The first day at a new job can be hectic. This is true not only for employees, but their employers too. Freshly hired precision farming specialists and dealerships are no exception.
Many dealerships have their own mentorships and training procedures set up, but as Heather Hill, precision farming coordinator with H&R Agri-Power in Hopkinsville, Ky., can attest — it pays to be thorough. The Case IH dealership group has 13 locations across 5 states, so ensuring that the precision team stays on the same page is a constant priority.
Inspired by some of her own experiences with “first days,” Hill wanted to streamline H&R’s precision specialist onboarding process so new employees could be more involved earlier with their roles and responsibilities.
“I wanted to have the new precision staff come in the door the first day with a piece of paper in their hands that tells them exactly where they are supposed to go, who to see and what to learn,” says Hill.
To accomplish this, she furnishes the new employees with a training checklist that they can reference during their first few weeks to ensure they are meeting their obligations.
“It’s not for formal trainings like, ‘Take classes X, Y and Z,’ but it’s a checklist of things that they’ll need to learn within the first 6 months to do the job right and be successful,” says Hill. “Some things are as simple as knowing things about their location like where the microwave is in the office, but we’re also noting things like understanding Keystone, which is our business operating system.”
The checklist also includes items like company vehicle policies, expectations and policies for out of town travel, technology requests for a computer and cellphone to be set up the first day, general knowledge about each location and information on interfacing with the service and parts departments. Hill has had success with the new program, and has sought to improve it slightly with each new precision specialist.
“I’ve gone through 3 iterations of it so far,” says Hill. “The first one was with a group of newer employees who had been hired before me. I sat them down and asked what they wished they had known during their first few weeks.
“Then I had two other new precision specialists start at two locations. I remotely monitored their progress and noted what was important during that process. The most recent hire worked directly with me on a daily basis, which was really useful for paying closer attention to the details.”
Hill admits that it can be a bit of a challenge when it comes to coordinating with multiple managers to ensure that new employees get all the training they need, but stressing the fact that no one comes straight out of college knowing exactly what to do on the first day of work has encouraged a bit more of a buy-in to the program.
She has also noticed that adhering to a strict training regimen has reduced costly or frustrating errors and improved productivity early in a new precision specialist’s career.
“When specialists are getting started, they just see that something needs to be fixed so they order parts,” Hill says. “Making sure that each new precision specialist gets properly introduced to the warranty process has cut down on some department headaches and angry phone calls from customers who got a bill in the mail that they shouldn’t have.”
Perhaps the biggest benefit for Hill has been establishing responsibilities for her new hires immediately. A bit of inaction and thumb-twirling may seem justified if it’s someone’s first day, but Hill says that with a training checklist the onus is shifted back toward the employee when it comes to being productive immediately.
“More than anything, putting this piece of paper in our new precision specialists’ hands gives them some form of responsibility,” she says. “This way, they know what they need to learn so they can pay close attention in trainings and focus on picking up the skills they know they will need going forward.”