Skip to main content

Does ‘sustainability’ include you and your staff?

Agriculture faces unprecedented pressures – from climate change and environmental campaigns to an urgent need to repair decades of soil degradation.  However, the labour supply to the farms based in the UK is also facing considerable upheaval. Brexit and the lack of a regular supply of workers from overseas have harmed many farming businesses, often leaving the farm owners and their families to pick up the slack.  Many farmers and their workers are exhausted, with little time off and even less holiday taken.  In some farming businesses, there is even a level of “guilt” for working fewer hours or taking time off.

So can we create a sustainable workforce?

One farm owner in Devon worked with REAL Success to reshape their team and find a more sustainable way of working on the farm.

The Situation

Jack worked long hours, seven days a week, to cover staff shortages and poor performance.  The team often clashed in frustration as they had different ways of working. There were significant skill gaps that Jack would fill daily, and the team structure wasn’t clear. He needed to review working hours, pay and contracts, along with the current skill set in the team.

Jack was frustrated too.  With a young family, he wasn’t seeing them as often as he would have liked, and the pressure was mounting both on the farm and at home.

Jack needed to get his life back.

The Changes

Jack began by establishing the personality styles of the existing team using the VITA profiling system. He now understands his leadership style and adapts his approach to get the best from the different people in the team. The team identified their differences and flex their approach toward each other’s personalities and working practices.

Jack analysed the skill set in the team and put a training plan in place to upskill his team.  Progress is rewarded with pay increases as the team improve their skills and knowledge.

A series of Core Values were developed that outline the business’s culture, along with a staff handbook of all essential protocols and procedures for use around the farm.

Regular personal reviews feature positive and robust discussions with staff members about their performance and crucial business plans. Regular team briefings take place to communicate clearly to the team about essential issues, including how the farm is performing. A clear organisation chart clarifies chains of command.

A new staff room, meeting room and office were installed, creating a safe, warm and comfortable place for all staff to eat, rest and have team meetings and gatherings.

Finally, Jack reduced the number of hours he expected the team to work, resulting in a need for more staff. These were recruited full-time or part-time, with a mix of staff housed on the farm and others living locally.  Some have a farming background, but others are new to farming.

The Results

Communication has improved amongst the team through understanding their personality styles. This increased morale, reduced conflict, and increased productivity,

Personal Reviews and core values enable Jack to listen to his team while developing a consistent and influential culture. Staff feel heard and appreciated whilst Jack can provide effective feedback to his team.

Regular staff meetings create a deeper understanding of what is required on the farm and foster team morale and loyalty.

Staff turnover is reduced due to the lower working hours, and the team makes fewer mistakes.

Most importantly, Jack has got his life back. He now leaves the farm, knowing that effective processes, procedures, and resources are in place. He has time to think, plan, and spend with his young family.  He can design and develop new projects and ideas on the farm and for his family’s future.

He’s regenerated his team and his enthusiasm for his farm. It’s a sustainable and forward-looking business ready to adjust to the growing demands that climate change and environmental pressures will bring.

Be more like Jack.