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The Right Staff

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The right combination of employees = increased effectiveness and productivity.

By Bonnie Johnson

Introverts and extroverts. Analytical and creative. Leaders and followers. Easy-going and meticulous. GED and DVM. The composition of your staff often brings together people of various backgrounds, personalities, education levels and experiences. Knowing what unique qualities each employee can bring to your business helps you build an effective team and make the most of each person’s potential. If built successfully, the whole team is greater than the sum of the individual employees.

Start off right

Hire the best fit from the get-go to maximize efficiency. Team composition can be examined from an A and B perspective. Of course, your organization needs some “A” players – those dynamic leaders looking for advancement. So-called “B” players, however, are the steady, reliable base that get the work done.

In an organization, there could be a situation of too many A players; everyone wants to lead, be in charge and nothing gets done. Alternatively, having too few A players may result in an organization with no sense of direction. The appropriate ratio of A to B players allows for effective leadership with high productivity.

To build a diverse team, examine your recruitment methods. Are you relying solely on word-of-mouth from current employees? Although this approach can be one of the most effective recruitment methods, especially for small to midsized producers, it may not lend itself to diversifying your staff with a variety of interests and skill sets. Employees tend to befriend and refer people like them.

In the 2016-2017 Compensation & HR Practices Survey for the Swine Industry, beyond employee referrals, pork producers said that college and university recruiting, as well as Internet job boards like AgCareers.com, are most effective at reaching prospective applicants. This survey examined current pay and practice trends occurring in the swine industry, and was conducted by AgCareers.com on behalf of the National Pork Board. To obtain a copy, visit www.pork.org.

Posting positions on job boards can help you attract diverse talent outside of your local area. Ag employers say that technical roles are typically the most difficult to recruit for. If you are looking for skilled trades, connect with career counselors at local community colleges. Attract students (from either high school or college) to your organization by offering student work experiences, such as general/seasonal labor or internships.

Determine your current configuration

Perhaps you have an employee working in production that is a numbers whiz … or an administrator that loves the outdoors. Do you have the right person in the right role? The first step is finding out more about each staff member. This information can be gathered through a simple employee survey or could be discussed during the performance review process.

Here are some questions to ask your staff:

  • What do you like most about your position? What do you dislike?
  • Do you feel what you are doing is important?
  • Have expectations been made clear to you?
  • Do you feel you are growing, developing and improving yourself?
  • Do you have all the tools and training necessary to be effective in your role?
  • Do you feel that you have opportunities for advancing your career?
  • Are there other projects or roles in the organization that interest you?
  • Do you feel you have effective leadership in your role?
Round out your team

After you’ve learned more about your employee’s desires and abilities, you can determine if your business has all of the required skill sets covered. A successful organization encompasses a blend of staff with both soft and hard skills that complement each other.

Soft skills are hard to quantify and include adaptability, problem-solving, self-awareness and communication. Hard skills are teachable, such as computer literacy, machine operation and mechanical competency, or may be acquired through a degree.

Consider having employees and candidates complete an aptitude or personality assessment to determine the balance of skills sets in your organization. Productivity may also be hampered if an employee is not a good fit or is not satisfied in his/her role. After asking questions, you may discover that an employee wants to move to an office role or would rather be in the barns.

Consider a trial period or offer additional training for these valuable employees. In the 2016-2017 Compensation & HR Practices Survey for the Swine Industry, the category of training and development was identified as one of the top three ways both large and small to mid-sized pork producers motivated their employees.

If you experience staff turnover, or if you find some employees just are not an appropriate match for their positions, it’s time to consider how you can build your team to be greater than the sum of its parts. Perhaps you need more punctual hourly employees to get the job done or an energetic leader to help motivate employees?

Is there a perfect ratio of A to B players? Unfortunately, there is not an easy formula to figure this out. This ratio can vary for each organization, so start by listening to your employees’ feedback and examining your business’s productivity.



- Bonnie Johnson, Marketing Associate with AgCareers.com

The AgCareers.com mission is to provide global talent solutions in agriculture and food. We strive to “Feed the World with Talent” in the industries we serve. Visit www.AgCareers.com for details or contact us at agcareers@agcareers.com.

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