Good Fruit Grower

May 1

Issue link:

Contents of this Issue


Page 14 of 47 Good Fruit Grower MAY 1, 2015 15 how many had adequate labor last year. No one raised a hand. "We've got competition between growers," he said. "You're trying to get workers on your place rather than your neighbor's." Hire internally Troy Frostad, director of human resources at Mount Adams Orchards, White Salmon, Washington, said because of the difficulty of finding supervisors and crew bosses, his company decided to develop them internally by teaching them how to communicate with workers, deal with conflict, and enforce the company's policies and rules. But not everyone is cut out to be a supervisor, he's found. "You might have somebody who's a very, very good picker or a very good pruner, and we often move them up to a role as supervisor or crew boss. But sometimes we find going from a pruner or picker to a supervisor requires a different skill set. So, we've had to go out and look in our crews and say, that person is a good pruner, we probably should keep that person there and not move them to supervisor." Instead, the company looks for people who have the specific skill sets to handle the realities of leadership, he said. Happy workers Julie Loreth, human resources manager at McDougall and Sons, Wenatchee, Washington, said an important role of supervisors is to make sure morale is high by treat- ing workers with respect and dignity. Happy workers are more productive. "If no one's happy at the work place they find ways to get back at you," she said. "If they're happy, they pick faster and prune faster, and productivity goes up. You want everyone on your team working together toward a common goal." A happy workforce results in fewer complaints, she said. "If you get employees complaining about supervisors showing favoritism, that's a sign that you need to be look- ing at your leadership and your management because something's wrong." Having happy workers is also helpful should legal services or state or federal agencies come to do an investigation, as they will interview the employees. "If they say they're treated well and clearly know what the expectations are and what the company policies are, most of the time the investigation is wrapped up very quickly with no fines, and it's done," Loreth said. "If you have unhappy employees, as you can imagine, the investigation can go completely sideways very quickly." Loreth said McDougall strives to make sure that its orchard managers are hands-on and know what's hap- pening so that the company can resolve problems before outside agencies become involved. McDougall has three full-time bilingual human resource employees who work in the orchards the whole time. They walk the rows talking to workers and crew leaders about how things are going and any issues they might have, and make sure workers are treated respectfully. "Sometimes, if there's something going on, you can feel the tension," she said. They also visit the housing units to talk to employees. "Workers know that if they have any issues they can talk to them. They know it's confidential," Loreth said. Anderson said it's critical for management to be plugged in and know what's going on out in the field. His company also has human resource staff out in the field every day. Training employees The speakers were asked how they get supervisors to train workers without worrying that the workers might replace them. "We talk to them about that," Loreth said. "They are only as strong as the weakest link. If they want to advance in the company they have to develop their crew. The more they do that, the more opportunity they will have. If they don't develop their crews and develop people who can back them up, it's going to reflect negatively on them." Frostad said his company had supervisors who didn't want to train the guest workers who came through the H-2A program because they thought the workers were displacing local people. The company addressed that by explaining that guest workers don't replace local workers and by offering financial incentives for training workers. • "If they're happy, they pick faster and prune faster, and productivity goes up. You want everyone on your team working together toward a common goal." —Julie Loreth

Articles in this issue

Links on this page

Archives of this issue

view archives of Good Fruit Grower - May 1