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Attracting & Retaining Quality Employees

by Dallas Mount

“You just can’t find anyone willing to work anymore.” I hear this quite often from ranches struggling to find and retain quality employees. When we look deeper into the situation it is often no surprise, as we expect our ranch employees to give long hours in sometimes difficult conditions with mediocre compensation. 

In the Ranching for Profit School we emphasize that we don’t hire employees to work. We hire them to produce results. Work is only the vehicle through which those results are produced. Then, why do we focus so heavily on the work? We need to shift our focus to results and allow employees to help determine how to produce those results.  

Daniel Pink, in his book Drive describes three things that are keys to getting the best out of a workforce when we want more than just manual labor. Autonomy, Mastery, and Purpose.  

Autonomy – the ability to be self-directed.  

Boss 1: “Feed the cows 5 bales a day by 10 AM. This group gets two and each of these other groups get one. Don’t break anything. See you in the spring.”

Boss 2: “We think the cows need to be in a body condition 5 at the beginning of the calving season. Can you develop a nutrition plan that will meet our budget, have contingencies for weather events, and have the cows in the target condition at calving? Here are some resources to help you do that. Here is what we have done in the past. I’d like to review the plan with you, then, when we have agreed on a plan, you have the authority to implement it.”

Which boss would you rather work for? Which boss is going to complain that “you just can’t find good help!”

Mastery – the ability to develop our skills in challenging tasks. We all enjoy learning to excel in something that we care about. Maybe it is stockmanship skills, grazing skills, or creating innovative tools for getting things done. The best employers encourage and support their people in developing themselves.

Purpose – being part of creating something we care about. I get to work with some amazing people, from our staff to the instructors and facilitators that deliver our programs. I realize that they don’t work for me, they work for our mission. If our instructors and facilitators didn’t believe in what we are doing, they wouldn’t leave their families and travel across the country several times a year to be a part of this.  Stan Parsons said “You can buy a person’s hands, but you can’t buy their head and their heart. Their head is where their creativity lies, and their heart is where their loyalty lies.” 

If you want to keep and retain quality employees develop your culture to allow autonomy in how results are produced, encourage mastery in the craft, and create a purpose beyond profit that your employees can be a part of.

6 Responses to “Attracting & Retaining Quality Employees”

January 08, 2020 at 6:40 am, David Pratt said:

Great column. Good bosses are a lot harder to find than good employees.


January 08, 2020 at 8:05 am, Steve said:

Great article.

As for your question on which boss…
‘Door number two please Bill”


January 08, 2020 at 8:14 am, mert taylor said:

very well stated, more employers need to adopt this protocol


January 08, 2020 at 4:20 pm, Jeff Nauman said:

I could probably write a book of ‘how not to be a boss’. So many true life examples.


January 17, 2020 at 6:46 am, Brent said:

I think purpose helps create a desire for mastery, but when do you give autonomy, 1st,middle,or last? I’ve raised 4 kids and had a variety of employees. making the call on autonomy is interesting.


February 03, 2020 at 7:52 am, Bruce Hennessey said:

I really believe in being the number 2 type boss. But where our conflict comes in is also that we believe our critical processes need to be standardized so that we don’t have 10 different ways to accomplish a task from 10 different people. We try to empower our people to create standard practice, train it to all of us and then engage the team in systematic improvements. Not easy!!!


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