Finding, hiring and keeping good people presents a challenge in any industry and the feed and grain industry is no different. In fact, due to the rural nature of the industry, many managers have even a more difficult time than businesses located in larger metropolitan areas.
In this issue we take a look at a number of issues which surround your workforce. Employee management can be rewarding and is certainly essential, but often maddening at the same time — because you are dealing with people! Personnel issues can be the sources of your best successes as well as some of your worst nightmares. So, how do you work toward achieving more of the former, and less of the latter? Keep reading below for our insights and answers.
DECIDE WHAT KIND OF EMPLOYEES YOU WANT
There have been numerous books and management columns written on the employee hiring process (including Manager’s Notebook: “Finding Great Employees: Winning the Battle for Talent,” October/November 2006 and “Hiring a New Manager – Where Do You Go From Here?” August/September 1997), and we won’t focus on that process in this column. However you do need to decide “what kind of employees you want.” Do you want the kind of employee you need to “hold back,” and just point in the right direction? Or do you desire the kind of employee you need to keep pushing and that requires constant motivation? We much prefer the former!
Our point is that in our experience — both from personal experience and observation and discussion with managers in the feed and grain industry — that business will be more successful, and you will be much happier as a manager, if you seek out employees who make you “stretch.” These are the people that are always seeking things to do, new projects to work on, ways to make their job and your business more productive.
Really thinking through the personal characteristics and qualifications you are looking for is a starting point for locating the kind of employees you want. Our point is don’t lose sight of those terribly important attitudinal characteristics such as being a self-starter, positive, creative, strong work ethic, collegial, etc. in your search process.
HIRE GOOD PEOPLE
Nobody intentionally hires a bad employee. But what defines a “good employee” for you and your business? Is it someone who just does their job and doesn’t cause problems? Or is it an employee that is a good team player, gives more than is asked for and does not need constant supervision? If your answer to any of this second set of questions is “yes,” then it may be worthwhile to invest a bit more time and effort into the hiring process. You can uncover details about some of these traits by asking potential employees about hypothetical scenarios which involve decision making, teamwork and ambition.
Questions such as:
1. (For a truck driver candidate) If our company needed you to fill in for one of the feed mixers, how would you feel about doing this? What questions would you ask to understand their job?
2. (For an inside salesperson) If a customer asked you to honor a sale price for an item, which had gone off sale one-and-a-half weeks ago, and I (as manager) was not in the office, what would you do?
3. (For a millworker) Let’s say you discover a situation where you feel the firm could save some money — how would you handle it? What if the change you propose changed the nature of your job or that of your fellow workers?
Questions such as these might elicit a thoughtful response about how the prospective employee would talk to their supervisor, or their adaptability to change.
We would also suggest taking a hard look at the experiences a potential employee has had, and asking them about how they demonstrated some of these traits in their job.
Another good way to ferret out the capabilities of job candidates is to ask questions of their references. We know getting references to say much in today’s legal environment is very difficult, but if someone is willing to talk about a candidate, it sure makes sense to explore what they have to say.