"I don't know why you are so excited to graduate. You're going to be working for the next 50 years of your life" – stated my senior year college professor. I am now several years out of college and still refer to this as one of the best statements I had ever heard. Like a smack in the face, this rather blunt statement put my future career into perspective and prompted me to think of what I do and the company I work for with a different approach.
I believe it is not only important for every person to find passion in what they do, but also important to find a connection to the purpose of the company... What makes you complete your best work? What keeps you walking in that door every day? What makes you stay the extra hour – or four to accomplish the task? The big reason that rises to the top for me is my connection to the big picture – what is the company's impact on the world? I may not have grown up on a farm, but I find the agricultural industry a place where I can see a real impact on the world. I connect to the work I do because I work for a company that is making a difference in the world by providing. The ways we impact the world range from supplying propane to heat the house on a cold winter day, feeding and fueling the world by providing the best products and services to farmers and growers, and by being the best we can be for our customers daily.
I'm proud of the company I work for and the industry which it does business. I find passion in what I do daily because I know the difference the GROWMARK System is making on the world. Although 50 years is literally a lifetime, the days go fast when you work for a company whose business you are truly connected to on a deeper level!
By: Marissa Williams
On any day of the year, you can guarantee there is something being celebrated or remembered on a national or global level. The month of May is no exception and presents quite the variety of interesting and unusual things to remember or celebrate. Cinco de Mayo, Mother's Day, graduations, and Memorial Day are a few well-known ones. But did you know that May also includes Star Wars Day, World Red Cross Day, National Eat What You Want Day (celebrated all year long in my case), and World Turtle Day?!
We can argue that some of these days are more important that others, but regardless, it seems on any given day there is something to celebrate. In the workplace, it doesn't have to be any different. Celebrating and recognizing the good work, efforts and progress of team members creates a positive work environment, increases team morale and creates a more engaged workforce. Whether you are the leader of a team or an employee, we can all do our part to build each other up and take time to celebrate successes.
Here are some simple ways to celebrate those successes:
By: Carrie (Kuhns) Harshman
Adult Learning Practitioners are often asked if pursuing professional certifications are worth it? The answer is not so simple. Some professionals will tell you YES! absolutely certifications are worth it and can lead to advancement. Others will say NO! certifications are a waste of time, money and mean very little. As a steadfast advocate for lifelong learning, my recommendation is to pursue opportunities that best align and support your interests and growth - whether you experience a certification program, job rotation, mentoring relationship, reading professional journals/blogs, or take a risk and change professions all together – continue to grow.
If you do find yourself reflecting on the possibility of pursuing a professional certification program, here are three key points to consider:
Remember when selecting the most suitable certification program for you, it's not about the piece of paper you received. It's about the experience of the process and the integration of new skills and knowledge. No matter your choice, continue to remain a curious learner.
By: Stacey Curry
I utilized the GROWMARK Tuition Aid Program to complete my MBA at Illinois State University from 2014 to 2016. I had not really considered obtaining an advanced degree after receiving my bachelor's degree in 2012, but after learning that GROWMARK offered a Tuition reimbursement program, I decided to look into it. I eventually decided to get my Master's degree on a part-time basis.
The approval and submission process for reimbursement for the program was simple. All I needed to do was fill out a form at the beginning each semester with the courses I was planning to take, and gain approval from my supervisor and division manager. Then, at the end of each semester, I submitted the same form, but with my grade and billing information included. I received a reimbursement for the courses I took on my next paycheck. To make it even more convenient, the money was automatically deposited into my primary bank account that was already on file for my paycheck.
I was grateful to receive the reimbursement each semester, to help pay for the following semester. The program gave me the opportunity to continue my education, and do so without any debt or financial worries. I was motivated to do well in my classes not only for personal achievement goals, but also to make sure I was reimbursed for the courses. The GROWMARK Tuition Aid Program made an advanced degree affordable for me, and I'd recommend that other employees utilize this fantastic opportunity that is offered!
