7 top tips for communicating with farm staff

Do you find your staff often misunderstand you and are they ignoring your instructions?

Or are you finding your staff are complaining that they don’t know what’s happening around the farm?

Poor communication is often quoted as the biggest frustration among staff on farms.

In this third article on staff development, Paul Harris from Real Success outlines how to communicate more effectively with your staff.

See also: Taking on an apprentice – what farm employers need to know

1. Make time for important conversations 

The easiest way to make your staff feel unimportant in your business is to prioritise other issues ahead of taking time to talk to them.  

If you don’t make the time to listen, you’ll often find yourself making time for recruitment.

2. Listen to staff

Many staff report that no-one listens to their views or ideas.

When did you last ask your staff for their opinions or invite them to contribute to strategy, protocols or new ways of working?

You don’t have to take everything a staff member says on board but if you never ask them, you could be missing out of their ideas and demotivating your team.

3. Provide the right environment for conversations

The parlour, a busy yard or in front of a noisy tractor are not usually the best place to have a good conversation.

Choosing the right setting can make a huge difference to the success of the communication.

A bacon sandwich and a cup of tea can often draw your team together so don’t be frightened to get the team together over food.

4. Ask why?

Start with ‘Why?’ Communication often centres on what is required and how it should be done. But taking time to outline why a new project, change of process or investment is taking place, is far more likely to win the support of the team. 

Ask them for their input too so that they feel some buy-in to the process.

5. Consider different personality types

Every person in your team – including you – has a specific personality style that affects how they communicate.

Some will prefer the overview while others will need all the detail. Some will prefer to be asked for their view and others will simply want to crack on with the work. 

Use a profiling system such as VITA Profiling to establish how best to speak to each member of staff.

6. Give them information

Not knowing what’s expected or having no idea of the objectives, plans or performance of the business can be demotivating and discourages team alignment. 

Provide details of farm performance along with other key performance indicators and be open with your data. 

Your staff are then far more likely to be open with you when things get tough.

7. Carry out annual reviews

Taking the time to sit down once a year to carry out a formal personal review, often with an external facilitator, can improve the overall communication around the farm. 

By simply asking them what’s going well and what’s more challenging for them, you’ll uncover potential business improvements, understand personal challenges and discover simple ways to improve your processes.

Paul Harris is the managing director of Real Success – a people consultancy that helps the agricultural sector to improve staff management.

A regular speaker at industry events, Paul is widely recognised as a thought leader and positive advocate of staff development in the agricultural sector.  www.real-success.co.uk