Good training starts with initiative at Costa Farms
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Good training starts with initiative at Costa Farms

Unlock employee potential by tailoring your training program to fit an array of communication styles and attitudes.

July 29, 2020

The workforce is an integral part to any well-oiled machine, and many growers should inspect their current training programs to make sure they’re up to speed with modern training methods. At Cultivate’20 Virtual, John DeLeon and Elizabeth Gomez of Costa Farms shared some best-practice tips during their session, “It’s All About the Workforce – Training for Success Series: Training the Costa Way.” Take a look at some of the ways growers and other green facilities can give their trainings an update.

Training methods

Gomez, manager of learning and development at Costa Farms, kicked off the presentation with a quick background into Costa Farm’s training program, which was updated four and a half years ago. Leadership at Costa Farms decided to build out its HR department, which included involving HR as business partners, and creating a devoted team that specialized in learning and development to support the rest of the company’s transformations.

She shared how growers should take organizational readiness and collaboration with stakeholders into consideration when training employees.

“Keep in mind that the speed of your progress is directly correlated to the level of organizational resistance that you might encounter while embarking in your own initiatives,” Gomez said.

Many training programs exist as formal, four- to eight-hour long sessions in classrooms, and focus on reactive-based models. Gomez said employees are less likely to apply this information to their jobs, therefore, training should be proactive and strategy-based. While Costa Farms trains employees on current topics, they also train on older programs like, “The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People” and the “The 4 Disciplines of Execution,” which Gomez said are still relevant today. At Costa Farms, they offer follow-up programs that include components such as Excel or PowerPoint, with topics such as moisture management, pest management and even how to read and write in Spanish.

Team development

DeLeon, senior director for employee life cycle at Costa Farms, took over the second half of the presentation. He shared the different ways in which HR managers could develop the team as a whole. Companies must create a holistic plan tied to strategy, purpose, reasoning, goals and objectives — all of which factor into talent management.

“So based on what we plan as future growth and development for the organization, we knew that we had to kind of shift some things around just to be able to make sure that we get the right talent and make sure that they're properly developed — not only for what we need them to do today, but also what we need our talent to do for tomorrow,” DeLeon said.

DeLeon said they purchased Insights Discovery program, a psychometric tool similar to Myers-Briggs, that allows employees to become more self-aware and build better connections with others. For example, HR can take a look at each person’s profile and help that person come up with a better way to communicate their intended outcome with another employee based on each person’s profile.

“This tool has proven to be invaluable, and I don't know of one person that hasn't been transformed as a result of getting this profile. To this day, it is the No. 1 program that we actually administer here at Costa Farms,” DeLeon said.

Another program they use for employee review is Korn Ferry’s Leadership Architect, which acts as a competency model. This program allows HR to help employees figure out how to improve and develop certain behaviors, and acts as a guide for difficult conversations about poor performance. Ultimately, it allows HR to coach and develop employees into productive team members. No matter what job an employee has, the motto at Costa Farms is “develop everyone,” DeLeon said.

DeLeon said they also implement literacy training programs and five-minute huddles to empower their employees to be their best. Employees experience a level of appreciation and gratitude when they learn these things, and he said watching their transformations is amazing. They also do fun, hands-on team building exercises where employees coach each other and collaborate to finish goals.

“Collaboration is a vital part of being able to implement a change intervention as it relates to learning,” DeLeon said.

To make sure the trainings “stick,” DeLeon said they work with leaders in each sector beforehand. In fact, they won’t even develop training sessions unless the leaders are involved in the design, delivery or implementation processes. Leader involvement ensures the trainings will be applied correctly to each work sector. This is the key to reduce training resistance because they understand the “why” behind it, he said.

To stay relevant in a COVID-19 world, Costa Farms is developing training methods that will support the company to be essential rather than exhaustive. To aid in this initiative, DeLeon says they are focusing on these ideas:

Psychological safety – “This is one of the key things that we also do, is train the trainer — helping leaders become trainers themselves and coach others through things like crisis management.”

Going virtual – “We put on webinars together. We've got great information from reliable sources. We deliver the information, we ask the questions, we create a learning confirmation and we run with it.”

Opportunity – “The learning that you teach is going to stick more because it's relevant to that person. And that's one of the ways that you make learning stick for an individual. Create something that you know is relevant to them, that they need at the time and that they can implement . And that helps us solidify the learning.”

Data is also important to keep in mind because it measures the effectiveness of training. Simply going through the notions and checking items off like a box isn’t going to provide outcomes, DeLeon said. When this happens, trainings go to waste. At Costa Farms, they disseminate engagement surveys to grasp feedback and retain information.

“I'm proud to say that Costa Farms has an 86% employee satisfaction rating, which is phenomenal. And a big part of that is because they feel and believe like they're being developed,” DeLeon said.

Data from these surveys helps to drive decisions from HR, and the department can see how the programs impact the organization. Along with this, they also tap into servant leadership “neuroscience,” which is an idea that focuses on building capability in others. 

“We have many types of learning interventions to make sure that we keep in mind, ‘how does the brain work?’ Because not everyone is going to receive everything the same way,” DeLeon said.

Leaders must use this information to break down any resistance barriers, which helps employees recall and implement their training. Make sure to provide employees with a reference document of any trainings. DeLeon said that if employees don’t apply what they’ve learned within 30 days, they forget the information. With the correct coaching components in place, employees will have a greater probability of retaining the information, he concluded.