By: Madison Ruff
We're in the middle of basketball season with all kinds of games. Age group, grade school, junior high, high school, college, professional games, intercity games, county tournaments, conference tournaments, state playoffs, March Madness, and NBA Playoffs.
As a spectator, do you ever see a player who has great court awareness?
What kind of players do you enjoy watching? My favorite player was Michael Jordan. Michael Jordan had great basketball acumen, yes acumen.
The word acumen is most often applied to the business world, hence "business acumen". Business Acumen is having an awareness of what's happening inside a company. It's the ability to make good judgments that benefit the operations of the company, specifically the financial impact. Increasing business acumen can help anticipate the ripple effects and impact of decisions, in relying on experience, knowledge, and skills.
We all need to anticipate the ripple effects of our jobs and the business decisions we make. Try to increase your acumen within your company by learning more about your job and how it fits within the financial statements. Improve your awareness of what is going on around you and make better business decisions by increasing your business acumen.
By: Greg DeGraaf
Earlier in my GROWMARK career, Jim Spradlin explained to me the best way to showcase your leadership abilities and advance your career is to "leave your mark on the organization." At the time Jim was my supervisor in Agronomy and he has since become the CEO of GROWMARK. Those words have really stuck with me and I think about them often. I have since realized this "mark" can be outside of your job description. So, a few years ago I began seeking out additional opportunities in which I could "make my mark" on GROWMARK.
It began when I was invited to join GROWMARK's Diversity and Inclusion initiative. What started as a think tank, turned into a task force with me serving as a co-chair because of my personal interest and the time and effort I was willing to invest. About that time, I learned of an opportunity with the IAA Credit Union's board. I had inquired previously and learned the board consisted of employees from the IAA Family of Companies. After getting involved on the board, my desire to make an impact led me to serve as the chairperson. More recently, I was asked and accepted an opportunity to join a GROWMARK advisory committee which helps navigate the balance between the need for information security and employee productivity with systems and processes.
Leadership comes in a variety of forms beyond holding a specific job title or being a supervisor. Sometimes being willing to take on additional responsibilities, outside of your position, department, or even company, is a great measure of your traits and capability as a leader. There are multiple variations of the phrase "say yes and figure the rest out later." While I don't believe this is a great rule to live by without question, remember stretch assignments and opportunities will not appear every day or forever into the future. I highly encourage all employees to think strongly before just simply responding with "no, I don't have time" when an opportunity presents itself.
By: Jeff Frank
“Employee development doesn’t happen inside one’s mind”
Learning is not the same as growing. Learning becomes growth only when it is applied, practiced and sustained over time and in new situations. Understanding the purpose of learning is just as important as understanding that learning must occur. A KEY fundamental of learning is cultivating and growing new skills to ensure you are meeting the workplace challenges of today AND tomorrow. Without a focus on developing defined knowledge, skills and abilities (aligned to business drivers and a competency model) a path to greater achievement becomes unclear. Skill building is a behavior, and behaviors change by learning new skills or adjusting old ones to conquer new challenges. Competencies are the language of leadership/employee development, and are a key tool to help employees better understand where to focus their training activities.
It is important to remember that formal training alone isn't going to drive development if you aren't actively engaged in practicing and implementing skills learned in the classroom back in the workplace. Formal classroom training does not create more skilled employees. It simply focuses, and brings to light, what you need to learn and develop in order to be a better and more effective employee.
The goal in leadership/employee development is NOT to achieve complete mastery over a skill, but to build enough capacity and understanding to apply that skill back in the workplace. This practice will ultimately lead to the mastery of certain skills and behaviors that have a positive impact inside the workplace.
A common challenge we see in our formal training programs is that when employees move into new roles, they rely on old skills and behaviors to do a new job. With the new position, they are unclear of what they need to focus on. Their development goals become nonspecific with no ties to learning outcomes which can lead to a stall in development, and frustration in the new role.
