4 Ways to Excite, Engage and Empower Your Team

Ask any leader at Belstra Milling what their No. 1 asset is and the answer will be the same: our employees. ( Belstra Milling )

Ask any leader at Belstra Milling what their No. 1 asset is and the answer will be the same: our employees. The team includes 210 people who are span the business’ hog operations, feed mill and trucking company. 

Bud Belstra founded the company in 1954 by purchasing a small Pillsbury feed business. As the business expanded beyond feed production to include hogs and trucking, its labor needs soared to today’s large team.

The process of hiring, retaining and engaging a team is a challenge. During the company’s 66-year history, its leaders have found a few strategies that work.

“We’re not going to grow on the backs of one or two individuals. To grow as a team, we need to develop people, so they’ll want to be part of our growth,” says Nick DeKryger, vice president of business and finance for the DeMotte, Ind.-based company.

DeKryger shares just a few ways they focus on employee engagement and leadership development at Belstra.

Align your company purpose with your employees.

What is one common theme DeKryger has seen across all his employees? 

“People want to work for a company they believe in,” he says. “They want a company with a purpose they can buy into, and they want to know how they contribute to that purpose.”

The general assumption is only young people (millennials and younger) pursue purpose-driven jobs. DeKryger doesn’t buy it.

“Every employee wants to have meaning; I think that’s cross generational,” he says.

Belstra Milling has a simple and powerful purpose: “Grounded in faith and family, we are continually investing in our passion for animals. We are committed to serve our customer with integrity and have a positive and lasting impact on our communities. 

Focus on leadership across multiple generations.

At Belstra Milling, the leadership team is comprised of four different generations. “Part of that was strategic and some was by chance,” DeKryger says.

The benefit of this diverse team is they can identify and connect with any person on their team. Plus, this gives them a head start on the company’s succession plan.

Make safety a priority. 

Since Belstra Milling is a self-insured company, its leaders are constantly looking for ways to keep costs down without hurting the business.

“Workmen’s comp is expensive,” DeKryger says. “The employees we hire aren’t coming from an ag background with on farm training and general skills. I hate to say that but some of the accidents and injuries that happen are hard to believe.”

Little things that workers might have brushed off in the past – like cuts, scrapes, bruises, or minor back problems – are now issues, he says. It’s costly, not just from the insurance and workmen’s comp standpoint, but also because a worker’s position must be covered during the days, weeks or months that worker is laid up.

“We spend a lot of time on safety,” DeKryger says. “We’re doing a lot of training and programs that help them understand how to work safely. Safety is never a fun issue to talk about but it’s very important as we try to work on our labor.”

Use tools and services to keep teams engaged.

Employee engagement and leadership development involve a full-court press at Belstra. Employees enjoy a monthly leadership development series and a quarterly Gallup StrengthsFinder assessment. In addition, team members provide regular feedback via engagement surveys.

In addition, all employees have access to RightNow Media @Work, which is a faith-based video library designed with your employees in mind. From topics like leadership, parenting and finances.


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