During farm transition planning, assumptions and expectations between predecessor and successor generations can put the harmony of the family at risk. Imagine you are the owner of a dairy operation and assume that the younger generation will take care of the business in the near future. Such an outcome is possible. However, is it realistic to simply assume (without asking) that the younger generation is willing to continue managing the operation? Having a candid conversation between predecessors and successors is critical to ensure a successful farm transition.
In addition to the continuity of the younger generation, other assumptions and expectations can arise around job responsibilities. Especially in family businesses, certain things are often taken for granted erroneously. For example, as a family member working in the family’s operation, one may assume they have the privilege of showing up to work late in the morning or taking vacations without asking a supervisor. In these scenarios, a lack of communication discussing clear expectations can put the farm transition planning at risk.
Put it in writing
Writing precise and holistic job descriptions can definitively bring clarity to the farming work environment. These job descriptions should minimize the subjective assumptions and clarify the working expectations regardless of whether the employee is a family or nonfamily member.
These job descriptions must explicitly describe the tasks to be performed so that the performance of the employees can be evaluated. Also, the job description should clarify how the employee will be evaluated and by whom as a supervisor. This can be extremely beneficial in determining if employees are meeting expectations and in deciding when you may need to terminate an employer-employee relationship. On the employer’s side, a good job description should also set the standards for an appropriate training program. After all, high performance should not be expected without proper training from the supervisor.
Writing job descriptions can be awkward or difficult sometimes. If this is uncomfortable, dairy operators could delegate the writing task to a farm transition planning coordinator. With an outsider lens, these coordinators can help draft or improve the job descriptions necessary to minimize those assumptions and false expectations that jeopardize a successful farm transition plan.