A clear understanding of what knowledge, skills, behaviors and abilities are needed to perform effectively in one's current position is an imperative part of training. Becoming clear about what training you need, when you need it and how to apply it back in the workplace will ultimately lead to greater satisfaction and personal growth as an employee. As the great book titled, "What Got You Here, Won't Get You There (Goldsmith)" states, having a clear understanding of your development needs will ultimately help you achieve success.
Understanding Your Development Needs – Where to Start
How do you ensure you're building the right skill set for your current position and for future opportunities? The key to answering this question is to identify what skills and abilities you need to develop, obtain an understanding of how to improve them, and then implement. It is as easy as 1-2-3.
Step 1: What skills do I really need to understand or develop to be more effective in my job? Taking the time to asses where you are in terms of skill development is important. Be honest with yourself about where you need help and what you need to do to improve. Your manager should be involved in the conversation to help coach and guide you in terms of where they see potential deficiencies, competencies and skills you need to focus on. Once you understand what you need to improve, you can move to step 2.
Step 2: Based on your understanding of what you need to improve to drive your growth, determine what competencies you want to focus on and create a plan of action on HOW you are going to learn these new skills. Creating an Individual Development Plan (IDP) can be a powerful tool to help you formalize this process. You may need to take a formal training class to obtain a better understanding of how a particular skill should be used in the workplace. If that is the case, then by all means attend a training class! Remember, training is often a very small piece of your development. Consider what else you might do at work to help grow your skills. Experiential learning is a concept that has proven very valuable in helping employees grow on the job, gain invaluable experience and learn from mistakes. What is experiential learning? It is a method of educating through first-hand experience. Skills, knowledge and experience are acquired outside of the traditional training setting, and may include the following:
Once you have created an IDP and begun to implement experiential learning in the workplace you are ready for step 3!
Step 3: How are you doing? Work with your manager to ensure that you are applying what you have learned, and understand the mistakes that you are making and why you are making them. Confirm that you are continuing to focus on the skills you want to improve. Reviewing your IDP regularly with your manager is a great way to ensure that learning transfer is taking place. By understanding what you need to do to improve as an employee, you can be assured that your growth will continue.
By: Andy Schuster
I always knew my true passion was to serve others, but I had no idea where to begin finding a career path where I could make a big impact. Here are four tips that are continually on my mind as I navigate my life and career.
1. Always Stay Curious
I had no idea what I wanted to do. When I was in Kindergarten, I recall very vividly wanting to be a mad scientist when I grew up. I thought each of these would be my career path at one point of my life: farmer, youth pastor, DEC officer, soldier. I researched and explored just about any career path that sounded good to me; I wanted to find my place. I knew I loved the outdoors and I knew that I wanted to make a difference. (Pretty cliche, I know). Eventually I discovered that agriculture was the perfect fit for what I was looking for. With the help of a family friend, (who to this day continues to be a career mentor for me) I found my life calling.
2. Take Risks
I needed a summer job and applied for a Seed Research Technician position at GROWMARK FS. I had zero industry experience, but I was ambitious. I had an insatiable desire to get out of my comfort zone, take risks, and succeed. I was hired and had an amazing summer with my first true exposure to agriculture. I was originally studying Criminal Justice at Buffalo State College, but ended up transferring into Morrisville State College's Agricultural Business Development B.B.A. program after that first summer. I refused to accept that I would be at any disadvantage not having grown up on a farm or having an extensive background in agriculture since this was what I knew I wanted to pursue.
3. Overcome Doubt
Without a traditional agriculture background and with my future goals of getting involved in the farm service sector, I did not want to be ignorant to the fact that I needed to be able to understand my future customers, the growers, and their needs and concerns. I ended up going to a local dairy farm in college and taking a job as a farmhand during my semesters there. Passion forms its own path. If the passion is there, you will be able to find solutions and form a path to be successful. In my case, I leveraged my soft skills, problem solving abilities, and work ethic to be successful in agriculture. Doubt from others (and even from yourself) is imminent if you are pursuing something new. True character reveals itself in the midst of trials like these.
