Seed production and agriculture at large is an industry that relies on timing. The crop must be planted by a certain time, sprayed before pests overtake fields, harvested before stalks and shanks weaken – all of these time constraints put immense pressure on people in the industry.
When those busy seasons inevitably come, there are steps you can take personally and as a manager to enable your team. Busy seasons take their toll mentally and physically but with proper care there are ways to lighten the load.
The adage about assuming holds true – take the time to communicate with employers or employees effectively. This avoids disappointment if certain tasks aren’t addressed, confusion about what is a priority and helps all members of the business to understand how their role impacts the bigger picture.
“We recognize that in agriculture we do face busy times and ask more of people in those busy times,” says Phil Durst, Michigan State University Extension educator. “Maybe in management we sometimes make assumptions about the workload and expectations ahead – the question is how did we communicate those and are people prepared for those busy times?”
“It’s important for people to prepare mentally and physically in regard to expectations because, in general, employees are willing to work longer hours and at a faster pace for a period of time – but only if they believe in the goal. They want to see they’re helping reach those goals and they don’t want to feel used,” he continues.
From the top down making the business successful takes a team. Huddle up before the next season to ensure everyone is onboard and understands expectations.
Preparation is the mother of success – because there are ebbs and flows to the industry, it’s important to use the ‘off’ time to help the business succeed during busy times. Plan ahead and include key employees to ensure all priorities are addressed.
“Many employees are looking for someone to help prioritize the workload and someone who can help simplify it,” says Norm Dreger, principal at Osborne Interim Management. “For me, it was always prioritization, what’s important or not right now or this week or next week. What can wait until later and what is urgent – what requires today’s focus.”
“In the off seasons, budget not only how we’re going to use resources including time. Then establish how you’re going to measure [success] during the busy season so you don’t get overwhelmed by the ‘busyness’ of running around and get off track from the goal,” he adds.
It takes communication, preparation and time but establishing trust with your employer and employees is key. There are going to be times you or your team feels overwhelmed. Trust needs to be built so if problems arise – personal or professional – they can be addressed.
“When we’re asking a lot of employees, we’re also asking a lot of their families,” Durst says. “That employee might not be able to pick the kids up from school because they’re in the field, they might miss some mealtimes. What can we do to prepare families during these times of stress because families are the reason our employees go to work and they don’t want to sacrifice family for work – they want to have both and it’s important that we do things to help manage expectations and needs of the family during these high-stress times.”
Recognize that stress doesn’t always impact only the employees.
“The working life and the personal life aren’t so easy to separate sometimes,” Dreger says. “It’s important to recognize that it doesn’t matter what job you’re in or what industry, you’re always going to have busy times whether you’re in corporate roles or [crop] production. We can’t just shut off the work side, we have to manage it with family and that takes a lot of planning.”