It's all about teamwork – From the editor: October 2015

It’s all about teamwork
September 16, 2015
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October 2015 — Labour has always been a significant challenge for Canadian agriculture. Farm work is hard, sometimes highly repetitive, and often seasonal in nature. Finding good employees is a tough job in itself.

But it’s a skill farm managers would do well to master. The dividends from having an especially highly motivated workforce can mean a world of difference to the year-end balance sheet.

What do the experts say?

Dale Schattenkirk is president of LTS, a leading management consulting firm based in Regina, with additional locations in Saskatoon, Winnipeg, Hamilton and Charlottetown.

He has worked with agri-food businesses throughout Canada, teaching business owners how they can use “Lean” production efficiency principles to improve profit margins, quality, service and safety levels.

Writing in our May 2015 issue, he noted how the Lean structure focused on three pillars: capacity, infrastructure and leadership.

Capacity is the training staff receive to understand how to implement a variety of quality improvement tools on a daily basis.

Infrastructure deals with the tools, templates and methods that can be applied to make changes.

Leadership demonstrates how “change management” strategies can be used to engage staff in process improvements.

Applying Lean principles, his case studies have shown, improve both efficiency and workplace safety.

In last month’s issue, renowned management specialist – and this year’s Canadian Greenhouse Conference keynote speaker – Michelle Painchaud stressed the importance of vision, goal-setting and accountability. Employees are well motivated when there is a well-defined goal and they feel they are making progress towards the goal. “There is a sense of accomplishment and pride.”

The best vision strategies are those that employees have helped craft, Painchaud explained. Managers should ask employees for their input as the vision process is undertaken. “Such a process ensures employees feel valued and that their input was important.”

Dr. Bernie Erven, professor emeritus of agricultural economics at Ohio State University, spoke at this year’s Cultivate’15 conference in Columbus. His talk focused on the importance of hiring the best candidates, and how it centres around good job interviewing skills. Poorly done interviews can easily lead to hiring the wrong person, he said, and that means having to go through the process again.

“Hiring success doesn’t come from taking shortcuts. If you hire well, it’s far less likely you’ll have to do it again in a few months.”

What we learned from these experts is that effective communication is the key to improved workplace efficiency. And that good communication is as much about what you hear as it is about what you say.

Engaging staff in meaningful dialogue – whether at the interview table during hiring sessions, or when setting long-term goals, or when implementing changes to ease the workflow – is the least expensive investment any grower can make.

Yet that two-way dialogue also has the potential of the highest rates of return.

Questions or comments? Email

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