As we hire new farmworkers and train them on the changing conditions of work, it is also important to remember to equip your managers and crew bosses with all the tools they will need to manage their reports successfully. These folks are your first line of support when it comes to enforcing company policies. Follow along with this blog to learn tips and tricks we have found to efficiently set up your crew bosses, managers, and every other employee to be the best they can be.
Review issues from last season
As we gear up for a new season on the farm, it is essential to look back and address past seasons' concerns or issues. Bring your crew bosses together, ask for their input and work to create a safe place by allowing open dialogue. Ask them what struggles they face in their job. While their years of experience on the farm make these managers very comfortable with their work, some may still struggle with managing other employees. Try and filter out the noise and identify instances caused by a lack of training of managers and crew bosses. Discuss each issue together and try to come up with a fix in the moment. That'll increase buy-in from your managers, and they'll be more likely to implement it in the field.
Discuss Current Events
Many of our employees travel during the off-season. But even if all of your employees are full-time, they may not understand or be aware of current events affecting the way your farm needs to do business. In recent years, agriculture has been uprooted many times due to new rulings and changing laws. We recommend following industry groups that serve farms and then taking what's relevant back to your crew bosses.
Your managers will hear about these current events through the grapevine, so you must be upfront and transparent with them. Managers must know how the farm is responding to ease their minds and answer questions that their reports will have. Take time to explain incoming new regulations, what agency has put them in place, and how your farm is taking action to ensure that they are following those rules. Always offer time for questions and concerns to build trust through communication. The reality is that managers and farmworkers will have questions and concerns as the year progresses. Still, upfront communication is the foundation for a better working relationship.
Pro-tip: Training suggestions spring 2021:
- Minimum wage / Piece rate / Overtime pay
- COVID expectations and requirements (Harvust is offering free farmworker training for COVID for small farms)
- Recruiting and hiring practices
Another important step is getting your crew bosses and managers ready to manage and oversee work in a way that aligns with your company values and policies. Reminding managers of company policies gives them confidence and "something to fall back on" when dealing with their reports. Hopefully, this is not the first time that you have covered this information with these managers. A few important policies to go over and set expectations around are:
- Employee handbook
- Manager/crew boss job description & duties
- Reporting structure
- Payroll schedule
- Accident reporting
Pro-tip: Reviewing manager job descriptions presents the opportunity for you to give your managers authority. Be sure to be clear with your expectations and explain the responsibility that comes with managing others.
Offer Continuous Support
The managers and crew bosses on your farm are your field workers' primary means of support. This means your managers should feel comfortable answering the questions and handling the day-to-day issues for their reports. However, we also know that even the most seasoned manager may need support now and then. As HR Professionals, the employees of your farm are your "customers." It is your job to assist employees by giving them the best training and communication. Well-trained managers will often become the most successful long-term employees. Once you have them trained, create tools so your managers can help themselves first.
Pro-tip: Create Manager Tool Kits. The more quality information you can get to your managers, the more prepared they'll be to handle their reports. Collect info into a binder to keep in their truck, or an electronic equivalent to have on their phone. It should contain common forms, rules, and answers to FAQs from employees. Make it fast to use so they'll be more likely to reference it at the moment when dealing with a report.
Encourage them to think of "calling the office" not as a first action but as a backup.
Offer Continuous Training
We also recommend scheduling ongoing training for your managers. When companies take the initiative to train continually, their managers become more independent and comfortable in their position of authority. Add practical training that could help make their job easier or that could benefit the whole business. For example, a manager who has seen the ¡Basta! video from PNASH will quickly identify sexual harassment and take steps to handle the issue (The ¡Basta! video is available in the Harvust training library to send directly to your managers). It's up to you to decide whether to make your ongoing training mandatory. Offering to pay for the time it takes to complete the training is a way to encourage more participation if you do make it optional.
Bottomline, take some time before you get busy this season to freshen up your managers' skills and make sure that everyone in your organization is on the same page about best practices when it comes to managing their people.