7 Ways To Improve Your Farm Labor Management Practices


1. Employee selection testing. Hiring the right person for each job at your farm operation is one of the most important management decisions you will make. Employers who consistently hire the very best employees test before hiring. Because employees vary widely in abilities, I recommend short practical tests where individuals get to milk, prune, or perform whatever job you need. Make sure to also test farm supervisors and farm managers. Avoid hiring based on an interview alone.

2. Incentive pay. A pay for performance approach rewards productivity and quality work. To be sustainable, the pay method should benefit both the farm enterprise and the employees in the long run. Employees need to be rewarded for their efforts, that is, for what they control. The most effective incentives reward individual rather than group effort. Avoid perverse incentives, such as the hourly pay plus a piece rate bonus for crew workers. In these mistaken approaches, workers get less pay per effort with increased productivity.

3. Quality control. The first step in any quality control effort is calibrating the decisions of those making quality decisions against a standard. Whenever possible, include quality control in the incentive pay reward formula because then supervisors are not at odds with workers. Even when paying by the hour, there need to be strict quality control measures taken. Avoid lack of consistency in quality determination as it demoralizes workers.

4. Employee discipline and farm supervision. Consistent consequences for the violation of clear rules is needed. Discipline needs to be carried out without giving offense. There is much training that you can provide for supervisors. Remember that when it comes to interpersonal relations—because we are dealing with people rather than machines—we either pay now or pay later. Avoid shortcuts in interpersonal relations, as it usually means paying later, with interest.

5. Negotiated Performance Appraisal (NPA) In this appraisal approach, the supervisor and subordinate separately prepare lists of what the subordinate does well, has improved in recently and still needs to improve. The subordinate comes to the meeting prepared with suggestions on how to improve weak areas. The NPA helps supervisors and subordinates improve communication and productivity while permitting the subordinate to save face. The approach requires that the supervisor celebrate successes with the subordinate. Avoid traditional appraisals that put the supervisor in the position of being a judge — rather than a coach — over the subordinate’s performance.

6. Party-Directed Mediation (PDM) This approach consists of meeting separately with employees involved in a conflict, before ever bringing them together. In separate preliminary meetings employees can vent their frustrations and also be coached on effective ways to respond without defensiveness. During the joint session, the mediator sits far away from those involved in the conflict, making it clear that the conversation and the solutions will come from the parties. Avoid mediation styles where the mediator takes the role of arbitrator.

7. Decision-making meetings Conduct meetings in a way that all participants feel free to give ideas and it is safe to hold differences in opinion. Avoid solutions that do not examine extraordinary situations and what to do during those exceptions.

 

Credit Lauren María Alexander 

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