Another planting season is upon us, so it’s time to prep your teams for what’s to come. For businesses with seasonal cycles like ag retail, employee burnout can be a real issue. You can keep your business running smoothly and boost employee engagement through the busy season with proper planning. Here are seven tips to help.
According to a recent Gallup report, for the first year in more than a decade, the percentage of engaged workers in the U.S. declined in 2021. Before starting the busy planting season, check in on your employees. Late winter is a great time to meet with your staff to discuss upcoming challenges and plan for the planting season. Reflect on the past year and talk about what went right and where improvements could be made to your team’s processes. Ask employees for ideas that could increase operational efficiency and prevent team burnout.
If the winter months are more relaxed and low-key for your employees, you’ll want to set clear expectations for the spring. Work with your staff to develop a schedule that meets your customers’ needs but still respects your team’s responsibilities outside of work. If you use an “on-call” system for after-hours support, establish clear guidelines for appropriate customer response time. Setting clear expectations can help avoid team disappointments, but it’s also important to be flexible and to have contingency plans in place. The goal is to balance customer and employee satisfaction.
If the planting season conjures up images of chaos in your mind, it’s probably time to rethink your approach to seasonal work peaks. As farmers battle unpredictable weather conditions and race to get seed into the ground, it can feel like every task on your to-do list is a time-bomb waiting to explode. One way to overcome the stress is by finding efficiencies in your workflow. Audit your processes to identify where your productivity is being limited. Does taking and inputting orders zap your team’s energy? Is unnecessary paperwork stealing precious hours from your sales staff? Are there redundancies in your workflows that could be eliminated? Take a critical eye to how you work, and you’re likely to find ways to improve. Here are a few ways to add efficiencies to your operation.
If you’re supporting customers across a wide geographical area, your team probably spends a lot of time on the road. One way to add efficiencies is to plan farm visits in advance and map them out to make the most use of your time. While it’s impossible to pre-plan every visit, being intentional about your travels can help shave hours off time in the truck.
Keep digital records
If you’re still using sticky notes and notebooks to keep track of customer orders and purchasing information, consider making the switch to electronic notes. Keeping digital records is an excellent way to reduce administrative work and keep your team organized. In today’s mobile world, having information at your fingertips is critical. You don’t want to have to dig through old notebooks to retrieve the information you need when you’re visiting with a customer. Having digital records helps you appear more professional and in tune with today’s progressive farmers.
You’ve probably built an ag retail team with people that have complementary skills, different work experiences and unique personalities. Each of those team members brings a diverse perspective and adds value differently. By aligning your team’s skills and interests with the work that needs to be done, you’ll naturally create efficiencies. For example, someone who excels at detail-oriented work is a likely choice for reviewing contracts and order details. A team member who has a strong mechanical aptitude will fix machinery more efficiently than someone who is less mechanically inclined. Find your team’s strengths and use them to build efficiencies into your workflows.
When seasonal demands pull your team members in many different directions, good communication is critical. In addition to traditional cell phone calls and texts, it may be worth looking into messaging apps that support group interactions and information sharing. There are plenty of options to choose from, so find one that fits your team’s needs and experiment this spring.
Before the planting season begins, work with your sales team to double-check orders, shipment dates and outstanding customer balances. Waiting until the midst of planning to follow up on unpaid invoices isn’t convenient for you or your farmers. Be sure you’re communicating with your customers about logistical plans so that no one is surprised at planting time.
Supply chain issues will continue to plague ag retail through 2022, making it imperative that you keep a close eye on your inventory. Some products will be difficult, if not impossible, to secure. Others will require plenty of lead-time for ordering to ensure that they’re in your warehouse when you need them. Using software to manage inventory can give you real-time updates about what’s stocked so that you aren’t scrambling to get products ahead of seasonal peaks.
Your team is probably laser-focused on meeting grower needs during planting, but it’s also a great time to focus on growing your business. If you’ve got the space, consider planting field trials that showcase some of your top-selling products. You can use those demo plots for field events throughout the season to engage local farmers. Another option is to take photos and videos of your team’s efforts supporting farmers during planting to share them on social media or your business website. Customer testimonials about your great service during planting are also a great way to draw attention to your ag retail location.
GROWERS Rally™ has features to keep your team organized and in-touch during seasonal work peaks. Learn more about how we’re supporting progressive ag retailers.