Becoming A Destination Employer

When business managers talk about being one of the best, they often think in terms of profit, customer perception and quality of service. Unfortunately, the ultimate measurement of being the best is rarely considered. The perception of your organization as an employer by both current and future employees is perhaps one of the most overlooked measurements of success in the retail agronomy business.

Your company’s ability to attract, hire and retain talented employees is one of the most critical components of your business. Organizations that have focused on this aspect of their business have grown into what we call “Destination Employers.” These are organizations that both potential and current employees refer to as some of the best places you can work — the ultimate destinations for your career.

[Read "Becoming A Destination Employer: Part 2"]

We will go into more depth on this topic through future articles, but here is a high level summary of what is being accomplished in each of these areas for organizations to be considered Destination Employers.

We have found one significant similarity amongst all organizations that are perceived as being Destination Employers within their marketplace. That common thread is that in each of these companies, the management team is constantly focused on, and participating
in, three primary activities:

  • Hiring.
  • Retention.
  • Employee Engagement.

Additionally, these organizations have taken each of those activities one step further by involving all
of the employees in the company with three other,
critical components:

  • Onboarding.
  • Communication.
  • Recruiting.

A Proven Design

Think of the Des­tina­tion Employer model as a three-legged stool.

The three-legged stool is a simple, efficient and effective tool that has been used for centuries. Its ability to out-perform other designs in areas of unevenness and inconsistency has made it more popular for many things in our lives such as milking stools and camera tripods.

The human resource component of your retail agronomy business is very similar. As with the milking stool, your human resource activities need to perform as well as possible in a very complicated and uncertain environment.

Note the picture of the stool. There are three distinct legs in the Destination Employer model. In this model, Hiring, Retention and Employee Engagement each need to perform equally to work. If not, there is no way your program can operate at a high level, and may collapse altogether if each leg isn’t performing at an equal rate.

Even the strongest and best of programs need additional support and strength to maintain growth. Again, refer to the picture of the stool. Recruiting, Onboarding and Communication are smaller, but equally-as-important functions of this stool. These are the braces or “stringers” that keep the program from collapsing under it’s own weight.

Here is how everything works together:

Onboarding. While onboarding isn’t necessarily overlooked by employers, it’s quite often not given enough effort. In most situations, a week of training, a few days with a co-worker, or even a simple meeting with a supervisor is all that is offered to many retail agronomy employees. What only the best companies recognize, is that regardless of how good you feel that your recruiting and retention is, it will NEVER be as good as it can be without an equal amount of time and money invested in an onboarding program. Without good onboarding, people will become easily frustrated or disgruntled over matters that should be insignificant. Unhappy employees leave quickly — which directly impacts the image of your company and your ability to recruit. Or worse, unhappy employees become disengaged and stay onboard, leaving you with unproductive and potentially demotivating situations for their co-workers. Onboarding is the brace that supports your investment in Recruiting and Employee retention.

Communication. If you look into previous issues of CropLife® magazine, you will notice that communication has been a reoccurring topic in our articles. While there are many reasons that will cause a good employee to become disengaged and leave an organization, many of those issues could have been prevented with better communication. In fact, research has proven that nearly 70% of people leave their jobs as a result of issues that could have been prevented with better communication from their supervisor and/or the overall organization. Companies that don’t put ongoing effort into improving communication with their employees won’t have a leg to stand on when it comes time to invest in employee retention and engagement.

Recruiting. The importance of effective recruiting in the hiring process is easy to see. However, what the best companies recognize is that their hiring program is only as good their overall employee engagement will allow. In short, your ability to attract talented people is only as good as your employee’s ability to speak highly of the company — when they are not at work! In our business, we often hear that everything is great. Companies explain how they always have conversations surrounding engagement and overall happiness with their employees.

A Matter Of Timing

Unfortunately, many of those conversations also happen in the same timeframe as annual reviews or the delivery of a bonus. Think about that — do you expect an employee to complain right after (or especially right before) you discuss their financial future? We couldn’t care less about what employees are telling you in those types of situations. What we want to know, and what should be your No. 1 concern, is what are your employees saying about your organization AFTER 5 p.m. on a Friday?

If an individual is unknowingly targeted as a potential employee, and happens to bump into one of your employees at a Saturday evening social function, how will they respond to the questions “how do you like your job?” And, “what’s it like to work there?”

The concept of Destination Employer is easy to understand, but incredibly challenging to implement. The ability to grow your company into being perceived as the employer of choice in your market is entirely dependent on the ability of your entire organization to implement and participate in each of the six critical components. From hourly/seasonal employees, on up to the CEO, everyone affects your ability to become a true Destination Employer.

If you would like to learn more about how you can start your organization down the path of becoming a destination employer, Mike Smith and Mark Waschek will be conducting a breakout session entitled “Becoming A Destination Employer” at the upcoming Agricultural Retailers Association conference, December 3-5, in Miami, FL.

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