Employee turnover continues to be a barricade to sustained precision farming growth for dealerships. But structured, well-executed onboarding of new hires can reduce the risk of quality precision team members departing the dealership.

During a roundtable discussion at 2021 Precision Farming Dealer Summit, precision farming experts shared experience-based advice on avoiding burnout and how to retain and develop precision talent.

  1. For the first few days, have new hires ride along with technicians or salespeople. If you have a smaller dealership, send them out on their own once they feel comfortable. Often, it’s sink or swim.
  2. How soon a new hire can be let loose depends on their ability to think on their feet and their personality. They need to experience a full year of the work cycle, and after that, they should be able to handle 60-70% of issues. They may have some questions, but should feel comfortable enough to handle problems on their own.
  3. It’s likely going to be 6 months before a new hire starts bringing value to the dealership. It takes a whole year for new hires to feel comfortable on their own, 3 years to be good, and 5 years to achieve a master level. New hires should be able to do a majority of stuff on their own after a year. If they can’t, then it reflects on the manager, because the new hire wasn’t given the proper training or didn’t figure out the new employee’s learning style.
  4. Internal training is a valuable complement to manufacturer training — some 2-3 times per year for the entire precision ag team, especially if the team is spread geographically. This allows team members to feel comfortable calling each other. Hold weekly conference calls on Mondays to set weekly goals. Every other week, host a 2-hour training on a different subject related to precision ag.
  5. When training new hires, record sessions so they can be reused. Store training sessions on Google Drive for easy access. If the team is located across multiple stores, utilize programs like Slack for communicating.
  6. It’s tempting to fill a need quickly, but that can backfire. Take your time in finding the right person. Be careful not to overburden precision service technicians while you’re trying to replace or add another precision employee.
  7. Starting an internship program can create a pipeline for finding new hires. Even if they’re not a fit for the precision department, they might work for somewhere else in the dealership.
  8. Consider easing into your investment of a new precision hire by not giving them a vehicle right off the bat, so they have to ride around with other technicians. Give those new hires a little experience across a lot of areas. If they’re a good fit, then invest in more training.
  9. Avoid burning out new hires by helping them delegate their workload. Know when to give the new hire a break. Make sure that during the busy season, every team member gets 1 day off per week.
  10. Task management platforms like Monday can help with managing workloads, as they’re customizable and can be filled in with tasks to track machines, due dates and progression of projects.
  11. Some dealerships have found that using personality tests during the hiring process helps with finding quality candidates, or at least assessing the learning style of a new hire.
  12. The best hires typically come from a farm background, or perhaps they farm on the side or have worked for one of the dealership’s larger customers. If a hire is from a bigger customer, the dealership may get the customer’s blessing before hiring.