Operator Of The Year: A Culture Of Excellence

Operator Of The Year Ted Borge, South Dakota Wheat Growers Scott Hier

One of the key take-aways for Mark Sharitz in the four years the AGCO Application Equipment Division has sponsored the Operator of the Year program is that the industry’s best applicators definitely don’t work in a vacuum.

“When I look at the winners over the past four years, there are two common threads,” says the director of marketing for the AGCO Application Equipment Division. “First, the operators themselves are conscientious, self-starting, self-reliant individuals who are driven to deliver results for their customers and — in turn — their companies. Second, and equally important, they work for organizations that foster an environment that enables them to achieve the highest level of performance and professionalism.”

Case in point is 2009 Operator of the Year Tod Borge of South Dakota Wheat Growers (SDWG), and his nominator, Scott Hier, vice president of agronomy for the organization.

“We’re blessed with a lot of great operators, but Tod stood out because of his involvement at work and in the community,” Hier says. “Here, he’s the old guy the younger guys look up to. He’s a mentor. But he’s also a single parent who is active with his kids, and he serves on the local fire department. He cares, and he gets involved.

“There are a lot of guys who are able to go out and do a lot of acres, and do them well,” Hier adds. “But that’s table stakes. Our job is to work with employees like Tod to give them the tools they need to go above and beyond, and deliver even more to our customers.”

Premium Training

One of the critical ways SDWG is doing this is by providing training that goes beyond technical proficiency and operational safety. Five years ago, the managers of SDWG attended a Dale Carnegie training course. They loved it, and decided all their employees could benefit from the program.

“If you’ve been here a year, you’re expected to go through the course,” Hier says. “We want our people to develop strong relationships with our customers, so we bought into the Dale Carnegie techniques. The first wave was a big success. The wives and kids even said they saw a huge difference after the guys went through the course.”

Train Of Thought

Investments in such training programs are a perfect example of the kind of corporate culture that creates opportunities for employees to excel, says Mark Waschek, an Apple Valley, MN-based recruiting consultant and partner in Ag1Source.

“As an industry we send a lot of people to training in agronomy,” says Waschek. “But rarely do I hear that someone went to training on how to be a better manager or how to better work with customers or employees.”

Companies should remember that operators are touch points with their customers, he says. Training them to deal with customers not only makes good business sense, it also creates a better work environment because it gives them more confidence to do their jobs. “A lot of times, operators are the people who will visit the growers,” says Wascheck. “But many times, most of their training is focused solely on the technical and safety aspects. Operators are not trained on what to do if you accidentally run over some corn and the farmer comes over and starts yelling at you.”

While a corporate commitment to training is important it’s certainly not the only factor in creating a positive work environment that allows employees to hone their skills and better themselves. Waschek says open communication, building trust, and recognizing individual and team accomplishments are also critical.

Brad Essick is manager of the Slater, IA, location of Heartland Co-op. Essick nominated the 2008 Operator of the Year, Kyle Jones, who always “goes the extra mile to get the job done the way it’s supposed to be done.”

Essick says he makes sure that he’s on hand first thing to make field assignments so everyone knows what they need to do. But then he gets out of the way.

“They all can contact me if they need to,” he says. “It’s important to put your trust in the guys to get the job done. I don’t have to look over their shoulders, and I don’t want to. I think trusting the guys to do their jobs on their own makes a more positive work atmosphere. Nobody wants to be micromanaged. Developing a team atmosphere where you can trust each other is an important way to make your operation successful.”

A Job Well Done

Aside from encouraging people to pitch in to accomplish tasks, perhaps nothing fosters a successful team atmosphere more than public recognition of accomplishments. In July 2007, Heartland Co-op began celebrating every 120-day period free of injuries at each of its more than 50 locations with a dinner on the company, Essick says. The employees look forward to those dinners, and the West Des Moines, IA-based company has been injury-free since it instituted the program.

“It’s important to recognize all the hard work that applicators do,” Waschek says. “In this industry, at many times of the year, operators are the first ones in in the morning and the last ones out at night. Recognizing them — and their families, because their families sacrifice, too — can go a long way toward fostering an environment of excellence that builds loyalty. And it’s important to recognize their efforts in front of their coworkers.”

“Operator of the Year is probably the most important program we invest in every year. It’s certainly the most rewarding to me personally, and to our company,” says AGCO’s Sharitz. “There are so many outstanding operators who are absolutely committed to delivering exceptional service and results to their customers. We think it’s important to recognize these individuals not only for their work and their accomplishments but to also hold them up as examples of excellence for the industry.”

Sharitz urges ag retailers to take the time to recognize their best operators by nominating them for Operator of the Year consideration. Retailers and managers can submit their nominations online at www.applylikeapro.com through October 31.
.

