Ag Retail Employee Survey: Sharing Your Vision

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UPDATED: April 17, 2013

If the grass is always greener on the other side, how do you keep your existing employees? You show them how the grass is greener right where they are. How so? Talk to them. Talk about where the company is going, what role they can play in that growth and what bigger role they can aspire to.

We all want to know as much as possible what the future holds for us, especially in our professional roles. In our research, talking with 238 sales agronomists during June, we asked them a series of questions about where their company was going, their role in the future and how well the strategic direction of the company was laid out to them. Let’s look at statistics in the responses and identify actions that can be taken to reduce turnover.

When asked if their employer helps them learn the business as a whole or tells them to just do their jobs, 72% of respondents felt involved and that they were being trained to be more effective within the company. However, 28% of the employees felt like they were simply punching a clock and expected to show up, work and keep their mouths shut.

The fact that 28% of employees have a significant disconnect with the company direction was very telling when compared with our next question.

When asked: “Does your company share enough information with you so you know the strategic direction and how you can contribute.” 71% said yes and 29% said no. While we did not compare individual responses to find a correlation to both answers, the nearly identical negative response rate opened our eyes.

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We very clearly could see from the survey results that if 29% weren’t told where the company was going, it manifested itself in a nearly identical 28% that were told to just do their jobs. Layered on top are the job satisfaction numbers from the October article showing  35% of our respondents were negative, wanting to change jobs and, in many cases, wanting out of retail.

Now imagine if that employee gets a call from another employer, a friend or a recruiter like any of us, and they were told there is an opportunity in their area. The scenario is that it’s been a long spring, they’re tired, and thus unhappy. Our pitch to them is simple. “I have an opportunity in your area with a great company that is in the process of implementing several exciting projects that will not only make it a great company to work for today, but will give you significant career growth opportunity down the road.” That one sentence is typically all it takes to garner attention.

Taking Three Steps

The question is: How do you proactively set that employee up to know there is green grass on your side of the fence? The answer is through three contact points with the employee.

First, at Ag1Source we are big believers in at least a monthly sit down with an employee. We actually hold weekly business evaluation sessions that only take about 10 minutes. In these meetings, you can assess where the employee is mentally and progress-wise towards their goals. If you sense the employee is tired or negative, ask them why and help them build a plan to overcome that. The key ingredient to this process is that you use these 10 minutes to not only assess morale, but give them an opportunity to learn about what is happening in the company.

Simple Conversations

You can accomplish this by saying simple things like “It’s not public yet, but you may be interested in knowing … ” or by engaging them in a discussion in which you ask their opinion on capital investments or marketing strategies. Regardless of the topic, it only takes a few minutes to make them feel like their opinion matters. This will be a constant reminder that while they may not always see them, there are projects going on that will not only enhance the company, but their future within the company as well. Investing a few minutes each week or month, can gain you years of service with your employees.

Second, on an annual basis, communicate to every single employee their worth to the business today, where the company is going tomorrow and their role within the company in the future. Knowing where the company is going gives all employees a vision for the future. One of our respondents to an open ended question summed it up quite well: “If I had a better understanding of our business model and strategic direction, I could make better decisions in my role.” These kind of employees that know where the company is going and making decisions every day that impact the future, are thinking about their role and how it impacts other employees as well. That is the kind of employee we all want.

The third contact point with the employee is training. The future of any organization is going to have larger roles, including management that may come from your existing employees. Continuing education and training on topics that set them up for the next role is one of the strongest messages you can send. As an employee, they now know that their employer is investing in them to be a bigger piece of the company in the future.

Your objective: To arrive at a level where that employee would never really have to look over the fence for greener grass when they have it right in front of them?

Finding The Ideal Candidate

For most ag retailers, the ideal new employee candidate is typically someone that excels in their current role but is frustrated and wants to make a change in employers. Why are they ideal? These individuals are ideal because they are good at what they do, enjoy what they do, they are ready to act and easy to recruit! As recruiters, we know that organizations with poor communication and lack of identifiable career paths are the most likely to have these frustrated or “ideal” candidates. When we find an organization with these characteristics, their high performers are easy to engage in a career change discussion and very happy to pursue an opportunity where they believe they are going to make a difference.

Use these contact points to share the future with your employees and you can take your key employees off the recruiters “easy target list.” By focusing on these simple opportunities, you can make a difference not only with the unhappy 28% but the entire employee base you need working at maximum efficiency every spring.

Esfeld is a partner in Ag1Source, the largest agricultural recruiting and personnel solutions organization in North America.

Waschek is a partner in Ag1Source, the largest agricultural recruiting and personnel solutions organization in North America.

Ryan Gale is an agronomy and seed recruiting consultant with Ag1Source, a nationally recognized recruiting firm that focuses on the unique needs of the agricultural industry. For more information about its services, visit www.ag1source.com.

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One comment on “Ag Retail Employee Survey: Sharing Your Vision

  1. WorkplaceDynamics

    I agree with your two key elements for recruiting and retention: buying in to the vision and understanding your role. But I think there are a couple of elements missing. Based on our <a href="http://www.workplacedynamics.com/employee-survey/">employee surveys</a> of over 5,000 organizations a year – the other important aspects of the workplace are: belief in the leaders, and the ability to execute well. In combination, these things will significantly improve retention