Seed World

Wrapping Up a Competitive Benefits Package

Independent seed companies are ramping up their benefits packages to show how unique their businesses can be.

We all know employee retention is a difficult task, but the initial challenge amongst independent seed companies is the challenge of getting talent to sign on with your company.

Larger companies can offer bigger salaries, so independent seed companies have been hard at work creating unique benefit packages to make their company more competitive. However, not all of these benefits are strictly tangible, like dental and healthcare. Some of these benefits only come with the flexibility that independent companies can provide.

For example, have you ever heard of a “Joy Squad?” The Joy Squad is just one way that Peterson Farms Seed is working to make life more enjoyable during the work week.

“The Joy Squad comes together to spread happiness across all of our staff,” says Julie Peterson, vice president of Peterson Farms Seed. “They come up with some crazy ideas to make the work week just a little more fun for everyone.”

One way the Joy Squad has worked to tackle challenges in the office is by providing a space to relax during the workday. 

“Last year, we actually hosted a Mario Kart day,” Peterson says. “On National Mario Kart Day, the Joy Squad set up Mario Kart games in our large meeting room for team members to play throughout the day. It encouraged employees to get to know their neighbors and provided a stress release during the day.”

Julie Peterson

But, a joy squad isn’t the only thing that independent businesses can offer their employees as far as benefits go. There are plenty of other benefits that come with the job.

“We shouldn’t just vet interviewees when they come into the office,” says John Wyffels, president of Wyffels Hybrids. “We want potential employees to vet us as well.”

Wyffels believes that by having interviewees vet Wyffels Hybrids as a company, they have the ability to determine whether or not they’d fit into the company. However, he adds that one unique portion they can add is the ability to empower their employees, and ensure they feel like they’re a part of the process. 

“We want everyone in our business to feel empowered, and we want them to really own their roles,” he says. “Our organization is different than larger companies because we’re pretty flat. Decision making lies with the people who are in charge, and we don’t expect five levels of review before a decision gets made. By empowering our employees, they feel enabled to make decisions throughout their jobs.”

Respecting and Appreciating

Another thing that both Peterson Farms Seed and Wyffels can agree on as a benefit to both companies: respect.

“We call it ‘mutual respect,’ or just working together as a team,” Wyffels says. “It’s being a part of the extended family. We try to be intentional about making sure we bring the entire employee family together at least once a year, because everyone is a part of the family business.

“Another benefit that comes with this mutual respect is your voice,” he continues. “You’re able to speak your mind. You can have direct access to leadership and to family ownership. We always have an open door, and a group of people who are willing to talk to you and listen. We always want to know where we’re missing an opportunity and where we can do better.”

Peterson agrees that mutual respect is imperative — so much so that they don’t refer to their employees as “employees.” Instead, they’re team members. 

“We want to make sure we thank everyone every single day for what they do,” Peterson says. “You’re coming to work every single day regardless of your job, and everyone wants to feel wanted and thanked.”

Peterson says this idea of mutual respect and thanks was shown to her in one of her first jobs in school at a retail store. 

“I worked three nights a week, and sometimes there would only be two customers in the store,” she says. “I had a manager that would thank me every night I worked as we shut the store down. When I asked why she was thanking me when I didn’t sell anything that night, she said that I had come in on time, and I always tried to do my best. She really showed me that people want to be thanked for everything they do, so similarly, we try to do everything we can for our team members to show that we care.”

“We have an annual employee dinner to show appreciation to everyone’s commitment and loyalty to the business,” Wyffels says. “We recognize three groups every year: new employees, service anniversaries and retirements. This allows everyone from those groups, to tell their stories. We want to celebrate milestones, and we want to congratulate those retiring and moving on to the next chapter of their lives.”

John Wyffels

Similarly, Peterson works to recognize their team members and their work in unique ways. 

“On your 10-year anniversary at Peterson Farms Seed, we give you and your spouse a an all-expense paid vacation anywhere in the United States,” she says. “It is our way of saying thanks for their hard work and commitment.”

Peterson says the first two people who received this trip have stayed with Peterson Farms Seed their whole careers. 

“The question then became ‘what do we do for 15 years?’ For that, you get added to the Superhero Wall of Fame, complete with a Superman bobblehead in your likeness,” she adds. “The folks that make our Wall of Fame are truly our heroes. They’ve been with us through tremendous growth and change and they’ve had the flexibility to weather the storm. That’s something worth rewarding here!”

Family Comes First, Always

Finally, as an independent company, both Peterson and Wyffels agree: family comes first.

“From time to time, everyone runs into a personal challenge or family matter,” Wyffels says. “When you run into those challenging times, we’ve done a great job showing that family comes first. We always want to talk about those problems when they come up, because you need to take care of your family and yourself.”

“I was a working mom, and I understand the challenges of balancing career and family,” Peterson says. “I never want a team member to miss their kid’s concert, ballgame or recital. We will work hard to change someone’s hours so they don’t miss out. You only get to be a mom or dad once, so we always want to be supportive.”

When it comes to competing with salaries and benefits, independents can always put up a fight if they’re creative with their benefits and solutions to provide their employees.