Hereford farmers learn the secrets of being a great boss

Friday, 21 December 2018

Farmers at a recent AHDB Hereford Monitor Farm meeting were warned that the costs of replacing a staff member could be as much as double their salary.

Taking into account the time for existing employees to cover the work gap, time and money spent finding and training a replacement, the loss of knowledge, and the stress and strain on the existing team replacing a typical manager on £30,000 could cost the business £60,000.

Retaining and motivating quality staff is crucial to running a successful farming business, according to Heather Wildman of agricultural consultants firm Saviour Associates. Heather spoke to attendees at the December meeting about becoming a better boss by improving employee management. She said that key to running a successful business was creating a culture on the farm in which staff feel respected by and positive about their employer.

The audience was informed that the best bosses value people over money, create great habits and communicate well. Heather stressed the importance of a positive attitude, incorporating a balanced and fair approach to managing, encouraging growth and giving credit where due.

Earlier in the year, Heather paid a visit to AHDB’s Hereford monitor farmers Russell Price and Martin Williams to conduct a whole farm review. The visits included staff appraisals to gather feedback which could be translated into action to improve Russell’s and Martin’s businesses.

Both monitor farmers found the reviews to be of immense value in assessing the needs of their staff. Martin said that the feedback challenged his assumptions, giving him better insight into how he could improve his management style. Russell felt confident that the constructive feedback he received would allow him to take his business forward.

As well as conducting appraisals with staff, Heather worked with both Russell and Martin on outlining mission statements for their farms: comprising a mission, vision and values designed to foster a successful working culture.

Heather’s presentation was later followed by a workshop in which attendees conducted a SWOT (strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and threats) analysis of their own farms used to draft mission statements similar to Martin and Russell’s.

Martin said: “You’re only as good as the staff underneath you. Both Russell and I were initially dreading Heather’s visit but we found the feedback gave brilliant insight into the attitudes of our staff and what we can do to support them”

Russell said: “You cannot underestimate the value of having a third party to help get the best from your staff. Heather really helped us understand our employees better.”

The next Hereford Monitor Farm meeting will take place next month on 16 January 2019.

AHDB Monitor Farms programme brings together groups of farmers interested in improving their business by sharing performance information and best practice. Monitor Farms are part of AHDB’s wider Farm Excellence Platform, which works with the industry to improve performance through knowledge exchange and benchmarking with AHDB’s Farmbench.