Over the past few months, while working across several agricultural businesses, I have become increasingly aware of another side-effect of the drought - complacency.
There are countless challenges that have arisen through this prolonged dry period.
- Safety must the first priority on your property
- Illogical opinions can cause real harm to real families
As a business owner, you watch money go out the door with not a lot coming back in. As an employee, you watch the days roll into weeks as you endlessly spray channels, feed stock and clean out the workshop. Both watch the weather forecast for a hint of rain.
In its most innocent form, complacency looks like harmless boredom. In reality, it can be one of the most problematic and dangerous elements of a business.
One of the leading factors of complacency is too much regularity or routine. A natural function of the human brain is to switch into "autopilot" mode once a task has been conquered and becomes repetitive. Our brains still think we're doing a good job, but in reality we're doing the bare minimum.
Staying motivated through a difficult period - be it professional or personal - can be some of the most challenging times in our lives. Where possible, attempt to mix up rosters, jobs and locations. Testing yourself and your staff with new scenarios will rewire the brain and kick-start work ethic.
Try moving staff to a different area of the business, introducing them to people they may not have previously worked with or teach them a task they haven't done before. Ever thought of showing the farm hand the BAS? Or writing a WH&S manual? Now's your chance!
Take the opportunity to use the quiet times to upskill yourself and your staff. There is a huge amount of government funding available for people working in agriculture.
One such example is the NSW government's AgSkilled funding, which offers a large range of practical on-farm training courses such as welding and precision agriculture, as well as office-based courses including WH&S and corporate governance.
Investing time in education and training will provide a new perspective and a chance to socialise with others in similar situations with similar interests.
Finally, motivate yourself and your staff by mixing up how you communicate.
Ask for feedback or recommendations, and make plans for short-term and long-term goals that capture the professional and personal vision of both the business and the employee.
I have found one of the most valuable tools in business to be the almighty exit interview - if only we could have such open and honest feedback before the exit!
Drought inevitably breeds complacency, but it doesn't have to stick. Seize the opportunity to shake things up for the better and make the best of a bad situation.
As the old saying goes, a change is as good as a holiday!