4. Stay the Course
I have held numerous roles in my five and a half years in the GROWMARK System in both New York and Illinois. I have been an Agronomy Intern, Customer Service Representative in agronomy, and most recently a University Relations Recruiter. While for some it may look odd going from a technical role to now being in human resources at the corporate office, it made perfect sense to me. I wanted to become a more well-rounded employee and leverage the skills and experiences I have had to succeed in the company and grow personally and professionally. This career in agriculture has allowed me to serve others in so many ways, from addressing grower's issues in New York to helping manage the GROWMARK Internship Program and match passions with opportunities. In 2017, I took on a role with GOYA Ministries as an Agricultural Advisory Board Member and Co-leader on my second agriculturally focused mission trip in Nairobi, Kenya and the surrounding areas. Seeing firsthand how what I have learned could help address food security issues and feed starving children has been nothing short of life changing for me.
If I would have let my concerns and doubts make my decisions for me in my career, I never would have been able to experience a fraction of what I have. Throughout my childhood, I was very unsure of the future, including my future career. I am still unsure of where this career path will take me, but I know that passion forms its own path into amazing opportunities.
By: Luke Martin
With the new year just around the corner, lots of us start focusing on the goals we want to set for 2018 and how we plan to achieve them. To keep you on track as you progress towards your personal and professional goals, here are 5 tips you can use to maintain productivity during the new year:
Cheers to achieving your 2018 goals and wishing you a happy, healthy and joyful new year!
By: Brittany Piepenbrink
Business leaders today have a lot of responsibilities. Not only are you expected to make decisions, deliver results, and manage people, you also have a responsibility to develop those people. The decision and results responsibilities along with human nature drives us to be fixers. When questions, issues and problems come across our plates we are quick to give the answer or fix the problem. However, the development responsibilities require that we stop fixing and do something else. Coach them.
Today's employees (regardless of generation) want coaching. It's one of the greatest tools that a leader has at their disposal for engaging and developing the people that look to them for guidance. Coaching can have significant impact on performance, morale, retention and goes a long way in creating new leaders for the future. Despite all these benefits leaders are not coaching as often as they should. According to a 2016 report from Blessing White, out of 1,800 employees and managers surveyed, only 1/2 received any type of coaching. But why? The main reason managers give, is they don't have enough time to coach. Many leaders feel like coaching is an added behavior they have to do in addition to their daily responsibilities. But it doesn't have to be that way.
As leaders/managers you are already having conversations with your people on a daily basis. What if you could use that time differently, to coach and actually (get some time back for yourself) by just tweaking one little thing? I bet you would do it, wouldn't you? If you would, you want to be a coach. So here's how you do it. Ready? The next time someone comes to you with a question or a problem that they need to solve, instead of giving the answer, ask a question. That's it! "Surely it can't be that simple" you say. But it is. Coaching starts with being curious. Start broad and work your way down to the details. "Tell me more" is a great place to start. You could use a Who/What/Why/When/How question, like "How would you go about solving this." Then probe for details.
Together you will brainstorm some solutions. Once they employee identifies the solution they are going to move forward with it's important to make sure they take action. Don't leave the conversation without establishing what it is they are going to do and when they are going to do it. This is most important. It provides an element of accountability. By asking great questions leaders can provide an environment for people to find their own solutions and develop themselves to their full potential. By doing so, the person being coached actually becomes more self-sufficient, creative and a better problem solver.
Finally, to make this a part of your daily routine, you have to create a coaching habit. What I mean by that is you have to identify the behavior you want to create (asking questions instead of giving answers) and put a plan in place to practice and implement that behavior. Michael Bungay Stanier has a great book about this called The Coaching Habit. In it, he lays out a plan for you to create a habit of coaching that can be done simply and on a regular basis without adding time to your already busy schedule. I encourage you to check it out.
By: Andy King
Hello! Welcome to the GROWMARK, Inc. Talent Management blog. We have a mission to improve transparency between the recruiting and training teams and the public. In an effort to improve our communication to the outside world, we have created this blog. Here are a few topics you can expect to find on our blog in the future months to come:
By: Tori Streitmatter