You will likely want to include others in your organization in the interview; if you have a strong team, they can play a critical role in screening for the traits important to you. Give them situational questions, ask the candidate specific examples about their previous roles, explore their references carefully, and engage others on your team. Do this and your batting average for landing quality employees will go up considerably.
Another piece of this puzzle is to — if possible — offer overly competitive wages. This may sound like bad advice, but consider the old adage “you get what you pay for.” Research in various industries (unfortunately not the feed and grain industry — or at least we are not aware of such studies) has shown that given similar jobs across different companies, that the better paid employees are more productive, have less turnover, and require less managerial oversight (make your job a lot easier).
A recent study published in Business Week regarding the retail industry, compared Sam’s Club (owned by Wal-Mart) and Costco. Findings indicated that the average hourly wage at Costco was $15.97 and at Sam’s Club was $11.52; and the average health cost per employee was $5,735 at Costco and $3,500 at Sam’s Club; twice as many employees at Costco are covered on the company health plan and Costco contributes twice as much toward each employee’s retirement. They are investing more in their employees — from a wage and benefit standpoint, but what are they getting for their investment? Employee turnover at Costco was 6%/year, compared to 21%/year at Sam’s Club; sales/square foot were $795 at Costco vs. $516 at Sam’s Club.
GIVE THEM GUIDANCE AND DIRECTION
We understand that every feed and grain business has the whole range of job types from those that require less thoughtfulness and creativity on the part of the employee (mill hand, truck dump supervisor, feed mixer, truck driver) to those that require more of these traits (outside salesperson, department manager, plant manager, administrative assistant). Our point, as we discussed previously, is that if you are creative, you can find ways to make even “lower level” jobs responsible and creative.
Now, you might be saying, “hold on a minute, this can’t apply to all of my employees?” You might agree that it applies to your administrative assistant position in your office, but won’t work with your feed truck driver position. It might be a stretch, however, but thinking of the job and the person, can you outline your drivers’ positions so that they feel responsible for the entire job from their equipment to their appearance to the quality of the feed they are delivering? Hire folks for these positions that take pride in your business and their job. Have them wax and clean their delivery truck. Have them develop an equipment checklist that they go through on a weekly basis. This provides them a sense of ownership and provides you feedback on the upkeep of your asset. Ask them to keep track of mileage and fuel consumption, and calculate miles per gallon and then give out recognition for your most efficient drivers.
How many right ways are there to get a job done? It is human nature to want things done “our way,” and certainly there sometimes is a “right” or “wrong” way. As a manager, your responsibility is to get things done and the only way to accomplish this is to give people the opportunity to think for themselves as you provide them assistance and counsel. And if you hire good people — their way may be a better way!
SOME KEY EMPLOYEE MANAGEMENT CAVEATS
There are several points that may assist you in general employee management:
1.) Employees should know the mission of your company. This can be covered in new employee orientation, but should be reinforced on a periodic basis.
2.) Employees should know the goals of the company. These tend to be shorter-term in nature — annual or quarterly goals on sales, feed tonnage or grain throughput. Knowing the company’s goals assists with developing a team spirit and esprit de corps.
3.) Garnering employee input. This does help promote employee “buy-in” and thus, employees feel their ideas matter when working on setting your firm’s goals and policies. Seek their input when and where appropriate.