It’s no secret that staff present some of the biggest challenges and headaches in any business – and this is no different in agriculture.

And, while staff are generally one of your greatest expenses, they can also be one of your greatest assets. This is because they can assist you in moving towards a more profitable, self-managing business that can run without you – which in our view has to be the ultimate End-Game for any business owner.

Because of this, making sure staff are operating at capacity is a priority when looking to create and maintain a high performing agribusiness.


What to do if staff are giving you problems – or to create a best practice management process

If you are in a situation where your staff (including family) are creating more problems than solutions, there are some key steps to resolving this situation.

In summary these include:

  • Get clear on your roles and responsibilities – through a stocktake, development of an organisational chart, and setting KPIs
  • Make sure all roles are filled and completed – and don’t avoid ones you find challenging (ie business tasks)
  • It is important to understand the personality types of each staff member.
  • Regular staff meetings – and reviews – are a must.

These are explored in more detail below – and in the recent webinar “Managing your people (staff / contractors / family) – how to create a High Performing Team.”


1. Assess what skills you need, and what skills you already have available

The first step is to go back to basics – and undertake a stocktake of your business. Review the key areas of the business, and map out what roles are required to make the business run effectively.

Then create an Organisational Chart for your business – detailing who can / should fill each role (which needs to be clearly defined). It doesn’t matter if your business has 3 staff or 15 staff – this is still a critical activity, as it can highlight where people are spending their time, and where the gaps are.

It’s important to have at least a basic role description, along with some Key Performance Indicators (KPIs) or performance measures for each role.  KPIs will provide accountability around roles – and by getting employees to sign off on them, this empowers staff and gets them invested in the outcomes you are seeking for your business.

By sitting down and mapping out all of the parts of the business, the result is a stocktake of what skills and personnel are needed, what skills and personnel you have already, and where the gaps are. Where skills gaps are identified, you may also be able to outsource or bring in someone who has those skills – rather than appointing staff members.


2. Make sure all Roles are given Appropriate Focus

Because agribusinesses are often family-run, owners and management (and in turn staff members) tend not to think of their business as a “business” – and approach things in a more informal and less professional manner. They will often focus on the parts of the business that they enjoy, which is typically the production (such as planting, or cattle work, checking water, etc).

While dealing with the production side of the business is usually ‘urgent’, the parts of the business that tend to suffer more are the “business” roles – such as financial management, engaging with customers, reviewing and refining systems and process etc.

It’s important to understand where each team member’s strengths lie, and where they are most productive, and aim to match team member’s roles with their strengths and your business needs.

However, particularly in smaller businesses, we often have to wear many “hats” and fill many roles. Sometimes this means all personnel doing tasks that are less enjoyable or more challenging (such as managing the books, or calling your customers) as they are not our foremost strength. It is critical that these tasks are still undertaken, and given the appropriate attention. That’s why the organisational chart, an assessments of strengths and weaknesses, etc is so critical.


3. Consider the Personality Types of your Team

All team members have varying personality styles, with specific traits and characteristics.

For example, some are action oriented – and simply want to ‘go and get things done’. However, these people need to be given clear direction before they blast off, otherwise the outcome may not be in line with the outcome you wanted. The enthusiasm and “go get ‘em” nature of these people should be harnessed and guided – and used to your advantage. However, these personality types are sometimes prone to saying “next” when something is complex, or doesn’t work out, resulting in a lack of focused energy over for the long-haul.

Others may be planners or thinkers. They may be slow to get going, but the result could be a well thought out and desirable outcome. However, they may have a tendency to over-complicate or over-think things, and sometimes need to be “prodded” to keep them moving.

Understanding the various personality styles can provide insight into how to better manage your various team members (including managers / owners themselves). ABDI uses the e-DISC profiling system as a way of understanding these behavioural characteristics.


4. Implement regular Staff Meetings and Routine Performance Reviews

Regular engagement with staff is also critical. Regular informal and formal catch-ups are important, to promote a positive team culture, where they feel their concerns are being heard, but more importantly, they feel empowered to make suggestions and decisions that are aligned with the objectives of your business.

Routine performance reviews (at least bi-annually or annually) should also be undertaken. These should have a set agenda – where performance against KPIs is assessed. This provides an open and transparent process, where their effectiveness in their role is examined. This promotes a “no surprises” approach, where everyone knows where they stand.


What about for your business?

These tips are relevant for a farm or business of any size of structure – and are particularly important for family businesses. So how can you implement these in your business?

By following these tips and tweaking the way that you manage your staff, you will be able to start improving staff performance, which we would expect to ultimately increase the productivity and profitability of your agribusiness.


Webinar – “Managing your people (staff / contractors / family) – how to create a High Performing Team”

Recently ABDI hosted a webinar on the topic of “Managing your people (staff / contractors / family) – how to create a High Performing Team.”

In this webinar, we explored some tips for dealing with staff and people issues – to create a highly functioning working environment that requires less management and input from you.


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