What if each one of the employees on your farm thought – and acted – like an owner of the operation? What if this included not only family members who may or may not already have an ownership stake, but non-family employees too? Imagine what that would mean for your farm business.
The mindset an employee brings to your farm each day is at the core of whether they are currently thinking and acting in this way or if there's room for improvement. An employee with an "owner" mindset cares differently for the farm, so they take different actions than an employee who doesn't have this mindset.
They tend to do things like take very good care of equipment and buildings. They treat people visiting the farm – like landlords or other business partners – with a welcoming attitude and with respect. They even bring up and help implement new ideas that ultimately improve processes or efficiency in your operation.
Stewards of your farm
These employees are acting as stewards of your farm, which is the way that most farm owners already act and behave each day because they own the operation and are responsible for the results.
Employees with this mindset can add a lot of value, because they choose to engage in actions and share ideas that often end up increasing production or cutting costs in some way. They want to see the operation do well, and care enough about contributing to its success, that they regularly act over and above what their job description requires to help accomplish the farm's goals.
How does this ownership mindset become standard in a farm operation? It starts with the culture on the farm, which includes everything around the way people interact with each other and behave toward one another. As the farm's leader, you need to be very intentional about setting and fostering your farm's culture and this ownership-type thinking can be part of the expectation.
It's also found in how employees feel about working on your farm. Do they feel like they're part of something bigger than themselves? Do they have opportunities to see how the work they're doing directly affects critical outcomes on the farm? These are the types of connections that can help to foster an ownership mentality in every farm employee, regardless of their role or job description.
Evaluate your farm
Take some time to evaluate the current level of "ownership thinking" on your farm. How would you rate your operation's employees in terms of the level of ownership mentality they have right now? Consider the ownership-type behaviors you've seen each employee do and examples you've heard about from others. Have they gone the extra mile late at night to get a field planted before a major rain – or taken the landlord's kid for a tractor ride when they were visiting?
Once you've thought about this, consider some ways to further motivate your employees by helping them get a better understanding of how the work they're doing directly affects the success of the farm. Does your farm have a long-term vision? Do all of the employees know what it is, and how they play a role in achieving it?
Look for what employees are already doing that demonstrates this mindset and publicly recognize them in some way for their actions. Others will take notice of the behaviors you're rewarding, and be motivated to take similar actions.
Plan for how you can help foster an increased ownership mindset in your employees and then recognize and praise the behaviors as they occur.
Want to read more about managing farm employees? Learn how to use checklists to improve processes and workflows on the farm in the new issue of our quarterly publication, Smart Series.