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Many Farm Credit organizations have for years undertaken periodic employee engagement surveys, identifying areas for improvement and trends within their organizations over time.
Comparing Farm Credit results to any industry benchmarks yielded limited value, though, because of the unique nature of the System and the employees it attracts.
This year, FCCS sought to close that gap by undertaking a Farm Credit Employee Engagement Survey, open to all associations and banks and delivering confidential individual and aggregated Farm Credit benchmarks against which to compare their organization’s results.
“The U.S. Department of Labor tracks statistics for many industries, but not for financial cooperatives,” says Angie Coleman, an Organizational Development Consultant with FCCS who led the survey initiative. “Tracking this data and improving in the key areas that attract and retain top talent is going to continue to be critical as the labor market remains tight.”
Around 2,000 employees representing the nearly one-third of System associations that opted to participate responded to the 40-question survey which took an average of five minutes to complete. Included was Net Promoter Score (NPS) as a simple measurement of loyalty and satisfaction.
“Farm Credit tends to attract highly skilled employees, but it faces the same challenges as the rest of the business world in terms of burnout and the aftermath of the Great Resignation,” says Angie. “We know employee engagement leads to longer tenure and to better business performance. Now, the participating Farm Credit organizations have actionable data to improve in key areas to increase engagement over time.”
Each participating organization received their own employees’ results as well as the aggregated Farm Credit results for benchmarking. The survey report also included recommended initiatives and action plans for improvements in key categories. Of particular interest, and underscoring the importance of the Farm Credit survey, “my immediate supervisor” is typically the lowest scoring parameter in other industries; for Farm Credit, it’s the highest, rendering comparison to any other sector meaningless.
“The survey report takes the ambiguity out of where an organization should focus its employee engagement efforts and includes suggestions for training or other programs to make improvements where they’ll have the most impact,” says Angie.
“For example, we’ve been able to pinpoint when communication is an issue whether it’s executive level, top-down communication or, more often in Farm Credit, when it’s near-manager or peer-to-peer communication that’s the challenge.”
Texas Farm Credit participated in the Farm Credit survey, the first employee
engagement survey it’s ever undertaken. The previous hesitation was due primarily to lack of expertise; the incentive of action plans and System benchmarking led to its joining the FCCS survey.
“We were interested in really diving in and measuring ourselves against the rest of the System and how we compared to our peers,” says Mark Miller, Texas Farm Credit CEO. “We also wanted to gauge our employees’ reaction to a new strategy we launched.” Texas Farm Credit shared the survey results very transparently with their employees, both the areas it’s doing very well in engaging its employees and the opportunities the organization has to improve. One notable engagement gap was providing opportunities for employees to grow and develop in their careers. As a result, the
organization has added a team member focused on creating career progression plans for every employee, and is ensuring that each manager has the tools to help their team members develop.
“We had really good conversations with all our employees about how we plan to take the survey feedback and incorporate it into our strategy,” says Jolene Curtis, Chief Operating Officer. “They’ve seen our commitment in already implementing some changes, and others programs will make a difference over time.”
The 2024 Farm Credit Employee Engagement Survey will launch in mid-May,
with results expected by August. The first-ever agricultural cooperative employee engagement survey is underway with results expected to be reported to participating cooperatives in early 2024.
“We appreciate all the Farm Credit organizations that participated in this Systemwide survey, the results of which have already provided valuable insight for their organizations,” says Angie. “It also helps FCCS develop or adjust our programs to meet the needs we see in the survey results.”
For more information on either the Farm Credit or the Agricultural Cooperative Employee Engagement Surveys, contact Angie Coleman at 303.887.3791 or via email.
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