will take ownership for a project — and is more likely to stay. Regularly investing in training also sends strong signals to an employee about their value to the firm.

Open Lines Of Communication

Employees place a high value on a professional environment which is friendly and provides for open communication. Employees feel more empowered in their positions if they know their opinions and ideas will be heard and taken seriously. A recent study found that 50% of employees’ job satisfaction can be related to an employee’s relationship with his/her manager. So why would an employee want to work for you?
A simple and cost-effective method to reducing turnover is the use of rewards and recognition. Employees who are recognized for their accomplishments are more likely to be happy with the company and satisfied with their work. Recognition can range in various levels of formality. A special day set aside for employees, or a day off after the completion of a difficult project can convey your appreciation to employees. Don’t forget the power of a simple thank you for a job well done.

Rewards and Recognition

A simple and cost-effective method to reducing turnover is the use of rewards and recognition. Employees who are recognized for their accomplishments are more likely to be happy with the company and satisfied with their work. Recognition can range in various levels of formality. A special day set aside for employees, or a day off after the completion of a difficult project can convey your appreciation to employees. Don’t forget get the power of a simple thank you for a job well done.

Dealing With Employees Who May Consider Leaving

One consultant found that on average two of five employees are actively considering leaving their firm within 12 months at any point in time. It is important for you to identify employees who appear dissatisfied. Look for a reduction in productivity such as an increase in the number of sick days, tardiness, and errors. Speed is of the essence when dealing with employees who are considering leaving, if they are important to your firm. One author suggests identifying factors which previously motivated the employee to succeed and seeing if one of those factors is currently missing.

Conduct Exit Interview

Exit interviews can also yield information which can be used to improve employee retention. Employees who are leaving the firm are likely to be honest about what they view as the firm’s people management strengths and weaknesses. They can also help identify what will be effective at keeping current employees around.

Upshot

Some have characterized today’s labor market as a “War for Talent.” It is. However, the crop input retailer who understands that keeping great people is vital and develops a multi-layered strategy for winning that war is far more likely to create a work environment where people want to be.

Akridge is the Glenn W. Sample Dean of Agriculture at Purdue University, West Lafayette, IN.

Marshall is associate professor in the Department of Agricultural Economics, Purdue University.

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