Leave a Reply

Employees Stories

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
Co-Alliance employee
EmployeesNew Purdue Program To Focus On Talent Management
July 14, 2016
Purdue University’s Center for Food and Agricultural Business is starting a new professional development program to help food and agribusiness Read More
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
Trending Articles
Mike Stern
Precision AgClimate Corp. CEO Talks Retailer Support For Digital Ag
December 1, 2016
CropLife Magazine’s sister publication, AgriBusiness Global, recently sat down with Mike Stern, CEO of The Climate Corp., following the Monsanto subsidiary’s Read More
Precision AgTrimble Debuts End-to-End FMIS Platform
November 28, 2016
October’s inaugural PrecisionAg Vision Conference left this author with many thoughts and things to ponder in the coming months. Probably Read More
CHS Primeland
CropLife 100The 2016 CropLife 100 Report: Reviewing The Many Bulls And Bears Impacting This Year’s Marketplace
November 28, 2016
For virtually all of 2016, the nation was wholly focused on the big Presidential election. Some folks aligned themselves with Read More
Monsanto sign
Crop InputsMissouri Governor Meets With Bayer CEO To Discuss Monsanto Merger
November 21, 2016
Missouri Gov. Jay Nixon visited Bayer AG global headquarters in Leverkusen, Germany, on November 18 to discuss the proposed Bayer-Monsanto Read More
STS16 2017
SprayersHagie Manufacturing Releases 2017 STS16 Sprayer To Market
November 16, 2016
Hagie Manufacturing LLC’s largest full season applicator is now available with enhancements for the 2017 model year. Hagie is officially Read More
Wilco
CropLife 100Valley Agronomics, Wilco-Winfield To Form New Agronomy Joint Venture
November 11, 2016
Valley Agronomics LLC, headquartered in Rupert, ID, is a joint venture between Valley Wide Cooperative and Winfield Solutions, LLC. Wilco-Winfield, Read More
Latest News
Crop InputsARA 2016: 5 Developments Worth Monitoring Into 2017
December 6, 2016
You can pretty much set your watch to it (do people even still wear watches? I know I do…but I’m Read More
Tim McCardle, ARA Chairman
CropLife 100BRANDT COO Named ARA Chairman
December 5, 2016
BRANDT EVP and Chief Operating Officer Tim McArdle has been named chairman of the Agricultural Retailers Association (ARA) during a Read More
Crop InputsWilbur-Ellis Receives ResponsibleAg Certification At Mo…
December 5, 2016
Wilbur-Ellis Co., a recognized leader in precision agriculture technology and the distribution of crop protection products, announces the ResponsibleAg certification Read More
Young Corn Closeup
Eric SfiligojThe Read On 2017 For Agricultural Fortunes Is Anybody’s…
December 5, 2016
As I (and others) have written in recent months, the nation has just experienced one of the most offbeat election Read More
Acceleron B-300 seed coating
Crop InputsThe BioAg Alliance Launches New Yield-Boosting Microbia…
December 5, 2016
As part of their commitment to develop and commercialize innovative microbial solutions for farmers through The BioAg Alliance, Monsanto Co. Read More
ManagementCorn and soy planting update; Takeaways from Climate Co…
December 2, 2016
AgriBusiness Global Editor Dave Frabotta Joins Paul Schrimpf for a discussion of global corn and soybean planting trends, and a Read More
Radish cover crop taproot
Crop InputsSoil Health Institute, Datu Research Receive Grant To E…
December 1, 2016
The Soil Health Institute (SHI) and Datu Research have announced a $626,000 grant from the Walton Family Foundation to quantify the Read More
Mike Stern
Precision AgClimate Corp. CEO Talks Retailer Support For Digital Ag
December 1, 2016
CropLife Magazine’s sister publication, AgriBusiness Global, recently sat down with Mike Stern, CEO of The Climate Corp., following the Monsanto subsidiary’s Read More
ManagementAg Industry Comes Together To Address Climate Change
December 1, 2016
Addressing climate change — and more specifically, decreasing greenhouse gas emissions from agriculture — can only be achieved through collective Read More
Young soybean field
HerbicidesLiquid Formulation Valor EZ Herbicide Available For 201…
December 1, 2016
Valent U.S.A. Corp. has released Valor EZ; a liquid formulation of the company’s leading herbicide, Valor. Named Valor EZ Herbicide Read More
Key Cooperative Marcus Construction Steel Building
ManagementThe Value Of Cooperatives In Modern Agriculture
December 1, 2016
Editor’s Note: Jaxon Mullinnix of  Lone Tree, IA, was recently named the Iowa state winner of the 2017 GROWMARK essay Read More
AGCO Operator of the Year Tony Kornder
SprayersAGCO Names Tony Kornder Operator Of The Year
December 1, 2016
AGCO Corp. names Tony Kornder with Genesis Growing Solutions in Le Sueur, MN, the 11th annual Operator of the Year. Read More
Chris Henney OABA
ManagementOABA Industry Conference To Provide Outlook For Future …
November 29, 2016
The upcoming Ohio AgriBusiness Association Industry Conference is packed with widely-respected speakers and industry professionals, sharing their expertise on a Read More
Corn
InsecticidesMajor Review Finds Neonic Poses Low Risk To Aquatic Inv…
November 28, 2016
A major new ecotoxicological review and risk assessment has been published in the peer-reviewed literature and concluded that registered crop Read More
EquipmentGSI Details New Grain Drying Efficiency System for Coop…
November 28, 2016
Grain elevators and ag co-ops are always looking for ways to increase their energy efficiency to help improve profitability. For Read More
Precision AgTrimble Debuts End-to-End FMIS Platform
November 28, 2016
October’s inaugural PrecisionAg Vision Conference left this author with many thoughts and things to ponder in the coming months. Probably Read More
AGCO AgControl system
Precision AgPrecision Ag Technology: Rate Control For The Times
November 28, 2016
It’s not surprising that the need for more economical, effective application is driving the demand for the latest rate controllers Read More
ARA
Eric SfiligojTaking The Industry’s Pulse At ARA
November 28, 2016
When most of you read this particular column, many of the industry’s key folks will probably be spending at least Read More