Farm managers are the leading factor driving the productivity of the team. By their actions and communication, they ultimately set the tone for the work environment. If you’re not happy with the results of the team it’s time to do some healthy reflection and as the leader take actionable steps to ensure your employees are engaged and performing at their best.

A successful growing season isn’t possible without motivated operators, livestock herdsmen, or grain haulers. Statistically, the number one reason employees change positions is due to their supervisor. With all the activity swirling in the day of a progressive farmer, it is easy to get stuck in your routine and lack focus on your team’s needs.

Here are six driving factors to team performance.  Measure yourself in each area to see how you would rate your performance and develop 2-3 action items for improvement.


Trust can be broken in a manner of seconds. Employees are not only looking for you to speak open and transparently, they are also looking for stability. One quick spurt of temper in the heat of the harvest takes longer for the wound to heal than one would think. Employees need to trust they can come to you with a problem and you will work with them to solve it. When trust is down, employees tend to not bring up problems that should be brought to your attention and cover up mistakes.   

Be Approachable.

Try to balance personal small talk among all your employees, ask about their family or vacation plans.  It’s easy on a small team to become closer to some employees than others.  Employees are looking for the family-owned work atmosphere.  It’s one of our best assets against other industries.  Use that to your full advantage to keep long-term employees.

Make Employees Feel Valued.

Show the team they are important to your company by acknowledging their efforts and showing appreciation for feedback. Invest in them personally, by providing training opportunities and sending them for agricultural certifications. Handing out new company t-shirts is an easy and cost-effective way to make your employees feel valued and it brings the team together. Host a family picnic or cookout, plan a trip to a nearby amusement park, or organize a training activity. 

Share the Purpose.

Employees perform better when they know the end goal. In farming it is difficult to set a hard number of harvested acres per day, but establishing a target gets you higher performance than not setting a target. Reachable goals and even friendly competitions among each other are great motivators.  Have a big wipe board for harvest or send a text each night with remaining acres so everyone knows how you are progressing in the season.

Give Feedback in the Moment.

Giving small feedback along the way sets the direction for future behavior. Thanking an employee for going the extra mile to assist a landlord without being told encourages them to do it the next time. Same with ideas they bring to the table, allow them autonomy to run with a new idea and I guarantee there are more to follow. Feedback doesn’t have to be formal, a small reinforcement of what you like or a quick correction on what you would like to see different goes a long way.

Opportunity to Grow.

It’s not just millennials that want promotions, it’s a desire of most dedicated employees. In a smaller operation there are less opportunities to grow into a new role.  Growth in terms of simply expanded responsibility or ownership in a certain area goes a long way. Learn what areas your employees would like to expand their knowledge and have a passion and hopefully tailor responsibilities as it fits the farm.

Investigate what makes someone want to work hard for the organization. For each employee it is something different. Turnover will stay low once it’s determined what makes someone tick.

Written by: Lori Culler, AgHires Founder/Owner
See more from the AG’s HR Coach here.

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