In the last edition of our e-newsletter, I related the revolving-door professional path of a friend to the fluctuating job market for precision farming specialists.
After talking with a diverse group of independent and farm equipment dealers last week about their recruiting and retention practices, it seemed like a topic worth revisiting.
Creating and offering performance-based incentives can be an effective way to keep talented specialists from reaching the brink of burnout. One dealer recently implemented an annual cap on work hours for primary specialists and provides bonus compensation for hours worked beyond the cap.
This has given the dealership more structure and certainty with employees’ expectations and also the freedom for the senior specialists to take the occasional weekend off, without feeling guilty. It’s also seen as a potential recruiting tool for new hires, especially those who are looking at precision growth potential within the company.
But dealerships don’t always have a detailed advancement plan for their precision specialists. If the department is small, there may only be 1 position above a precision specialist (precision manager or coordinator), making it difficult to leverage the potential of promotion. And room to grow is often what the millennial generation is seeking, says one precision ag coordinator from a multi-store farm equipment dealership group.
“I’m in that generation and all we’ve heard about is climbing the corporate ladder,” she says. “But to do that, we need to have a ladder.”
Even if a precision specialist starts at the bottom rung, it’s important for dealers to provide the opportunity to take steps upward as employees develop. One of the suggestions discussed by the dealer group was to implement a tiered scale of specialists, similar to what some companies have done in the computer software business.
Establishing Level 1, Level 2 and Level 3 specialists, with requisite criteria and compensation for advancement, could give employees ongoing motivation. If a dealer only has one managerial position, an entry-level specialist opening may be less attractive if there’s little chance for advancement.
That’s not to say there aren’t peripheral opportunities within a dealership for precision specialists, such as cross training in other departments. But for those dealerships that view precision as a growing part of overall business, it’s worth investing in a career ladder for precision specialists to climb.