Manager's notebook: Make employees feel empowered

Manager's notebook: Make employees feel empowered

Critical coaching calls for a timeout when processes aren't right.

We have one full-time and two part-time (seasonal) employees on our 3,000-acre grain farm. With margins tight, I worry about the need to cut personnel. I keep hearing we could be more productive if employees feel “empowered.” I’ve heard you can motivate people so that they are more accountable not just to their job, but also to the bottom line and the farm itself. Is this just a matter of doing a better job with bonuses, or do I need to change my management style? — L.B., Ohio

Operational timeliness is so critical for crop farming that labor is about the last area to cut.

Empowering qualified employees is one of the most enjoyable aspects of any business. (Photo: Digital Vision/Thinkstock)

Manpower depends on how spread out your farms are, along with the fields’ size and shape. A study of our farm found we were 44% less efficient in operational hours than a similar-sized farm in northern Illinois. Why? A large portion of our fields are without even one straight side and have too many patches compared to rectangular farms.

Empowering qualified employees is one of the most enjoyable aspects of any business. “Enhanced employee engagement” focuses on a management style that prioritizes constant and sincere feedback from employees, with enlightening your crew as to why and how your priorities and game plans are formulated.

We cannot use everyone’s suggestions, but we continuously require and demand feedback from those on the front line on how we can be better.

Critical coaching calls for a timeout when processes aren’t right, and gets all involved in solving the problems. Will you get more for less from engaged employees? Not necessarily. But you will get smarter hours, less babysitting, and more time to review the economics of agronomic inputs, operational costs and tight overhead.

Jerry and Jason Moss operate Moss Family Farms Inc. Got a question? We’ll post it anonymously if you want. Contact them at [email protected]

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